One of the most common issues that prevent people from participating in regular physical activity is weak, stiff or painful ankles. Luckily, there are some simple stretches you can do at home to help ensure that your ankles remain flexible to avoid injury.
Active Flexion: Flex your foot as high as it will go, hold for a few seconds, then point your toes as far as they will go and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 2 sets of twenty reps on each foot every day to keep ankles mobile. If your ankles are sore or swollen, you can do this gentle stretch with your ankles iced and elevated if necessary.
Side To Side: Flex your foot and begin to rotate your ankle side to side. Begin with rotating your foot so the sole first faces outward, then inward. Another option for this exercise is to move your ankles gently in a circular motion.
The Wall Stretch: Stand facing a wall with both feet together. Place your hands at shoulder height and width on the wall in front of you. Take a step forward with your right foot so that it is now only a few inches from the wall. Shift your weight onto your right leg and bend at the knee. Keeping both heels on the ground, lean your upper body slowly toward the wall until you feel a good stretch happening along the calf muscles of your left leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Return to your original position with both feet together. Repeat the stretch, this time putting your left leg forward. Do this exercise three times on each foot.
Toe To Wall Stretch: To begin this stretch, the heel should be on the ground and the toes on the wall. Place the opposite foot behind you. Keep the legs straight and move the entire body forward. Do not move your upper body forward and stick your backside out. You should feel a very strong stretch in the back of the calf and some stretch in the arch. To increase the stretch, move your heel closer to the wall and increase the angle of your foot. To decrease the stretch, move your heel back and lower your toes. Hold for 60 seconds and repeat 3 times.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only. The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional. You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.
By Rachel Song
The ankle is an often overlooked ligament that is actually crucial in utilizing the full strength of your legs, hips, and glutes and maintaining a healthy posture & gait. Stiff ankles inhibit full fitness potential by restricting your movements and may even cause pain in the heels, calves, shins, knees, hips, and lower back as surrounding muscles compensate for the lack of mobility in your ankles.
Before you scramble to start ankle stretches & exercises, take a moment to assess yourself and make sure there’s an issue to address.
Here are 3 ways to test your ankles:
- Perform a basic squat, feet hip width apart with a neutral spine. You should be able to get your thighs parallel to the floor without lifting your heels.
- Stand up straight with your feet together. Lift the balls of your feet from the ground without moving the rest of your body.
- Get into the hip flexor stretch stance with one knee on the ground, the other knee up with the foot directly below it, upper body held straight up above the hips (see above image). You will be testing the ankle of the foot in front of your body. Face a wall with your knee at a distance about 5 inches from it. The closer you can get your knee to the wall without lifting your heel, the better your ankle mobility. Ideally, you should be able to touch your knee to the wall without lifting your heel.
If any of the above tasks are difficult, you may want to include the exercises below in your daily fitness routine to increase your ankle mobility:
- Massage calf and foot muscles: Using a hard, round ball, roll the bottom of your foot from side to side and top to bottom several times, applying firm but not painful pressure. Do the same for your calves using a foam roller or similar item like a rolling pin. This exercise will help relax connective tissues that may be playing a role in your tight ankles.
- Heel raises: Stand with your forefoot slightly lifted (about 2 inches) on any workable object. Bend your knees while keeping your upper body straight with a neutral spine and heels completely on the ground. Stand up straight. Repeat for about 5 minutes a day.
- Half-kneeling ankle flex: Get into the same hip flexor stretch position from the ankle assessment exercise above. Stretch your ankle by pushing your knee forward, getting it past your toes if possible. Stay in position for 1-2 seconds before returning to the starting pose. Remember to keep your upper body straight with a neutral spine. Repeat motion 10-15 times.
In conjunction with these exercises, it’s important to wear proper footwear when exercising. Correct support & cushioning can make a huge difference in your posture and stability, allowing you to prolong the health of your joints and muscles for lasting fitness & health!