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Fit Feet

By now you're probably sporting open-toed and backless shoes. But are your feet in good enough shape for summer footwear? 

The boots and hard-soled shoes that protected you from the winter elements also kept the bones and muscles in your feet from doing what they do best: rolling, flexing, and fully supporting your weight as you move. 

"The foot is the ground floor of your body," explains Jonathan FitzGordon, a Brooklyn, New York-based yoga teacher who has also created exercises and postural adjustments for optimal walking. 

"If your feet aren't prepared to do their job, you'll feel the effects -- pain, arch strains, ankle injuries, and more." Practice these moves two to three times a week, recommends FitzGordon, and you'll strengthen your feet and walk without worry this season.

1. Tree Pose
What it does: The foot has four layers of muscles; this balancing pose challenges all of them to engage and work together to find stability. 

How to do it: Stand tall with bare feet about a fist-distance apart, arms by your sides. Shift your weight to the left foot and place the sole of your right foot, toes pointing to the floor, as high up on the inside of your left leg as you can -- it could be on your ankle, your calf, or your inner thigh (avoid the knee joint). Bring your palms together in front of your heart. To help you balance, find a point at eye level to gaze at. Inhale for a count of five, then exhale for the same. Stay for five breaths, then repeat on the other side.

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2. Tennis Ball Massage
What it does: Releases the connective tissues (also known as fascia) that support the muscles on the soles of your feet, making the foot suppler and better able to support you when walking on uneven surfaces, such as grass and sand.

How to do it: Sitting tall on the edge of a chair, place a tennis ball under the sole of your bare right foot. Using steady but not painful pressure, roll your foot slowly back and forth across the tennis ball from toe to heel. Continue for two to three minutes, massaging the entire sole. Repeat on the other foot.

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3. Sit on Your Feet
What it does: Stretches the tops and bottoms of the feet evenly and restores flexibility.

How to do it: Sit with your shins on the floor and your buttocks resting on your feet. Point your toes so the entire top of the foot rests on the floor. Lengthen the spine and rest your hands on your thighs. Inhale for a count of five, then exhale for five. Stay for five breaths, then tuck your toes under and stay for another five breaths. If you find this stretch too intense, stay for as many breaths as possible, gradually increasing the number over time as your flexibility improves.

Text by Kate Hanley

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