Single Leg Exercises for Foot and Leg Strength

Any time you balance on one leg, you activate muscles in the foot that may otherwise remain underutilized. In fact, standing on one leg can be quite challenging if you’re not accustomed to it, especially when you’re barefoot.

Don’t believe me? Give it a shot for yourself right now and see how long you can stand barefoot on one leg.

How did it go? Harder than you thought, right?

Even if you’re able to balance for a long time on one foot, chances are that you felt yourself having to make lots of tiny adjustments in order to stay balanced—and that’s why standing on one foot is so good for you!

Those little adjustments mean your foot has to work a lot harder than when you’re using two legs to support yourself. And that means your feet are going to get stronger!

After you’ve gotten comfortable balancing on one foot, you can add in some other elements to increase the difficulty—and the benefits—of standing on one leg.

Here are a few of my favorites:

1. One Legged Foot Hold

Stand upright and lift one foot off the floor, bringing your knee as high as you can toward your chest. Slowly reach over and grab beneath your other foot, interlacing your fingers with your hands below your toes. For an added challenge, you can try extending the airborne leg. Either way, don’t forget to keep your standing leg locked!

2. Dancer’s Pose

This time you will be holding your non-balancing leg behind your body, rather than in front. Stand upright and lift one leg behind you, grabbing the ankle with the hand of the same side (right hand to right foot, etc.). From here, reach your other arm into the air, lean forward and kick your back leg as high into the air as possible. Try to create balance by simultaneously kicking your foot back into your hand while reaching your other arm forward with equal force.

3. Pistol Squat

Now you are going to attempt to add a full squat into the equation, which requires considerably more strength and balance than just standing. Begin by standing upright with one leg lifted into the air in front of you. On your standing leg, bend from the hip, knee and ankle to squat all the way down until your hamstrings rest against your calf. Pause here briefly, the press your entire foot into the floor, brace your abs and reach your arms forward to return to a standing position. If you are unable to perform this move, you can practice by holding onto a door frame, pole or other sturdy object for assistance.

Remember, the stronger your feet and legs, the better you’ll feel running in your Xero Shoes. Now let’s get out there and feel the world!

—Al Kavadlo

Al Kavadlo is one of the world’s leading experts in bodyweight strength training and calisthenics. He’s also the author of several books, including the Amazon bestsellers Get Strong and Street Workout.

The content of this post does not constitute and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have about your health or a medical condition.