Your feet are the foundation to your entire body. So when they're not feeling great, everything suffers-your calves, knees, hips, and even back and shoulders can be thrown off. And just walking around all day puts a lot of wear on your tootsies, especially if you shod them in not-so-great footwear (we're looking at you, heels and flip-flops) or give them a pounding during your workouts. (Hey, comfy kicks are trendy, so take advantage-check out all the Stan Smiths, Slip-ons and More Casual Sneaker Styles We're Loving Right Now to give your feet some relief.)
Stretching your feet, the same way you stretch out the rest of your body, is essential, says Emily Splichal, a podiatrist and author of Barefoot Strong. "The most powerful release anyone can do is to the bottom of the foot," she says. There are 18 muscles and tendons, as well as connective tissue that criss-crosses over the sole of the foot, Splichal explains. When these bands get too tight, it can cause pain in your feet, Achilles tendon, and calves. Splichal recommends "releasing" the bottom of your feet by using the Yamuna Foot Wakers ($50, amazon.com), but notes that frozen golf balls can work as well. Just sit down, place a frozen golf ball under your sole, and roll your foot over it from heel to toe and side to side, applying as much pressure as feels comfortable.
Also important: loosening up your lower calf muscles, says Brian Hoke, a sports physical therapist for Vionic Shoes. This is especially essential if you often wear heels, which shorten the calf muscles and can cause serious pain and cramping. "A common mistake is to allow the arches to fall while stretching the calf muscle," notes Hoke. "It causes stress that can aggravate foot problems, like plantar fasciitis."