The feet are a highly vulnerable – and often overlooked – part of an athlete’s anatomy, so try this toe-toning regime, says Lexie Williamson

Athletes rarely stretch their feet despite injuries like plantar fasciitis, or inflammation of the connective tissue on the sole of the foot, being extremely common.

In fact, regular stretching and strength work will create strong but pliable feet better able to cope with the rigours of sport and reduce the chances of injury.

The improved responsiveness from these simple, barefoot moves aids balance and agility. My advice is to do them daily:

1. Fanning the toes: Stand upright with feet hip-distance apart. Lift your toes off the floor and hold them for a few seconds, toes splayed wide. Lay them down again. Aim to glimpse a small section of the floor between each toe.

This is a simple way to stretch feet and provides a wide, stable base for balance.

2. Mexican toe wave: It might be a while before your feet are strong enough to perform a full “Mexican wave”, but it’s an interesting experiment in foot muscle coordination.

Begin by breaking the exercise down into sections. First lift your big toes, then lower. Next, keep your big toes grounded and raise the rest of your toes. Graduate to peeling all of your toes off the floor, one by one.

3. Picking up marbles (pictured): The action of picking up marbles with your feet pumps blood into the sole of the foot and increases flexibility. If marbles are too small to start with, try a golf ball.

The trick is to make these exercises part of everyday life so try picking up a pen or taking the bath plug out with your toes.

» Lexie Williamson is a certified yoga instructor and author of Yoga For Runners (Bloomsbury, £16.99)