Sore feet? Get on the ball!

Most tennis players know that pounding the courts can leave your feet tired, sore, and potentially injured. The most diligent athletes take the time to prep and treat their bodies before and after play. Players are usually cognizant of the importance of wearing proper footwear, however exercises specifically targeting the feet are often neglected. Foot-related injuries can be both prevented and treated with the use of something every tennis player should have – a tennis ball!

The feet are the body’s base of support, with movement starting from the ground up. The constant starting and stopping, with quick directional changes, leave the feet particularly susceptible to injury. Whether you have plantar fasciitis, bunions, callouses, or pain from arches too high or too low, using a tennis ball at home is an easy way to strengthen and stretch the feet – the key to keeping them healthy and happy. Performing the following exercises 2-4 times per week is an excellent way to maintain your foot health.

With tennis ball in hand, a good place to start is by rolling your foot on the ball, in order to massage the sole of your foot and plantar fascia, at a pressure you can control. Seated in a chair, with the ball under your foot, gently apply as much pressure as you can comfortably tolerate, to push the ball into the floor, while rolling the ball back and forth from toes to heel. Perform this for 30 seconds before switching to the other foot. For specific areas of tension on the foot, likely caused by muscular adhesions, repeat the above exercise targeting areas needed. Systematically begin at a few points near the base of your toes, and gradually work towards your heel, holding for 10 seconds before moving to another spot of tension.

Once you are adept at the seated ball massage technique, you can progress to standing – which enables more pressure, as you incorporate your body weight. Place the ball under one foot while standing, using a wall for support and balance. Roll the ball back and forth from toes to heel for 30 seconds, while applying as much pressure as you can tolerate, and repeat with the other foot.

Optimal foot strength and function is directly related to the flexibility of the muscles and tendons within your foot. To improve flexibility, place the tennis ball against a wall, and have the ball of your foot on top of the tennis ball, leaving your heel flat on the ground. Gradually lean your upper body into the wall, increasing the stretch felt in the foot, ankle and lower leg. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds, before repeating with the other foot.

To combat aching heels, this next exercise can be quite helpful. This time you will need 2 tennis balls. Sitting at the bottom of the stairs, place each ball under your heels. Using your bodyweight to create resistance by leaning your forearms onto your knees, pump your heels up and down on the balls. Repeat this pumping action for 1 minute, eventually building to 2 minutes. Take a rest, and perform the exercise one more time for another minute. Get up and walk around the room, and there should be a noticeable release of tension in your heels.

The muscles in the foot are some of the most used and abused in the body, being placed under extreme loads daily, both on and off the court. Soreness, cramping and injury can be both prevented and rehabilitated by taking a few minutes, 3-4 times per week to perform these basic exercises. So treat your feet right, and use your tennis balls for more than just playing.

About the Author:

Dr. Melissa Cutler is a Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Tennis Professional and Running SpecialistHer treatments are aimed at optimizing physical well being and consist of soft tissue techniques, such as active release techniques, muscle stripping, trigger point therapy, chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture. For more information or to book a chiropractic appointment at the Spa, contact the Mayfair West Wellness Spa via phone 647-427-3036 or email: spawest@mayfairclubs.com.