Foot Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Male runner sitting on an outdoor running track while stretching his legs and feet

Top 10 Foot Exercises for Runners

Most runners know the performance enhancing benefits of a good strength training routine. A stronger body creates a faster, more efficient runner, reducing injuries and increasing the power of your stride. If you aren’t incorporating exercises to strengthen your feet into your routine, you could be missing out.

Find out how to optimize your run with foot strengthening exercises and CURREX® RUNPRO™ insoles, engineered to fully engage the muscles of the foot for improved comfort, less fatigue, and better performance.

In This Article:

closeup of a person standing on their toes and wearing green running shoes

Why Runners Should Strengthen Their Feet

As the initial point of contact with the ground, your feet are the predominant force in your stride. They absorb the brunt of the impact with every step, or 2 to 3 times your bodyweight when running. Whether you’re a heel striker or a forefoot runner, the strength of your feet will make or break your run.

Each foot muscle has a function. They connect to other muscles, tendons, ligaments and supporting structures in an intricate system allowing you to walk, run and jump. Even your toes play a vital role in stability. When engaged, these structures work in sync to absorb shock, support and transfer your weight, and propel the body forward.

As the most used and abused part of the body, it is important your feet stay strong and mobile. When one part of the body is weak or lacking, it creates a chain reaction. Not only are our feet vulnerable to injuries like plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis, but our knees, hips, and back may also be at risk for pain.

How to Strengthen Your Feet for Running

Imbalances in the feet due to weak muscles have a direct effect on your running form and range of motion. Foot strengthening drills like heel walking and toe presses help reduce those imbalances while CURREX RUNPRO insoles support, engage, and work in synergy with your muscles for next-level performance.

closeup of a male runner sitting on a step and placing a yellow running insole into a black running shoe

Without an insole to properly engage the muscles in your feet, you aren’t making the most of your strength training routine. Thanks to our Dynamic Arch Technology™, CURREX insoles for running shoes help optimize foot biomechanics and prevent injuries. Our specialized design returns stored energy to increase power and minimize fatigue.

The Benefits

Like CURREX running insoles, feet strengthening exercises tailored to runners can help optimize the biomechanics of your feet with benefits like:

  • Fewer injuries. Up to 39% of runners experience foot injuries, which are more common in experienced runners than beginners. Stronger feet are less susceptible to injuries like plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, shin splints, and more.
  • Better running form. Strengthening your arch contributes to a healthier, more stable running form with greater motion control to protect against injury.
  • Increased speed. Stronger feet make for a stronger toe-off, giving you faster turnover in every stride and increased speed.
  • Reduced fatigue. Foot muscles that are balanced and fully engaged put less stress on your body overall to help minimize impact forces so you can run for longer and further.
  • Improved balance. Balanced muscle strength creates a stable foundation for each foot strike, ensuring proper weight distribution and fewer missteps for a more efficient run.
female runner performing a runner’s stretch against a wall with graffiti

10 Foot Stretching Exercises Every Runner Needs

Foot strengthening drills and stretches are easy to do at home with little to no equipment. Foot strengthening exercises should be done barefoot. You only need to exercise your feet 2 to 3 times a week for about 10 minutes. Start with just five of the exercises below and alternate with new exercises each week.

female athlete balancing with one leg in the air and her hand outstretched toward her leg

1. Single Leg Raise

The single leg raise is a balancing exercise. It engages stabilizer muscles in the lower legs, ankles, and feet as well as the posterior tibial tendon that helps maintain your arch.

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart and your hands at your sides.
  • Lift one leg straight up and hold for 30 seconds.
  • Slowly lower your leg, then repeat 3 to 5 times on each leg.

You may hold onto a wall or the back of a chair for support. This exercise can also be done using a balancing disk.

2. Heel Walking

Walking on your heels uses muscles in the ankles and shins to reduce your risk of shin splints and muscle pain in your calves.

  • Stand upright with your hands at your sides.
  • Without your heels leaving the floor, lift your toes lifted off the ground, pointed forward.
  • Slowly walk the length of the room on your heels.
  • Repeat 5 times.

3. Toe Walking

Temporarily walking on the balls of your feet helps strengthen lower leg muscles and the Achilles tendon.

  • Stand upright with your core engaged.
  • With your legs straight, pull your heels up toward your calves.
  • Walk around the room on the balls of your feet for one minute.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

Avoid this exercise if you are currently experiencing ball of foot pain. Remember, you are walking on the balls of your feet, not your actual toes.

4. Calf Raises

Calf raises are stretches that activate muscles in the backs of the legs, help increase foot and ankle strength, and may prevent charley horses.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and toes flat on the edge of a step.
  • Push your toes into the floor and raise your heels.
  • Squeeze and hold for 3 counts.
  • Slowly lower back to a neutral position.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.

Beginners might want to hold onto a nearby countertop for balance. Otherwise, take this exercise to the next level by holding a couple of lightweight dumbbells.

5. Toe Curls

Also called towel scrunches, toe curls increase strength and range of motion in your toe flexors.

  • Sit in a chair with your back straight.
  • Place a kitchen towel on the floor.
  • Spread the toes on one foot out and use them to grip the towel.
  • Pull the towel towards you using just your toes.
  • Repeat 10 times per foot.

6. Foot Arch Doming

Foot doming, or the short foot exercise, helps strengthen the muscles and tendons in your arch, making it ideal for people with flat feet and plantar fasciitis.

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Raise only your arch by pulling the base of your big toe in towards your heel and keeping your heel grounded.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times per foot.

7. Toe Spreads

Spreading out your toes helps loosen nerves in the balls of the feet and prevent injuries like metatarsalgia.

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart.
  • Spread out the toes on your right foot as wide as you can.
  • Hold for 3 seconds, and relax.
  • Repeat 10 times per foot.

For more resistance, wrap a thick rubber band around your toes.

8. Plantar Stretch

One of the best exercises for foot pain in runners, the plantar stretch helps prevent and relieve plantar fasciitis.

  • Sit in a chair and cross your right ankle over your left thigh.
  • Use your hand to bend the toes of your right foot back toward your shin
  • Hold for 10 seconds
  • Repeat 10 times per foot.

9. Ankle Rotations

Using your ankles to write out each letter of the alphabet can improve range of motion and increase strength.

  • Lie down with your back flat on the floor.
  • Lift on leg about a foot off the ground.
  • Use your foot to write out each letter of the alphabet.
  • Repeat once with the other leg.

Trail runners might benefit the most from foot and ankle strengthening exercises that promote stability and balance on uneven terrain.

10. Shin Curls

By strengthening the muscles in the front of your lower leg, shin curls are preventative exercises for shin splints and stress fractures.

  • Stand upright with your toes hanging off the edge of a step.
  • Curl your toes and foot up toward your shins without shifting backward.
  • Hold for 3 counts, then slowly lower back down.
  • Repeat 5 times.
closeup of a runner placing a running insole into a white running shoe

Feel Stronger, Perform Better with CURREX RUNPRO

By strengthening the muscles in your feet and keeping them engaged with a dynamic running insole, you can reduce your risk of injury and increase both power and efficiency in your run. CURREX RUNPRO insoles optimize foot biomechanics, helping runners feel better and perform better.


van Gent, R. N. et all. (2007). Incidence and Determinants of Lower Extremity Running Injuries in Long Distance runners: A Systematic Review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 41(8), 469–480.

Dack, D. (2017, January 19). Run Strong: 8 Essential Foot Strengthening Exercises for Runners. Runner’s Blueprint.

Sayer, A. (2024, March 5) 8 Great Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners. Marathon Handbook.

Brooks, A. (2022, September 24). Top 10 Foot Strengthening Exercises For Runners. RunToTheFinish.