Ankle Stretches For Flexibility
Ignore ankle stretches at your peril.
While most of us are only too happy to spend big chunks of workout time working showy muscles like the abs, glutes, and arms, almost no one gives the ankles their due.
Its understandable ankle work isnt necessarily sexy.
But if your ankles are tight, pretty soon, you may not have a leg to stand on.
A 2013 study found that people with limited dorsiflexion suffered from an altered gait that put undue strain on their knee joints.
Another showed that ankle instability led to a reduced range of motion in the knees a major cause of non-contact injury in sports.
So if youre prone to knee pain, your problem may be one joint down.
Many people who find lower-body moves like squatting difficult are surprised to find that the problem lies not in their thighs or hips but in their ankles.
Hate leg day?
A little additional ankle mobility might change your attitude.
But dont just start stretching away, advises physical therapist Dr. John Rusin.
Before you start chasing mobility drills to fix your squat, lunge, or running pattern, you first need to see if ankle mobility is really even a problem, he recommends.
Heres how to run an ankle function self-check courtesy of Rusin and how to specifically address any problems that come up.
Seated Ankle Circle Or Alphabet
Taking those ankles round the world can really boost their range of motion.
For circles: Do 10 in each direction.
For the alphabet: Do 2 sets with each foot.
Ankle Flexion And Extension
The ankle flexion and extension exercise works, specifically, to maintain or increase the range of motion at your ankle as it relates to pointing your foot down toward the ground or pulling your toes upward .
How to do it
Sit on a mat with your legs extended in front of you. Keep your ankles at a natural, 90-degree angle and your toes pointing upward.
Moving both feet at the same time, extend your ankles, pointing your toes as far away from you as you can.
Hold for a beat at the full extension, then reverse the movement, flexing your foot to see how close to your shins you can bring your toes.
Continue alternating between flexion and extension for 20 repetitions. Complete two sets.
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Rolling Up Onto The Toes
- Start in any position thats comfortable for you, whether thats in a full squat like Rachel demonstrates in the video, or in more of a lunge position, or with hands supported on something. Just have one foot in front, and one foot behind.
- Roll forward so youre up on the toes of the front foot. Go as far forward as you can comfortably go.
- Play around with the positioning, and make sure to work on both sides.
Do 5-8 reps for 3 sets.
Single Leg Stance On A Towel
Verywell / Ben Goldstein
Ankle injuries often affect your balance. Balance activities can help prevent future injury. Do these towards the end of your rehabilitation.
Perform this exercise 10 times in a row. When you’re ready, increase the challenge by standing on more unsteady surfaces like a wobble board.
Your physical therapist may also have you use a BAPS board while working on balance exercises.
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When To Start Exercises For Ankle Sprains
Most people can start ankle rehabilitation exercises within three days after the ankle injury, if its not too severe. But theres no set timetable. Listen to your own body, and follow your doctors advice.
For the first few days, youll need to rest and apply an ice pack to your injured ankle for 10 to 15 minutes every few hours. Dont let the ice touch your skin and dont leave it on so long that it burns you.
For many people, the rest period is about three days. After that, you can gradually increase the use of your ankle and begin a program of home exercises or physical therapy.
For non-athletes, doctor-prescribed home exercises alone may be just as good as a supervised exercise program. A 2007 study of 102 people who had sprained ankles showed no major difference to recovery after one year from a supervised exercise program compared to standard care with unsupervised home exercises.
Discuss rehabilitation exercises with your doctor and do your own research to help you decide which treatment is best for you.
How Do I Stretch My Ankle After A Sprain
After the initial pain and swelling from your ankle sprain have subsided and you can tolerate weight on your foot, you can begin stretching exercises in stages. The goal of these exercises is to restore your ankle’s range of motion.
Once ankle range of motion has been almost or completely restored, you must strengthen your ankle. Along with strengthening, you should work toward a feeling of stability and comfort in your ankle, which foot and ankle ankle orthopaedic specialists call proprioception.
Perform the following home exercises twice a day to stretch your ankle. If you experience any pain or other problems, consult with your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon.
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Increasing The Depth Of The Kneeling Toe Stretch
You will probably need several weeks of practice before you can knee comfortably. Once you can kneel comfortably you can increase the toe stretch by leaning back and placing your hands on the floor.
Slowly lift your knees to stretch the fronts of the ankles and the toes, then lower the knees.
Move slowly. Stop if you need to.
Work It Out: 5 Stretches For Your Feet And Ankles
If you are like most people, you probably take some time to stretch and warm up before and after a workout to increase performance and prevent injuries. But when was the last time you focused specifically on your feet and ankles? With 26 bones, 33 joints, and hundreds of pieces of connective tissue in each foot, the feet and ankles are incredibly complex and do much of the heavy lifting when it comes to physical activity. But they are often overlooked and taken for granted until something goes wrong, usually in the form of heel pain or a strain or injury. Adding a few simple stretches and strength building moves to your routine can make you stronger and help prevent common foot and ankle problems like heel pain, inflammation, and fractures.
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What Can I Do To Relieve My Foot And Ankle Pain
Soft tissue takes time to heal, but there are a number of things you can do to help speed up the process:
- Exercises help to relieve pain by loosening up the soft tissues in your feet. Tightness in the Achilles tendon can often have a knock-on effect on the plantar fascia, so these areas are particularly important to target. Read on for a list of suggested exercises to ease your pain
- Resting your feet wherever possible by not running, walking or standing for too long can help to avoid any more inflammation
- Wearing comfortable shoes with good arch support will also reduce the strain on your feet
- Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to control the pain. Ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory meaning it will help to relieve any swelling. Taking these as tablets or using anti-inflammatory creams can both be helpful. Remember to not take more than the recommended dose
- Ice packs pressed against the bottom of the foot can help to reduce swelling. Do not apply ice directly to the skin instead, try wrapping the pack in a tea towel
With Our Foundation For Stability And Balance Originating In Our Feet Keeping Our Feet And Ankles Mobile And Stable Is The First Step In Correcting Imbalances Further Up The Kinetic Chain
There are lots of different techniques for working with the feet and ankles but without care, injury can occur during well-intentioned exercises.
What I want to share with you are safer ways to achieve the same or maybe better results if we pay attention to positioning, physiological laws, and what our bodies are telling us. This article addresses what I have found to be a safe and successful approach to creating both flexibility and stability in the feet, based on Aaron Mattes system of Active Isolated Stretching and Strengthening.
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Standing On Your Tiptoes
You may not even need a mat for this really simple exercise which can be great preparation for vigorous exercise too. First, stand with your feet about a hip-width apart with the toes pointing ahead, and then rest the arms by the sides.
Fix on a point to assist your balance, inhale then rise onto the balls of your feet, sweep your arms out and up then exhale. Try a set of ten to fifteen reps and you should find that the pose improves your balance and stabilizes your ankles.
Exercising While Sitting Down
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Be Gentle With Yourself While You Stretch Your Feet And Ankles
As you practice these suggestions, remember, most importantly, to not push yourself into any painful stretches and perhaps even avoid any discomfort, especially in the beginning phases of trying something new and different.
Keeping the movements gentle will relax your nervous system and allow for greater flexibility and stability more quickly. You dont want your nervous system to push back, so be nice to yourself.
The repeated exchange of blood and lymph also creates a circulatory pump, bringing the vital nutrients needed for healing while removing metabolic waste. The numerous repetitions soothe the nerves, bringing them back to life with blood.
In consideration of how gentle to be, the best guideline is to never push so hard that you find yourself holding your breath. When you do, every cell in your body becomes tense waiting for you to exhale. Keep your breathing calm and full.
Above all, pay close attention to how your body feels as you move avoid pain and discomfort. These are among the first steps you can take in creating the strong foundation needed to enjoy all the activities your life has to offer.
Towel And Tissue Scrunches
Place a small towel on the floor in front of you while you sit in a hard chair. With your shoes and socks off, gently grab the towel with your toes, scrunch it up, and count to 5. Then release the towel and repeat. Do this 8 to 10 times or less if you feel pain.
You can also try this with a tissue.
Your Achilles tendon attaches the muscles of your calf to your heel bone, passing behind your ankle. Stretching your Achilles tendon is the next set of exercises to take up as soon as you can.
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Stretches For Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobility
Once you are done foam rolling, I like to stretch the muscle. A systematic review by Radford has shown that static ankle dorsiflexion stretching can lead to a statistically significant improvement in motion. A more recent meta-analysis revealed a 5-degree increase in mobility after ankle dorsiflexion stretches.
If moderate to severe restrictions exist, I will hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, but often just do a few reps of 10 seconds for most people.
The classic wall lean stretch is shown below. This is a decent basic exercise, however, I have found that you need to be pretty tight to get a decent stretch in this position.
I usually prefer placing your foot up on a wall or step instead, as seen in the second part of my video below. The added benefit here is that you can control the intensity of the stretch by how close you are to the wall and how much you lean your body in. I also like that it extends my toes, which gives a stretch of the plantar fascia as well. For both of these stretches, be sure to not turn your foot outward. You should be neutral to point your toe in slightly .
Foot And Ankle Stretches To Add To Your Routine
The good news is that stretching your feet and ankles to prevent injuries and strengthen your workout game, especially if you engage in high impact activities like distance running or other high-intensity sports can be done from the comfort of your favorite chair. No additional equipment or fancy props needed!
A strong ankle is a healthy and injury free ankle. There are several options available to warm up and stretch your ankles before and after a workout .
Simple ankle circles can be performed from a seated or standing position just be sure to isolate the foot and ankle and perform 10 reps in both directions on each foot.
For a deeper stretch, sit in a chair with your ankle crossed over the thigh of the opposite leg and gently pull your foot back into a pointed position with your hands, holding the stretch for 30 seconds.
Holding the back of a chair or wall for support and keeping your hips square, place one leg in front of the other, bending the front leg until you feel a deep stretch behind the ankle of the back leg. Perform a few reps on each side, holding the stretch for 15 30 seconds.
Using a resistance band or towel, replicate the towel stretch one foot at a time, gently rotating the outside of the ankle on each side.
With one foot planted firmly on the ground, raise the toes of the opposite foot up, leaving the heel on the ground. Perform several reps on either side.
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Ankle Stretches And Drills
Do you ever think about your ankles? Of course notno one does! But heres why you should: The things that almost everybody does every day, like walking and squatting down, and the things that some people do every day, like yoga, running, and jumping, can be a lot tougher if your ankles are stiff. Inflexible ankles cause the body to overwork other areas to compensate for the lack of mobility.
Imagine if you had blocks of concrete for ankles. The rest of your body would have to struggle to move to make up for those stiff joints. The knees in particular may torque in awkward ways, and that could then cause some wonky stuff to happen in your hips. You might end up with both knee and hip pain.
When talking about ankle mobility, you might think of flexing the ankle , but the ankles need to be able to move in the opposite direction , too. Likewise, they must be able to agilely shift from side to sidethat will lower your risk of a twisted ankle. These stretches cover the full range of motion to keep your ankles flexible and allow your lower legs to move with greater ease and to help optimize performance in activities like walking, running, jumping, and squatting.
Standing Big Toe Stretch
When I give my clients big toe stretches and mobility exercises, they give me a look that says, are you serious? I absolutely am! The big toe propels you forward when walking and can grip the ground to help you stay balanced. Kind of important, dont you think? So anytime someone gives you a funny look for stretching your big toe, drop this knowledge bomb on them. They may start big toe stretching, too.
Stand up straight and tall, and place your big toe on top of a tennis ball. Bend your knee slightly, and slide it forward to help your toe press down on the ball. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Switch sides.
Customize your stretch:
- Place your other toes go to the side of the ball.
- To deepen the stretch, lean forward or take a small step forward while keeping working heel on the floor.
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