How to Exercise With Foot Arthritis

Updated May 10, 2017

Having arthritis in your feet can be painful. With some forms of arthritis there can be actual physical changes to the foot, making it difficult to walk and get around. While exercise alone cannot cure your arthritis, it can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the foot and help you to manage your symptoms. The following exercises can be done in a chair or on a stool so your feet can hang.

Plantar and dorsi flexion. Sit up straight. Push down through your toes and point the foot as much as you can. Reach out through the toes and focus on lengthening the foot. Then pull the toes back and flex the foot as much as you can. Repeat for 8 to 12 repetitions with each foot.

Foot circles. Sit up straight. Circle the right foot clockwise 8 to 12 times. Then circle counterclockwise. Make sure you circle your foot and not your ankle or leg. Repeat with the left foot.

Write the alphabet. Sit up straight. Hold the right foot in the air and draw the letters of the alphabet. Focus on moving your foot fully through all the different movements. Repeat with the left foot.

Towel grab. Sit up straight. Place a small towel or sheet on the floor. Try to pick up the towel with your right toes. Focus on scrunching the toes and grabbing the towel or sheet. Repeat 5 to 6 times. Do the same with the left foot. When this becomes easy try to pick up a pen or pencil.

Ball massage. Sit up straight. Put a tennis or other small ball on the floor. Place your right foot on top of the ball and roll it from your toes to your heel. Roll it back and forth for 8 to 12 repetitions. Repeat with the left foot. After going back and forth, try rolling the ball in a circle on the floor.


Stop any exercise that makes your symptoms worse. These are gentle exercises to help encourage full range of motion in your feet. If the muscles are very tight or sore, try placing your foot in a pail of warm water to do the exercises, or while in the bathtub.

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About the Author

I hold a Master's degree in exercise physiology/health promotion. I am a certified fitness specialist through the American College of Spots Medicine and an IYT certified yoga teacher. I have over 25 years experience teaching classes to both general public and those with chronic illness. The above allows me to write directly to the reader based on personal experiences.