When we say Pilates is a full-body system of exercise, we really mean it. Joseph Pilates left no part of the body out of his method. Here we have an introduction to two pieces of equipment he invented for foot strengthening exercises.
The Pilates foot exercise equipment has been credited with helping strengthen the feet as well as correcting deformities and relieving foot pain. Most Pilates studios have this equipment hiding somewhere - under a reformer or a pile of stretch bands and toning balls. If you haven't used the foot equipment yet, ask about it. It is very effective.
Learning the Foot Equipment Exercises
The foot exercises you do with this equipment are fairly simple. Once you know them you can practice on your own. However, it is very important that you work with the right alignment and foot action. I briefly describe some exercises here, but you will want to ask a Pilates instructor to teach you the exercises, and watch you do them, before you get going on your own.
The Foot Corrector
The foot corrector is designed to develop foot strength, flexibility, and lift in the arches of the feet.
I found foot correctors available online at many of the major Pilates equipment companies such as Root Manufacturing, Gratz Pilates, Mark Spenard, Peak Pilates, and Balanced Body. You can also compare prices on the foot corrector at pricegrabber.com.
Using the Foot Corrector
The ball of the foot is placed on the bar of the foot corrector. This placement can be adjusted depending on the areas of the foot that need strengthening. The foot presses the bar down without the aid of body weight - just foot action. The quality of the move is an up-and-over arch that creates a dome of the foot. The correcter bar will tilt slightly with the movement of the foot.
The heel of the foot is also used to press the bar down while the ball of the foot is stable (see below). The feeling is that the heel is moves down and scoops toward the front of the foot, creating a long, high arch. Both foot positions require a stable, even pelvis above.
Foot Corrector Styles
Foot correctors come in a variety of designs - with the bar in the middle, with or without foot grips, and different levels of resistance in the springs. The corrector above is a contemporary design with the bar in the middle so that you don't have to flip the corrector around in order to press with the heel.
The corrector shown at left is a homemade version that is similar to the original correctors in that the bar is closer to one end.The shape of this foot corrector is unique because it is made from what was once a flower press. The protrusions at the sides are merely decorative.
The Toe Exerciser
The toe exerciser is a strengthening and correcting device. Some people have reported that it helps correct bunions.
The toe exerciser can be used as to strengthen the toe joints and align them as seen here. There are also exercises where one foot rotates away from the other, stretching the toe exerciser and increasing strength of the joint
The word on the street is that you can get a similar effect as the toe exercises by using the thick rubber bands that grocers use to hold broccoli bunches together.
If you find the toe exercise beneficial you might want a real toe exerciser. I found them available online through Balanced Body (called toe gizmo) and Gratz Pilates. You can also compare prices on the toe exerciser at pricegrabber.com.
Other Foot Strengthening Exercises
The strength, flexibility and balanced development of the foot affect the whole body. Don't let not having foot exercise equipment keep you from doing foot strengthening exercises. Here are some foot exercise you can do without fancy equipment:
Learn Arch Lifts
Learn Towel Curls