In last week’s article we talked about simple stretching methods to alleviate heel or arch pain. Let’s take this one step further and discuss some simple techniques one can employ to aid in prevention of these problems.

Longitudinal arch ? the region from your heel to the base of your big toe ? and/or achilles pain is a problem one may encounter when performing repeated pounding activities whether it be on the turf, the gymnasium floor or pavement.

Naturally the first thing to analyze is your footwear. The anatomy of proper footwear is a topic in itself, so that will be discussed in next week’s article.

Besides proper shoes, you may feel at a loss when it comes to helping yourself if you ever have to deal with such an annoying injury. In addition to stretching your heelcord and arch before and after activity, you can perform a couple of simple strengthening exercises.

In order to strengthen the small muscles of the arch, the “towel scrunch” is a great start. All you need is a towel, chair and smooth surface floor.

By sitting with knees bent in a chair, place one foot flat on an outstretched towel on the floor. Scrunch or flex your toes into the towel and slowly move the towel toward you. Repeat this until you start to feel a little fatigue in your arch.

Another simple exercise to strengthen the arches is called the “toe walk.” Simply stand barefoot on a flat surface, and propel yourself along by digging your toes into the floor. This is definitely not a speed-related activity, so you only need to travel a few yards for it to be effective.

If your arches feel the worst in the morning when you get up, try massaging them by placing your arch on a golf or racquetball and moving the ball up and down along your arch.

It has been documented that by performing the “negative” phase of a lifting exercise, a tendon will make greater strength gains than by exercising it in the concentric or “positive” phase of movement.

This concept can be applied to the Achilles tendon region in order to help prevent tendonitis or possibly a more serious tear within the tendon.

To accomplish this, stand on a platform or stair with the balls of your feet on the edge and heels off. To strengthen the right Achilles tendon, you would perform a heel raise ? go up on toes ? on the left foot and at the top lower down slowly with the right foot.

You should only lower as far as until you feel a mild stretch in the Achilles. To strengthen the left, perform the opposite. This only needs to be done a total of twelve repetitions on each side.

The same exercise can be performed on a leg press machine by placing the balls of your feet at the bottom of the base platform.

As you can see, these exercises are simple and don’t require very much equipment.

Spending a few minutes a few times a week performing these activities will go a long way in preventing those nagging and sometimes never-ending foot and ankle injuries.

Next week we’ll look at how to choose the proper footwear.

Steckley can be reached at

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