Most runners think about foam rolling as a post-run recovery strategy, but if you struggle with impact-related injuries like runner’s knee, Achilles tendonitis, IT band syndrome or shin splints, rolling your feet before your run may help you stay healthy.
Running on stiff feet
When your feet are stiff, you’re not able to access their full range of motion. This can make your heel strike more intense, which increases your risk for impact-related injuries. Rolling your feet before your run helps to loosen the tissues in your feet and increase blood flow and range of motion to that area. As a bonus, it will help improve mobility in your calves, thighs and even your back, which will help you run more efficiently.
You can use a foam roller to loosen up your feet, but a small ball, like a tennis ball, lacrosse ball or even a golf ball will be more effective. These tools, with their smaller surface area, will be better at reaching the small muscles that your foam roller might miss.
How to roll your feet the right way
The best way to roll your feet is seated in a chair. This position will allow you to better control the amount of pressure you’re putting on your feet. You should also always do one foot at a time.
Putting moderate pressure on top of the ball (you should feel the pressure but it shouldn’t be painful), slowly roll your foot around on the ball or roller, moving at approximately one inch per second. When you find a spot that’s particularly tight or tender, spend an extra 30-60 seconds rolling in that area. You should spend about two minutes in total per foot.
This quick, four-minute practice will increase flexibility and blood flow in your feet to improve your run. You may want to spend four minutes after your run rolling your feet as well, especially if you struggle with chronic impact-related injuries.