covered.

Otherwise, you’ll delay recovery or could potentially end up tearing
your muscles apart.

Grabbing exercises
By strengthening the toes, you strengthen the entire foot and help build healthy arches. These exercises are a great way to warm up before a barefoot jog or run and help
sustain healthy circulation levels in your lower legs and feet while sitting at a desk or
on a plane.
• The Golf Ball Grab. This is one of the best exercises for your feet. It helps
strengthen your feet and toes, build flexibility, and widen your forefoot,
promoting a nice spread between your big toe and your second toe.
Simply grab a golf ball with your toes. Hold for 5 or 10 seconds, then
repeat. Do a set of 10 to 20 grabs your first time, then build up from
there.
As we’ve seen, almost every muscle of your foot attaches to your toes. By
grabbing a ball, you’re working nearly every muscle of the foot, and in
particular, you’re waking up and strengthening your long-dormant arch.
86

Barefoot Running

Sand_9780307985934_3p_all_r1.p.indd 86

Golf Ball Grab: Strengthen your feet by working to grab a golf ball. Jessica
has worked her way up to tennis balls and now baseballs gaining tremendous
dexterity, flexibility, and strength.
Variations: If you get really good, you can try picking up the ball, passing
it from foot to foot, and even work up to larger balls, such as tennis balls
and baseballs. Try walking around your house holding golf balls with your
feet, or do a Pilates or balance routine without letting go of a ball. Want
to work on toe coordination? Consider lifting marbles as well. Try to lift
them between each individual toe, rather than just with your big toe.
• Towel Scrunch. This is a simpler version of the golf ball grab. Simply roll
up a towel, place it beneath your feet, and grab it with your toes. Again
hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then repeat for a set of 10.
• Desk Grab. When you find yourself stuck at a desk for hours at a time, try
grabbing the desktop or legs of the desk with your feet. Hold for a count
of 5 to 10 seconds. Then release. Or keep a golf ball under your desk, kick
off your shoes, and strengthen those toes while no one is looking.
• Inch Worm. This is a more dynamic version of a scrunch or grab. It’s
easier to do this sitting rather than standing when you first begin. Grab

7/27/11 10:16 AM

of 5 to 10 seconds. Then release. Or keep a golf ball under your desk, kick
off your shoes, and strengthen those toes while no one is looking.
• Inch Worm. This is a more dynamic version of a scrunch or grab. It’s
easier to do this sitting rather than standing when you first begin. Grab
the ground (any surface will work) and pull your foot forward and repeat,
inch worming along, until it’s extended out in front of you. Then reverse
directions and push your foot back with your toes. You may not be used
to moving your toes this way; however, this aids with dorsiflexion (lifting
up) with your toes, critical for a good stride.
• Tiger Walk. We use this exercise at almost all beginner clinics and it is
covered in more detail in an earlier chapter. However, walk with your
weight slightly on your forefoot and your heel just off the ground as you
visualize yourself with cat claws. Grab the ground and pull yourself forward with each and every step. Start with 50 to 100 yards of this exercise,
into on
Living
then increase your distance over time.Turn
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be done
anyShoes
surface; the 87
coarser the surface, the more it’ll help with pad development as well.

• Stick Game. You may have read about the ball games used by the Tarahumara in Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. This is a variation of a
Sand_9780307985934_3p_all_r1.p.indd 87
common Native American game practiced for thousands of years. Teams
race while kicking an 8- to 10-inch by 1-inch diameter stick to the finish
line. Grabbing and kicking the stick forces you to work all the muscles of
your foot, both for grabbing (plantar flexion) and for extending (dorsiflexion).
Attempt to kick a small stick from one end of a park to the other, or better
yet, bring along your barefooted friends and make a game of it! Warning,
this exercise does a great job of strengthening the foot, but will also scuff
up the top of your toes. However, this is fantastic for strengthening the
top skin of your foot, which is important if you plan on running rocky
trails barefoot.

Raising exercises
• Lifting Your Arch. While standing with your foot planted firmly on the
ground, imagine a string pulling through your arch and through the top
of your feet. Lift your arch to the sky without moving your toes. Imagine
your arch as a bridge that grows taller with each upward pull. Hold for a
count of 5 and repeat for a total of 10 times to begin.
The next 3 exercises are commonly referred to as calf raises. While they do have the
benefit of strengthening your calves and Achilles, they require firing of nearly every
muscle of the foot and ankle to do so, building foot strength, coordination, and balance.
• Straight Toe Stands. Standing in front of a mirror with both feet pointed
in front of you (shoulder width apart), slowly raise yourself onto your
toes, then lower your feet back down. Do this on a 5 count to begin, 2
seconds to raise your feet, and 3 to lower them. Concentrate on control
over speed, going slowly and stopping just shy of your heels hitting the
ground. Repeat for a set of 10 to begin.

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