There's nothing like a pair of killer heels to make you feel put-together, confident, and sexy as hell. But wearing heels day in and day out can do a number on your feet, ankles, and calves. Here's what we mean: When you wear heels, the lifting of your ankle puts your calf muscle in a shortened position, explained New York City-based personal trainer Jessi Kneeland. This can lead to pain in your ankles or knees.
"We want to combat that by stretching and lengthening the muscles," Kneeland said. "You also want to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings [butt and back thigh muscles] to make sure you are stable and have support."
Heels also challenge your balance, as anyone who has done the Bambi-on-ice walk understands, which puts extra pressure on your ankles and the muscles in your legs. (Your leg muscles help keep you stable as you walk.) That's one reason why your feet and legs might hurt after a night out on the town.
1. Rocking Down Dog
Start on your hands and knees. Pull your butt up to the ceiling while you straighten your arms and legs (A). Lifting at the heel, pedal your feet up and down (B). Alternate feet and try to get your heel to the floor. Pedal 10 times per foot.
2. Calf Stretch
Stand at arm's length facing a wall. Step forward with your right foot; keep both feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on the wall at chest-height. Press your right knee toward the wall so you feel a stretch in your left (rear) calf. Hold two seconds, then release the stretch. That's one rep. Do eight reps per leg.
3. Calf Roll
Sit flat on the floor with your legs straight, your hands on the floor behind you. Place a foam roller under your right ankle and cross your left leg over your right. Raise your butt a few inches off the floor (A). Press your body forward as you roll the foam roller up your calf (B). Continue rolling up and down your calf slowly. If you find a spot that feels especially tight, pause for a few seconds. Roll for two to three minutes per side, Kneeland said.
4. Foot Roll
Grab a small, hard ball, such as a tennis, lacrosse, or golf ball. Stand near a wall for balance. Place the ball under your foot. Roll the ball up and down your foot, focusing on the arch. Control the intensity by shifting your weight. Roll for one minute per foot.
5. Ankle Circles
Standing on your right leg, raise your right knee to hip height; grab your thigh for support (A). Moving only at your ankle, slowly trace a circle with your toes (B, C). Do five circles per foot.
6. Hip Raises
Start lying face up on the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor (A). Lift your hips so that you form a straight line from your knees to your chest (B). Squeeze your butt for one second, then return to the starting position. That's one rep. Do three sets of 20 reps. Rest one minute between sets.
7. Single-Leg Dumbbell Straight-Leg Deadlift
Stand balancing on your left leg while holding a pair of dumbbells near your thighs (A). Bend at your hips to lower your torso toward the ground. Bend your left knee slightly until you feel a stretch in your left hamstring. Extend your right leg straight out behind you (B). Snap your hips forward as you return to the starting position. That's one rep. Do three sets of 10 reps on each leg. Rest one minute between sets.
Amy Rushlow is a certified strength and conditioning specialist.