Exercises for flexible feet: Doing the Giraffe Walk

The need for flexible feet

Being a sporty person I truly understand the necessity of exercises for flexible feet. As a gymnast in high school I had to use the muscles in my feet in multiple ways. Field hockey required moving in different directions very quickly. As a triathlete my feet generate the speed for running, and the push for cycling and kick motion for swimming. And I cannot even begin to describe how many ways the feet and ankles are used for the different skills and techniques needed as a 3rd dan black belt in karate.

I think you get my point. Flexible feet are invaluable! Not only do they carry our body weight, but they help us to balance and to move with stability and agility. Flexible feet support us throughout our lives for everyday activities and for sports.

Problems with inflexibility

In my karate classes I am really noticing so many young children with inflexible feet. This is a great cause for concern. Any sport that requires speed and agility will be more challenging for a child that has short or tight achilles tendons or poor flexibility in the feet. Inflexible feet can make them prone to injury and other physical problems such as joint stiffness and pain.

The feet are extremely intricate in design. Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles! The muscles in the feet need exercise to develop in proportion with the larger muscles in the body.

Keep the feet flexible

In the very early years it is good for children to walk without shoes to develop their foot muscles. A child’s foot can have much more stress than an adult’s foot as the bones and connective tissues grow.

We want our children to be well prepared for the physical challenges they will face. We can do this by ensuring that they are exposed to activities that strengthen the feet and ankles and promote flexibility. Let your children flex their imaginations as they flex their feet, ankles and toes with these fun ways to walk, waddle and wiggle. Inspire your kids to move with these pretend-play suggestions.

Ten fun exercises for flexible feet

Who can do the weirdest walk?
1. Tip-toe walk — Tallest-person-in-the-world walk
2. Heel-toe walk  — Martian walk
3. Toe-heel walk — Dancer walk
4. Walk on the heels only — Crazy walk.

Can you show me your best animal walk, waddle, hop and run?
5. Chicken or Duck Walk — waddle forwards in squat position
6. Bunny Hop —  crouch low and move hands forward followed by the feet
7. Monkey Run — moving fast with hands and feet on on the floor
8. Worm Walk  — walk hands forward on the floor then walk the feet catch up
9. Giraffe Walk — walk forward on tiptoe with arms lifted high
10. Bird Hop — short sharp bounces on the balls of the feet.

Don’t forget one of the most basic exercises for flexible feet: sitting on the floor with legs stretched out in front. Point and flex the feet, rotate the ankles and wiggle the toes. Do this often with the children, for instance in morning circle or as a warm-up activity. It is easy, fun and it feels good.

Warm-ups and stretching are essential for any athelete. Let’s remember our children need to learn these important practices too. So many ball sports, dance styles, gymnastics and martial arts require different foot positions. It all starts with fun exercises to build flexible feet from the earliest age.

Give these fun exercises for flexible feet a try. Have the children in your care move their little feet regularly. They need flexible feet and ankles to support them for a lifetime!

P.S.: For more fun exercise ideas with a free lesson plan head over to the MoovKids early-years educator page. Add your email in the pop-up window for a PDF link.