How to wake up your feet for a faster run

You might think you know how to warm up for a run, but do you ever work on your feet? Hannah Wright explains why you should never neglect your feet before a run…

Close up of feet being self-massaged by a male runner before a run, sitting next to his pair of trainers

Warming up for a run mostly involves gentle jogging and dynamic stretching but how often do you pay attention to your feet beforehand?  

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I would say most of us spend little or no time getting their feet ready, which is surprising considering they do most of the hard work!

With over 7,000 nerve endings, 33 joints, 26 bones and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments, your feet are something amazing and should not be neglected.

Therefore by adding in just a 5-minute warm-up for your feet, this will help to improve your stability, enabling a smoother and easier run with the potential for a better performance.

Proprioception – what is it and why do we need it?

Proprioception is essentially our body’s ‘sixth sense’, which creates the awareness of where our body is within space and is why we can walk and run without having to look down at our feet to see where they’re going.

Another example, is being able to touch your finger to your nose with your eyes closed.

In short, proprioception plays a huge role in keeping your body injury-free, especially when running.

Simple exercises to help to improve and challenge our body’s proprioception mostly include balance exercises, for example standing on one leg with your eyes closed. However, there are other things you can do to help.

Feet warm-up

1. Massage

Massage has a great deal of benefits including increased circulation and increased joint mobility. This is great if you’re about to put on your trainers and head out for a run.

So, before you put your trainers on, with or without socks on, massage your feet! Hold your foot in your hands and work your thumbs into the sole of your foot, working from the balls of your feet all the way along the arch, up into the heel.

2. Move and stretch

Move and stretch your toes with your hands, gently pulling the toes towards you and then away from you. You can also do the same with the ankle.

Sit on a chair and lift one leg on the other, then straighten the ankle and push the top of your foot down. Make the stretch more effective by pressing with your hand. Change the position of the foot to find a good stretch.

3. Feel the difference 

If you want to feel the difference that this can make to your nerve receptors in your feet, massage and mobilise one foot for at least 3-5 minutes and stand up and feel the difference between the two.

You should feel the increase in your proprioception and be more aware of the sensations underneath the sole of your foot when comparing one to the other. It should feel instantly more awake and mobile.

4. Stretch the calf muscles 

After massaging and mobilising your feet, add in a calf stretch. Stand in a walking position with the leg to be stretched straight behind you and the other leg bent in front of you.

Take support from a wall or chair. Lean your body forwards and down until you feel the stretching in the calf of the straight leg. Hold approximately for 30 seconds, then relax.

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Stretch the other leg and repeat twice.

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