Patient Daily Living

Building the Foundation for Balance: Strengthen your Toes

By Deborah Quilter

These simple exercises will improve the health and fitness of feet and toes, all to prevent falls.

When you exercise, do you include your toes? Unless they experience pain, many people take their toes for granted. But strong feet and toes are the foundation for a smooth gait and overall skeletal health. Think about it: if the bones of your feet and toes don’t support your other bones, there can be problems all the way up to your neck and shoulders. Not only that, neglected toes can lead to falls. If you don’t lift your toes as you step forward, you can literally trip over your own feet!

Here are 8 easy exercises, including foot stretches, to keep your toes strong and healthy. Most are done in standing position, but you can do them as seated exercises in a chair if that’s easier for you. You can repeat these moves every day.


  1. With feet flat, lift and spread your toes. Repeat 10 times.
  2. Now curl your toes under as though you were raking leaves with them. Repeat 10 times.
  3. If the previous exercise is easy, stand on a wood or tile floor (this doesn’t work on carpeting) with your toes on the edge of a hand towel. Gather the towel under the arch of your foot with your toes.
  4. Lift your big toe, keeping the littlest toe down flat. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Reverse the previous exercise and lift your little toe, leaving the big toe down. Repeat 10 times.
  6. To stretch, sit on the edge of a chair with a firm seat. Bring your foot onto the opposite knee and pull all the toes down with your hand until you feel a gentle stretch. Then push the toes up.
  7. Stand or sit on the edge of a chair. Press into your toes, lifting the heel until you feel a stretch in the arch of the foot.
  8. Put the tops of your toes on the ground and gently press forward until you feel a stretch in the top of the foot.

- Written By

Deborah Quilter

Deborah Quilter, writer, certified Yoga teacher and Feldenkrais® practitioner, is the Director of Yoga at the Martha Stewart Center for Living at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City and the president of Beyond Ergonomics, LLC. She is a partner at The Balance Center in New York City and presents regularly at the International Yoga Therapy Conference and the Rocky Mountain Institute of Yoga and Ayurveda. She is the author of The Repetitive Strain Injury Recovery Book and Repetitive Strain Injury: A Computer User's Guide and is currently working on a book about balance. Her website is