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Can pilates help your feet?

My name is Daria and I am currently in my final semester of my nutrition course at Deakin University whilst also teaching reformer pilates classes.

As an introduction, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of the benefits that I have found from doing reformer pilates with my lower limbs and feet.

Some of the fundamental aspects of pilates help with general strength, flexibility and endurance of many of the important structures within your lower limbs and feet.

I fall into the category of people who have very flat feet. Just like many others, I tend to get a lot of pain through my plantar fascia, arch and calf muscles. Due to the nature of my job and my busy life, I am constantly on my feet. Even though I have invested in good footwear/orthotics, I am still conscious of building strength in my feet and lower limbs to reduce pain long term.

Below are some of the most beneficial foot related exercises that build strength whilst simultaneously releasing tension through painful areas of my foot. If you wanted to see all of these exercises, please follow the link to watch the Instagram reel:


Midfoot touching bar.

Footwork is part of the traditional pilates repertoire and aims to strengthen and stretch the muscles in your foot. This is my favourite movement because it massages my plantar fascia which tends to get tight throughout the day due to my flat feet.


Heel touching bar.

Loading through anterior shin muscles and tendons through stabilising the mid-forefoot.

This is another variation of footwork which massages the hardest part of my foot which usually takes the most impact in activities such as walking/running.


Toes/forefoot touching bar with locked ankles ‘squat’.

This variation of footwork is performed by pressing the balls of the feet onto the footbar and plantar flexing while pressing the carriage in and out. This strengthens the calf muscles as well as the ankle joint which is important for me because I lack stability through my ankles.


Toes/forefoot touching with ‘calf raise’.

This variation of footwork is known as the tendon stretch and it stretches through the achilles while loading the calf muscles and also creating movement for the ankle joint.


Toes/forefoot touching with alternating heel lifts.

This is a less intense version of the tendon stretch with an even load on each foot at the same time.


Legs in straps.

Legs in straps involve the entire lower body through different components. The straps against the feet are adding resistance to the mid-foot and stretching it out. At the top of the motion, I feel a nice stretch through my hamstrings and calves and then as the legs pull down towards the footbar those muscles are pulling the load and as a result strengthening through the backs of the legs.


Flying splits

This exercise includes a rocking back and forward motion with all the load in one foot and the hands, as the carriage is pushed out the foot rocks back onto the heel and toes lift to the ceiling which stretches through the muscles. As the carriage comes back in, the foot rolls forward onto the tippy toes and heel lifts. Moving though the flexion and extension of the foot releases any tension or tight spots in the midfoot as well as stretching through the back of the leg.

Ensure to communicate with your pilates instructor any specific foot related goals for the class.

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