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  • Writer's pictureLaura Flynn Endres

Exercises to Improve Ankle Mobility

A limited range of motion in your ankles can affect your ability to do certain exercises like squats and lunges as well as everyday movements like climbing stairs.


It's also been shown to contribute to plantar fasciitis, calf strains, shin splints, IT band pain and more.


It even affects your ability to walk and balance on one leg which can increase your risk of falling.


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The Test


To see if you have limited mobility in one or both ankles, do this test:

man in half-kneeling position facing a wall to test ankle mobility
Ankle Mobility Test
  • Face a wall and get into a half-kneeling position. The toes on your forward foot should be about 6 inches away from the wall.

  • Lean forward and try to touch your knee to the wall without your heel coming up off the floor.

  • If you can’t touch the wall with your knee, you might have limited ankle mobility.

  • Test both ankles.


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Exercises to Improve Ankle Mobility

Aim to do 1 or more of these exercises every day for a few weeks. Then, retest your ankle mobility to check for improvement.



1) ANKLE CIRCLES

You can do this seated or standing. Lift one leg and draw circles with your foot.

  • Go clockwise

  • Go counter-clockwise

  • Draw the letters of the alphabet with your foot



2) TOE RAISES + HEEL DROPS

  • Stand on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off. Hold onto the railing or wall to help with balance.

  • Lower your heels as far as you can (the stretch), then push up onto the balls of your feet (the flex).

  • Lift and lower 15 times, then hold the stretch for 30 seconds.



3) GOLF BALL MASSAGE

  • Sitting or standing, place one bare foot on a golf ball. (You could use any small firm ball.)

  • Move your foot around on the ball to massage the bottom of your foot, pressing down as hard as you can tolerate.

  • When you find an especially tender or tight spot, hold in that spot and apply some pressure using your bodyweight.

  • Do each foot for 1-2 minutes.



4) TOE + HEEL WALKS

  • Walk across the room and back on your toes, with heels lifted, 3x.

  • Walk across the room and back on your heels, with toes lifted, 3x.



5) BODYWEIGHT TOE SIT

graphic of woman doing yoga toe sit pose to stretch toes and bottoms of feet
Bodyweight Toe Sit

This is somewhat advanced and can be too intense for some people. Use caution!

  • Place a pillow or folded mat under your knees for comfort.

  • Sit down in the toe squat position you see in the image, resting the buttocks comfortably on the heels

  • Center your weight on the balls of your feet, rather than the tiptoes.

  • You can rock in and out of this position by leaning forward or lifting your hips slightly.

  • Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, or to tolerance.



6) TOE STRETCH IN CHAIR

This an easier variation of the bodyweight toe sit.

  • Sit in a chair. Lift the heel of one foot, so only the toes and ball of your foot are on the floor.

  • Lean forward to apply pressure to that foot until you feel a good stretch. Don’t force it.

  • Hold for 30-60 seconds per foot.



7) DEEP SQUATS

woman sitting in deep squat with hips between heels to work on ankle mobility
Deep Squat
  • Hold onto something sturdy and carefully lower your hips down to between your heels. You may need to use your arms a lot in the beginning to keep you from falling backwards.

  • Once you're sitting low, rock side to side a little. Lean forward into one foot, pressing your knee out past your toes on that leg while keeping your heel on the floor.

  • Then lean into the other foot. See if one side feels tighter than the other.

  • Rock side to side a few times, then hold on each side for 30 seconds.



 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES for ANKLE MOBILITY


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