Foot & Ankle
Strengthening Exercises

Foot and ankle strengthening exercises help to improve the strength, control and movement of the foot. You may be wanting to overcome weakness following an injury such as an ankle sprain, or simply to improve the strength of your feet. 

Rehab following an injury is extremely important to prevent long term or recurrent problems.  For example, 35% of people who suffer an ankle sprain go on to re-sprain it within one year, often because they have failed to regain full strength, control and mobility around the ankle. 

Here, you will find three types of foot and ankle strengthening exercises:

A)  Static Exercises: these ankle strengthening exercises are a great way to strengthen the foot without having to move it – perfect place to start after an injury
B)  Resistance Exercises: ankle strengthening exercises using resistance bands to improve strength – great to progress onto as the foot get stronger
C)  Dynamic Exercises: specific activities to improve the strength of the foot and toe muscles.

Did you know that a muscle at complete rest lose 3-5% of its strength per day? This is most noticeable in terms of endurance – how long you can keep going for.  Unfortunately, it takes much longer to regain that strength than it does to lose it.  However, doing simple ankle strengthening exercises for just a few minutes a day helps to maintain muscle power.

Static Ankle Strengthening Exercises

These ankle strengthening exercises are a great place to start, especially following an injury as you strengthen the muscles without having to move the foot.  Each of these ankle strengthening exercises are similar but by changing the position of you hand, you can work on the strength of the foot in all directions regaining the strength around the entire ankle.

1)  Static Pull Ups

Static Pull Ups.  Static exercises are a great place to start with ankle strengthening exercises following an injury.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Purpose: Strengthen dorsiflexion (the action of pulling the foot up at the ankle and lifting the foot off the floor when we walk)

Starting Position: Sitting or lying down, relax the foot into a neutral position and place one hand along the top of the foot

Action: Gently draw the foot upwards into the hand, resisting the movement with the hand so you feel the muscles clench.  Remember, the foot shouldn’t move but you should feel the muscles along the front of the foot and ankle clench

Repetition: Hold for 3-5 seconds and relax.  Repeat 10-20 times

2)  Static Push Downs

Static Push Downs for plantarflexor strength.  Static exercises are a great place to start with ankle strengthening exercises following an injury.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Purpose: Strengthen plantarflexion (pointing the toes down such as the push off phase of walking)

Starting Position: Sitting or lying down, relax the foot into a neutral position and place one hand along the sole of the foot

Action: Gently push the foot downwards into the hand, resisting the movement with the hand so you feel the muscles clench.  The foot stays still

Alternative Static Push Down Exercise.  Static exercises are a great place to start with ankle strengthening exercises following an injury.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Repetition: Hold for 3-5 seconds and relax.  Repeat 10-20 times

Alternative:
Rather than using your hand to provide the resistance, sit on the floor with your foot against the wall.  Push through your toes into the wall

3)  Static Turn Outs

Static Turn Outs to increase eversion strength.  Static exercises are a great place to start with ankle strengthening exercises following an injury.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Purpose: Ankle strengthening exercise for eversion (turning the foot outwards)

Starting Position: Sitting or lying down, relax the foot into a neutral position and place one hand along the outer border of the foot, next to the little toe

Action: Gently push the foot outwards into the hand, resisting the movement with the hand so you feel the muscles clench.  Keep the foot still throughout

Repetition: Hold for 3-5 seconds and relax.  Repeat 10-20 times

4)  Static Turn Ins

Static Turn Ins to increase inversion strength.  Static exercises are a great place to start with ankle strengthening exercises following an injury.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Purpose: Ankle strengthening exercise for inversion (turning the foot inwards)

Starting Position: Sitting or lying down, relax the foot into a neutral position

Action: Place one hand along the inner border of the foot, next to the big toe. Hold the foot as you try and lift it up into the hand so you feel the muscles clench.  Keep the foot still throughout

Static Inversion with a ball.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Repetition: Hold for 3-5 seconds and relax.  Repeat 10-20 times

Alternative: To work both feet at the same time, place a ball between your feet as shown. Then, apply some pressure into the ball with the front and inner aspect of your feet and hold

B) Resistance Exercises

Theraband is a stretchy resistance band, a bit like a large elastic band.  You use it to provide resistance to ankle strengthening exercises which helps increase ankle strength and stability.  Theraband is available in a range of colours, each providing a different amount of resistance.  It works particularly well with ankle strengthening exercises.  These resistance ankle strengthening exercises follow on well from the static exercises above as your strength and mobility improve once any pain has settled down.

Again, each of these ankle strengthening exercises are similar, but you change the direction of pull against the theraband to strengthen different muscles.  You can work harder by increasing the level of resistance from the band.    You can either use your hands, other foot or a sturdy piece of furniture to anchor down the other end of the theraband. 

For each of these resistance ankle strengthening exercises: 
Starting Position: Sitting comfortably in a chair, loop the theraband around the middle of your foot and tie securely - it should look like you have successfully lassoed your own foot. 
Repetitions: Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 10-20 times

Theraband Pull Ups. Theraband exercises are a great way to strengthen the foot and ankle muscles.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

1)  Theraband Pull Ups

Purpose: Strengthen dorsiflexion
(raising the front of the foot)

Action: hook the theraband under your opposite foot and up to your hand as shown.   Keeping the heel on the ground, lift up the target foot, pulling up against the band

Theraband Pull Ups. Theraband exercises are a great way to strengthen the foot and ankle muscles.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Watch points:  Ensure the heel remains in contact with the ground throughout

Alternative position: Tie the theraband securely to a stable object in front of you to anchor it down and then pull the foot up as described

2)  Theraband Push Downs

Theraband Push Downs. Theraband exercises are a great way to strengthen the foot and ankle muscles.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Purpose: Strengthen plantarflexion (pointing the foot downwards)

Action:
Hold firmly to the end of the theraband taking up any slack.  Press the foot downwards and forwards as shown

Watch points: 
Ensure the heel remains in contact with the ground through out

Theraband Turn Outs. Theraband exercises are a great way to strengthen the foot and ankle muscles.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

3)  Theraband Turn Outs

Purpose: Strengthen eversion (turning the foot out)

Action:
Hook the theraband under your opposite foot and up to your hand as shown.   Keeping the heel on the ground, swivel the target foot out to the side, allowing the outer border of the foot to rise up slightly, pulling against the band

Theraband Turn Outs. Theraband exercises are a great way to strengthen the foot and ankle muscles.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Watch points:  Ensure the heel remains in contact with the ground throughout

Alternative position:
Tie the theraband securely to a stable object at your side anchor it down and then pull the foot up as described

4) Theraband Turn Ins

Theraband Turn Ins. Theraband exercises are a great way to strengthen the foot and ankle muscles.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Purpose: Strengthen inversion (turning the foot inwards)

Action:
Cross your legs and hook the theraband under your free foot and up to your hand as shown.   Keeping the heel on the ground, slide the target foot inwards allowing the inner border of the foot to rise slightly, pulling up against the band

Theraband Turn Ins. Theraband exercises are a great way to strengthen the foot and ankle muscles.  Approved use www.hep2go.com

Watch Points:  Ensure the heel remains in contact with the ground throughout

Alternative Position:
Tie the theraband securely to a stable object beside you to anchor it down and then pull the foot in as described

C)  Dynamic Foot Exercises

The previous section have concentrated on ankle strengthening exercises.  Here we look at foot strengthening exercises for the mid foot, arch and toe regions.

1)  Arch Lifts

Purpose: Strengthen the muscles that support the arch of the foot

Starting Position:
Sit on a chair with your foot resting flat on the floor

Action: Draw the base of the big toe towards your heel lifting the arch up off the floor.  Make sure you keep the heel, big toe and ball of the foot on the floor throughout.  Hold for 3 seconds and relax

Repetitions: Spend about 1 minute doing this

Progression: Perform the exercise in standing

Top Tips:  There is only a very small movement with this exercise so it may take a few goes to get the hang of it.  It may help to place a coin underneath the base of your big toe and ensure that you keep resting on throughout for extra feedback.  It won’t feel like you are doing much, but it really makes a difference

2) Towel Scrunches

Purpose: Strengthens the inner foot muscles called the intrinsics
 
Starting Position: Rest your foot flat on the floor on top of a towel

Action:
Scrunch your toes to try and lift the towel off the floor.   Keep the heel in contact with the floor throughout

Repetitions: Spend 1-2 minutes doing this

Top Tips: You can still do this exercise without a towel, just mimic the action

3)  Marble Pick-Ups

Purpose:  Improve the strength and control around the foot and toes

Starting Position:
Place some small objects such as marbles on the floor and have an empty bowl nearby

Action: Pick up each marble using your toes and place it in the bowl

Repetitions: Spend 1-2 minutes doing this, twice a day

4)  Toe Band Exercises

Purpose: Foot strengthening for the toe muscles

Starting Position:
  Place a thick elastic band around all five toes.  The band should fit comfortable around – not too tight but with no slackness

Action:
Move the toes apart, pulling out against the band

Repetitions:
Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 10-20 times

5) Toe Squeezes

Purpose: Strengthen the toe muscles and sole of the foot

Starting Position:
Place corks or small sponges between each toe

Action:
Squeeze the corks with your toes

Repetition: 
Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 10-20 times

What Else Can Help?

These foot and ankle strengthening exercises are an important part of rehab for improving the strength and control around the foot, particularly after an injury such as an ankle strain or with chronic foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis.  It may also help to perform calf strengthening exercises, balance/proprioception exercises, calf stretches and foot stretches alongside these ankle strengthening exercises to regain full strength and stability around the foot.

Another top tip is to go barefoot whenever appropriate.  This makes the foot and ankle muscles work harder as they aren’t getting any support from your shoes.  Even better, walk bare foot on a sandy beach – the slightly unstable surface is great for improving strength and balance. 

And remember, before starting these ankle strengthening exercises, talk to your doctor to make sure they are appropriate, especially if you are recovering from an injury.  Not all ankle strengthening exercises are appropriate in all situations. 

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See Also

Common Causes of Foot Pain

Diagnose Your Pain

Foot & Ankle Anatomy

Treatment Options for Foot Problems

Foot and Ankle Stretches



Visitor Comments

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