The easiest way to sideline a runner is an injury, especially one in the foot or knee. A very sensitive part of the foot that does not always get enough attention is the arch. There are a few ways to easily injure the arch of your foot. One way to hurt yourself is that you could wear the wrong kind of shoe for your body type or training style and exacerbate an existing biomechanical innefficiency. In other words, you could wear an uncomfortable shoe that makes you run funny. Another way is to wear improper shoes for long distances, such as wearing your racing flats for every run and then covering 80 or 90 miles per week. You could also step on a nail; that can hurt quite a bit as well.

There are a few ways to stretch your arch. If you are doing a “Figure 4” stretch and you can reach your toes, you can pull them back towards you and do a combination stretch. The easiest way does not involve that kind of flexibility, though. You just roll your foot over a tennis ball along the floor with your shoe off. You can also use some other ball of the same general size. I use a wooden juggling ball. The next method is not technically the safest way for you to stretch out your arch, but it is very effective. First, a little background:

As I have been picking up my mileage, I have also been picking up some minor aches and pains. Over the past few weeks, my left arch has been hurting throughout the day. It is usually not too painful (if painful at all) while I am running, but sitting around later it can hurt quite a bit. I have also been getting a few other aches and pains for the last few days, so I decided to take the day off from running yesterday.

I find that mowing my lawn relaxes me and I enjoy doing it. I have a small lawn with a push mower, and it takes me on average a little over an hour to complete. It is mostly flat, but there are a few steep parts leading into my back yard, and there is a very steep drop off along the back of the property that leads into a brook.

What I did to stretch out my arch was mow the lawn barefoot. I feel the need to add a disclaimer that if your lawn mower’s manual does not tell you to always wear shoes when mowing your lawn, then it should. It is not the safest way to mow your lawn. A shoe may not protect your foot much if you get it caught beneath the mower, but it can prevent your foot from getting there in the first place. It will also protect your foot from anything discharged out the back of the lawn mower.

So with that disclaimer being said, why would I want to mow my lawn barefoot?

  1. Walking around barefoot will naturally stretch your arch as you move along.
  2. Pushing the lawn mower provided more resistance than merely stepping forward, which gave me a better stretch.
  3. Pushing the lawn mower up and down the steeper parts of my lawn provided a little bit of strength exercises as I supported my foot off of the balls of my feet.
  4. Mowing the lawn kept me walking around barefoot on grass for over an hour, which probably would not have happened if I was just walking back and forth randomly.
  5. My feet got really dirty, and the process of scrubbing them clean gave the arches a good massage in the shower afterwards. And this morning. And probably tonight and tomorrow. My feet got really dirty.

So, while I can not recommend that you do something as potentially dangerous as mowing your lawn barefoot, I can relate a positive experience that I had with it. My foot that has been hurting over the last few weeks felt great when I went to bed last night. I do not expect that to last very long, but hopefully a day off from running combined with the stretching will mean I am that much farther from actually getting injured.