The feet are the most obvious place to start with self-massage after a long day hiking, running, or working over long-distances and rough terrain. They endure hundreds of pounds of repetitive force in the often hot, wet, enclosed spaces we call shoes. They absorb shock, mold to uneven surfaces, and offer us a temporary connection point with the ground in order to propel our bodies forward. Pain or tension in the arches, toes, or heels can have a tremendous impact on the quality of our gait as well as our mood. If you’ve experienced even the tiniest of blisters you know how it can immediately change your walking pattern for the worst resulting in inefficient movement and compensation patterns. By taking regular care of your feet you are extending the longevity of your entire body. I agree with the saying that one can accurately assess the overall health of a person by how well they take care of their feet.
In this post I’ll show you 5 self-massage techniques I use when I’m out hiking long distances, or even after a workday on hard surfaces. These techniques can be done without any tools except those you already carry with you. No lotion required. Simply bring along your hands and hip mobility. So, when you’re all zipped-up in your tent at night away from your go-to foam roller or lacrosse ball try these 5 self-massage techniques to keep you going that extra mile.
1.Toe Spreading and Flexion Stretch: Interlace your fingers in between your toes and perform both clockwise and counterclockwise circles. This will release pressure and myofascial tension in between each toe. Don’t be surprised if you experience several small pops from the releasing of joint pressure. If you cant fit all of your fingers in at once, try 2 or 3 fingers at a time until you’ve worked enough space in between your toes. End with a general toe flexion stretch moving them down away from your body.
2. Metatarsal Scrub: Use your thumb or finger to press into the space in between each metatarsal bone gliding toward your toes. Also try using two hands to mobilize or scrub each bone up and down opposite of on another like your warming up the palms of your hands. Hours spent with your feet crammed in boots decreases metatarsal spreading resulting in stuck tissue and decreased circulation.
3. Plantar Fascia Stripping: Cross one foot on top of the other leg and using your index and middle finger joints, slowly press into your arch and strip toward your toes. Start light then work deeper as your tissue opens. Try moving your toes up and down while stripping. If you find a really tender spot, pause and perform small circles kneading deeper into the tissue until there is noticeable relief and blood flow.
4. Acupressure Points Kidney 1, Liver 3: For Kidney 1, press into the base of your foot directly in line with your middle toe next to the ball. Simply press and hold or knead with circles until relief occurs. This acupressure point is grounding and energy balancing. For Liver 3, press and hold at the V between your big toe and second toe. Sink in between the bones and hold. Try moving your toes up and down for extra release. Liver 3 is used for lower back pain, stress, and limb pain.
5. Toe Sitting and Kneeling: Sit with your toes tucked under and hips down on your heels. Emphasize certain toes by shifting weight side to side. This is great for releasing tight arches and foot tendons. Also try kneeling on the tops of your feet to stretch the surface and open your ankle joint which can become stuck with downhill terrain.
These are my top choices for foot care and self-massage when on the trail, in the tent, or after a long day on your feet. I recommend trying them all to see what works best for you and your body. Experiment with different tools such as one knuckle instead of two, or two fingertips, for a different angle and feel.
The next post I’ll detail out self-massage techniques for the lower leg, which requires regular self-care to continue to perform at high levels day-in and day-out.