Fit Feet, Ankles and Knees

Prevent injuries from your knees down to your feet— important joints and muscles used in marching—with these simple exercises.

When training our bodies, we often concentrate on targeted muscle groups—upper body, lower body, abdominals, back and so on. However, we cannot forget the small ligaments and muscles that are attached to the larger muscle groups. Because marching involves a great deal of movement within the legs and lower body, let’s focus there.

Foot Foundations

The feet are the body’s foundation. There are many different moving parts within the foot and, therefore, many different things that can go wrong. Genetics come into play here as well. Find out if your parents and grandparents had problems with their feet, so you can be more aware of potential issues.

Due to the fact that marching utilizes a rolling heel-toe step, it is especially important to stretch through the arch of the foot. Standing next to a wall for support, point all 10 toes forward and stand on the balls of the feet. Inhale. Then as you exhale, slowly lower the right heel all the way down to the ground; press the heel firmly down. With the next inhale, switch sides. Repeat for six to 10 breaths.

Next, grab a resistance band. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Place your foot in the center of the band, press through the ball of the foot—make your foot look like a Barbie shoe. Your foot should be pointed and the toes flexed. This stretch will work the arch of the foot.

Awesome Ankles

Like the foot, the ankle has many little bones and moving parts. Ankle circles are a great way to maintain fluidity and strength. Circle to the right (five breaths) and left (five breaths) on each foot.

Using the resistance band again, sitting on the floor with your legs straight out, put the band under the ball of your foot. Push through your right heel and move your toes to the right and back to center. Then move the toes to the left and back to center. Repeat five to 10 times on each foot.

The Bee’s Knees

The knees are also prone to injuries because of all the use that they endure. Watch your feet when you walk. Are your toes pointed slightly out to the sides? If so, then you are putting unnecessary pressure on your knees. Walk with your toes forward and think about wrapping the outside muscles of your knees around to the back of your knees.

Also, when you are standing, use a slight bend. Continually locking the knees weakens the ligaments, making your knees more prone to injury.

Try this exercise to strengthen your knees: Standing up straight, slightly bend your knees. Lift your toes up, lift your kneecaps up, and then put your toes back down.

Marching requires a lot of work from your legs and feet, so you need to maintain them. You wouldn’t perform without cleaning your instrument, so make sure your legs are ready too.

About the Author

After dancing since the age of 3, Haley Greenwald-Gonella thought it was time to try a new art. In elementary school, she began playing the flute and was in the marching band in middle school and for the first two years of high school. She also played the bassoon during concert season. Dance drew Haley back while in high school. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with degrees in dance and English. She recently graduated from the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts). Haley is also a certified registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. She draws upon her dance and yoga training when it comes to all things fitness and the arts.

Aim for 100

Advice for color guards from Catina Anderson, from Halftime Magazine, a print and online publication about the marching arts.