Like many women tennis players, I love my high heels, but they can really be taxing on your feet and ankles: bunions, blisters and calluses, and plantar fasciitis… and that’s not all!
Wearing high heels often can also cause the achilles (the strongest and largest tendon in the body) and the calf muscles to tighten and shorten over time. That can lead to additional problems like ankle sprains and strains and a higher risk of achilles tendonitis–as well as the aforementioned foot problems. And ALL of this can keep you off the courts!
But let’s take it a step further (no pun intended). Studies have also shown that wearing high heels often can actually offset your balance, leading to chronic back and neck pain.
Well, I’m not giving up my high heels any time soon–and neither should you! Thankfully, there are some simple stretches that can help elongate and strengthen your muscles and properly align joints so you can rock your favorite stilettos AND play tennis without injury.
NOTE: On days you work out, do all seven exercises as part of your warm-up. On off days, mix and match the first five moves to stretch and relieve your aching feet.
1. Rocking Downward Facing Dog
This one is for both your achilles, back and neck. Start on your hands and knees.
(A) Pull your butt up to the ceiling while you straighten your arms and legs, keeping your feet flat on the ground.
(B) Lifting at the heel, pedal your feet up and down, alternating your feet and making sure to get your heels back on the floor.
Pedal 10 times per foot.
2. Calf Stretch
Stand at arm’s length away, and facing a wall. Start by stepping forward with your right foot, keeping both feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the wall at chest-height, shoulder-width apart. With both feet still flat on the floor, lean in on your right knee, pressing it toward the wall so you feel a good stretch in your left calf. Hold for a couple of seconds, then release the stretch (that’s 1 rep).
Do 8 reps per leg, alternating legs.
3. Calf Roll
Sit flat on an exercise mat (or the floor) with your legs straight, and your hands on the floor behind you (fingers pointing away from you). Place a foam roller under your right ankle and cross your left leg over your right.
(A) Lift your rear a few inches off the floor.
(B) Press your body forward as you roll the foam roller up your calf.
Continue rolling up and down your calf slowly, pausing a few seconds on any spots that feel especially tight.
Do this for 2 – 3 minutes per side.
4. Foot Massage
Grab an old practice tennis ball out of your tennis bag. Stand near a wall for balance, and place the ball on the ground underneath your right foot. Put some of your weight into it as you roll the ball up and down your foot, really focusing on the arch. You can control the intensity of the massage by shifting your weight.
Do this for 1 minute per foot.
5. Ankle Circles
Standing on your right leg with your back against a wall:
(A) raise your left knee to hip-height; holding your thigh for support.
(B, C) Moving only at your ankle, slowly trace a circle with your toes.
Do 5 circles per foot.
6. Hip Raises
Lie face-up on your mat with your arms straight out to your sides, palms up. Then:
(A) bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
(B) lift your hips so that you form a straight line from your knees to your chest. Squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) and hold for a couple of seconds, then return to the starting position (that’s 1 rep).
Do 3 sets of 20 reps, resting one minute between sets.
7. Single-leg Dumbbell Straight-leg Deadlift
For this stretch, you will need a pair of dumbbells:
(A) stand balancing on your left leg while holding your dumbbells down at your thighs.
(B) bend at your hips to lower your torso toward the ground. Bend your left knee slightly until you feel a stretch in your left hamstring. Extend your right leg straight out behind you and hold for 2 seconds. Lower your leg as you rise up and quickly move your hips forward, and return to the starting position (that’s 1 rep).
Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg. Rest one minute between sets.