Stretching is an intricate part of the process of realigning the mechanics of your feet. Flexibility is proven to bring positive benefits in the muscles and joints. It aids with injury prevention, helps to minimize muscle soreness, and improves efficiency in all physical activities. Increasing flexibility can also improve quality of life and functional independence. Flexibility also contributes to elasticity of the muscles and provides a wider range of motion in the joints. The reason the mechanics began to fail in your feet is highly contributed to tightness and lack of flexibility in the calf muscles. The feet cannot perform through a normal gait without adequate range of motion at the ankle joint. Normal range of motion at the ankle joint is 15-20 degrees. If your range is anything less than that it will not function normally. The body begins to compensate so that you are still able to advance the lower limb over your foot. This inadequate gait can begin to cause stress on your entire kinetic chain (body) affecting your knees, hips, lower back, and on up to your neck. It is important to remember that muscle is soft tissue that can contract causing tightness, but it is also easily stretched to become elongated and flexible. It will be extremely important in this program to stretch in combination with wearing the foot orthoses.
Recommended Daily Types of Stretching
The following programs have been found to effectively increase flexibility in the calves. We recommend that you pick the one that best works for you or the one recommend by the Pedorthist or Orthotist. Changes will not come in a day or two but rather after a dedicated effort of several weeks or months. Studies have shown that those with less flexibility have a greater chance of injury.
The Runner's Stretch
Stand approximately 2 feet from a wall bracing your hands against the wall. Keeping your right foot in place, move your left foot back 1 to 2 feet. Turn your toes of your left foot slightly towards the right foot, keep your left heel on the ground, keep your left knee locked, and rotate your left hip backwards so your left arch feels as though it is lifting off the ground slightly. Remember to keep your left heel on the ground and left knee locked. Now lean forward with your hips toward the wall till you feel a tight stretch in your calf. Unless otherwise specified hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with the right leg. Both legs combined is 1 set. Do 5 sets upwards to 10 times a day.
The stretching block can be anything from a Yellow pages to a 2 x 4 or 4 x 4. Place this block approximately 6 inches from a counter or chair. Place your left foot on the block so that the balls of the foot rest on the angle corner. Keep the left heel on the ground and left knee locked. Move the right foot beside the block about 12 inches from the left foot. Now move the hip forward until it is directly over the foot. Unless otherwise specified hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat with the right foot. Both legs combined is 1 set. Do 5 sets upwards to 10 times a day.
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Repeat 5 times (or sets)
- Do 10 times per day
Warm Water Stretches
(Consult with your doctor before using)
This is an additional stretch used before going to bed. Either use a hot tub or bath tub with as warm of water as you can tolerate. Sit in the warm water for 5 minutes and let the muscles warm up. Muscles stretch better when they are relaxed. After the warm up, sit up in the water and rap a towel around your toes, pulling back on the toes. You will feel this pull all the way up your legs and possibly into your lower back. If it begins to hurt in your lower back let up on the pull till you feel it mostly in the calves and hamstrings. Hold this pull for 30 seconds and relax for 30 seconds. Repeat this for 10 minutes every night.
If you have a job where you are sitting for a prolonged period of time, your muscles will have a tendency to tighten up. We recommend that you place a 1 inch board or book under the toes of your feet and keep your knees at a right angle. This will prevent the calves from tightening up to a point where they will influence poor mechanics of the foot when you get up from the desk. Should you begin to experience discomfort with the board in use, take a break and move the feet off.
Always wear shoes when stretching to prevent stress on any of the soft tissue in the foot. Never bounce when stretching. Should you experience muscle soreness or fatigue, this is normal in the beginning. Yet, if at anytime you should feel pain while stretching don’t attempt to force the tightness in the muscle tissue to gain a good stretch. This will come in time. Should you feel excessive pain by stretching too much during the day, reduce the amount of stretching in half and build up your endurance before increasing sessions throughout the day. If you are unsure of the proper form please consult with the practitioner.
The management of any mechanical malfunction is dependent on the flexibility of the soft tissue affecting it.