Whether you’re a top-notch athlete or a waiter who spends their days running around for hours on end, there are a lot of reasons our feet can ache. There are many ways to address such pain; foothbaths, massages, more comfortable shoes. While all of these methods can help relieve foot pain, today we’re going to focus on the benefits of foam rolling for your feet.
What are Foam Rollers?
First, let's clarify what a foam roller actually is. Simply put, it is a tube of foam that is soft, but supportive. It is used to roll back and forth under our feet while standing, sitting, or leaning against a wall. While the plain tube is the most commonly used roller, there are many different designs available with ridges, bumps, and pressure points to give a more thorough massage.
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release. This is essentially a fancy term for self-massage, and refers to the fascia, which are little strings connected to our muscles. This can become torn through repeated stretching and contraction, which can cause a lot of pain. This type of pain is not confined to the feet, although they are one of the most adversely affected parts of the body.
How Does It Work?
Foam rolling brings a number of benefits to your feet, and can help relieve pain thanks to several different factors. Firstly, the gentle stretching carried out by rolling your feet will act as a sort of pre-warm up, and help exercise the fascia in a low-stress manner. This alone makes it less likely that the condition will worsen or recur, but following your foam rolling with foot stretches will make the effects even more impactful.
Another reason that foam rolling can be so effective is that the movement of the rolling, which is more varied and less repetitive than exercises like walking, helps to untangle the fascia. Fascia tend to be found in groups, and can become tangled over time through natural movement. Rollers can help correct this, relieving a lot of stiffness and pain at the same time, which is something you can't achieve through stretches alone.
Finally, one of the main benefits of foam rolling comes from the back and forth movement involved. By pushing the roller up against your feet in a firm manner it encourages the flow of both blood and lymph. The feet are the farthest body part from the heart, so making sure that blood can carry fresh oxygen to them will help the muscles stay healthy or repair.
Lymph, meanwhile, is the colourless fluid that contains our white blood cells. These help fight infection and clear waste from our body, and foam rolling can help ensure that the feet get a thorough pass. This keeps them clean and healthy, making most forms of recovery easier and more effective.
Foam rolling is an extraordinarily simple but effective way to keep your feet in good health. It can be performed almost anywhere with minimal effort, but can have a major impact on pain and stiffness. The benefits of rolling and the causes of foot pain are both very wide ranging. While it's always important to understand the root cause of any pain, you can rest assured that foam rolling will probably be able to help you relieve it.