Think about all the bones in your body, from your jaw to your shoulders, arms, hips, knees, legs, and toes – did you know that one quarter of ALL the bones in your body are actually in your feet? That’s right, 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments… per foot. Every lift, lunge, and lateral raise you complete is supported by the powerful and steady foundation of your feet. In fact, it’s estimated that the average person will walk over 115,000 miles in their lifetime. For men who run, play sports, and workout, that number will of course be even higher.

When was the last time you thought about taking care of your feet? They often go unnoticed and certainly unpampered when the focus is on building mass and boosting performance. Your feet can play an important role in both, however, and definitely deserve your attention. Here are 7 ways to take care of your feet like a man:

1. Stretch

As intense workouts and weightlifting literally tear muscle tissue so they can repair and effectively grow bigger, it also physically shortens the length of that muscle during a session. Stretching after a workout or circuit helps your body re-lengthen the muscles, release built up waste by-product and lactic acid, as well as boost blood circulation and reorganize jumbled up muscle fibers. This might make sense for your calf, back, and neck muscles, for example, but does this also apply to your feet? In a way, yes. Your foot muscles and other connective tissues can always use a good stretch to help make them more flexible and elastic, boost blood circulation to them, and support greater agility.

A good foot stretch can be as simple as sitting in a chair, crossing one leg to sit perpendicular over the other, and pulling your toes back towards your ankle, holding for 5 to 10 seconds. Or stand on the edge of a stair with your toes, heels hanging off, and lower your heels as much as possible for 10 seconds before returning to the original position. Do with both feet at once or one at a time.

2. Strengthen

In addition to stretching the all important feet, strengthening the feet and calf muscles can help prevent foot injuries like plantar fasciitis or even hammer toe. Weak tendons and muscles make your ankles and feet more susceptible to injury upon impact – think about completing plyometric jump squats with a tight tendon in your foot or weak ligaments stabilizing your ankle. Tears, strains, even ruptures are more likely to occur with stiff, weak connective tissues.

Strengthening foot muscles can be fun. Throw a handful of pens and pencils on the ground, or find that board game you never play and toss the game pieces on the floor. One by one, pick them up with your toes and place them in a designated bucket. Engaging the tendons in your metatarsals as well as your ankle and plantar fascia with a simple exercise like this gives them a quick little workout and also boosts fine motor coordination practice.

3. Moisturize

Need a good reason to ask your girl for a foot massage? Here’s your chance. Moisturized feet generate supple, flexible skin that is less likely to dry, crack and potentially cause skin irritation. While your feet may have calluses from years of workouts, playing sports, and running, moisturizing them can help prevent those calluses from growing larger and rougher. You typically want to apply a moisturizer right after the shower for maximum hydration, but if you’re concerned about the current state of your feet, moisturizing even twice daily can greatly improve appearance. A foot massage can also help break up scar tissue in the feet, work out any tightness you might have in the tendons around your ankle and the plantar fascia band, as well as increase blood circulation. Thai foot massage was even shown in one 2015 study on diabetic foot patients to significantly improve balance.

4. Trim

Long toe nails aren’t just dangerous to anyone who might be sleeping in bed with you, but they can cause painful and serious foot problems if not properly trimmed and managed. When you cut toenails regularly, aim to cut them straight across and not at a curve. Why? Curved edges of toenails or more susceptible to grow into your skin instead of away from your toe. Ingrown toenails typically occur on the big toe and can cause pain, swelling, and redness, and even lead to infection which requires antibiotics. Foot pain and extreme discomfort from an ingrown toenail or other nail infection might inhibit your daily workouts and like a domino effect, your progress and ability to increase gains or personal records.

5. Invest In

Few things can cause a serious workout or sports injury like bad footwear. Worn out shoes that lack proper tread and arch support will inevitably and maybe imperceptibly alter your pronation, or the way you walk and run. When you’re running or working out, your ankle naturally rolls inward slightly to absorb the shock of your heel hitting the ground before transferring the weight distribution to your forefoot. Old, unsupportive shoes are detrimental to those natural body mechanics, causing under or overpronation, which overtime can lead to painful Achilles tendinitis, IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, the list goes on.

Trail running shoes will differ from road running shoes which differ from crossfit shoes which differ from weightlifting shoes. And yes, a good pair of shoes might be an investment, upwards of $100 or more on average. Simply put, shoes matter. Finding and breaking in a pair that fits well, marries with your exercise goals, and properly supports your feet and ankles is a must for boosting performance and avoiding injury.

6. Support

Man up and give your feet some of the extra support they need. Lower extremity injuries from shin splints to ankle sprains oftentimes seem like the worst – while not always super painful, they can sideline any athlete in a minute, disrupting regular workouts and play. Bracing, taping, and wrapping has been shown to aid some leg and foot injuries as well as potentially prevent them. One 2016 study revealed prophylactic (preventative) ankle braces could actually limit excessive joint motion during ankle inversion upon a vertical landing, while still allowing normal range of motion. Foot pain during a workout may be relieved by wearing arch supports, a plantar fasciitis brace, or metatarsal pads, depending on your condition and cause of pain. Many helpful aids can be found over the counter in your local pharmacy or online.

7. Treat

So you have a foot thing that won’t go away. Embarrassing? Maybe. Worth seeing a doctor about? Absolutely. A pesky ingrown toenail that won’t heal, athlete’s foot you can’t seem to beat, even corns and calluses that are causing major irritation and discomfort – it is worth consulting your doctor, dermatologist, or podiatrist. Their evaluation, advice, and treatment recommendations might not have showed up on your WebMD search, however, they effectively are the experts and can help you get on a path to clean, healthy feet that power stronger, better workouts.

Want to be the ultimate alpha male – confident, generous, and strong? Don’t forget the all important feet – you can’t stand tall without them.

About the Author

Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.