Foot and ankle exercises help to improve the strength, stability and mobility of the whole foot. They are one of the simplest yet most effective ways to relieve most causes of foot pain.
Any weakness, stiffness or tightness in the foot and calf can lead to a whole range of foot problems which can cause pain not only in the foot, but also the knee, hips and back.
Here you will find a whole range of foot and ankle exercises to choose from, depending on what you are trying to achieve. You will also find loads of great tips on how to get the best results from foot and ankle exercises.
Strengthening the ankle and foot is helpful with virtually every cause of foot pain. Whether it is following an injury such as an ankle sprain or with a longer term foot problem, strengthening ankle exercises can make a big difference.
Here you will find a whole range of ankle exercises to improve the strength around the different parts of the foot. They work through three different types of strengthening exercise:
Static ankle exercises are a great way to strength the foot without having to move it i.e. the foot stays in a neutral position and doesn’t have to move. This makes it the perfect place to start after an injury or if you are getting pain when you move your foot without the risk of further damage. Learn More >
These ankle exercises give the foot something to push against to help build up the strength around the foot and ankle without putting too much force through it.
They tend to use theraband – a sort of big elastic band to push against. It is available in different colours depending on how much resistance you want
Find out more about using resistance bands with foot and ankle exercises.
These ankle exercises use simple activities such as picking up marbles with your toes to increase the strength of the foot, particularly the muscles under the foot that support the foot arches. Learn More >
The calf muscles start behind the knee and travel down the back of lower leg where they form the Achilles tendon and attach to the back of the heel. Weakness in the calf muscles affects both foot and knee movements as well as how the forces travel up the leg which can result in foot, ankle, knee, hip and back pain.
Here you will find a whole range of calf strengthening exercises. You can choose from beginners, intermediate and advanced exercises.
Tightness in the muscles and stiffness in the joints around the foot can cause subtle changes to the position of the foot which can again not only cause foot problems but also have a knock-on effect further up the leg.
Ankle stiffness is a common problem after injuries such as an ankle sprain and failure to regain full range of movement in the foot is the most common reason why symptoms persist for a long time after the injury has healed.
Foot and ankle stretches vary according to which part of the foot region you are trying to stretch:
These general stretching exercises help to improve the flexibility of the ankle, foot and the toes. These stretches target tightness in the muscles and stiffness in the joints. Check out our favourite foot and ankle stretching exercises.
These exercises target the heel region targeting both the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel and the plantar fascia underneath the heel. Tightness here is a common cause of many foot problems. Check out our top heel stretches.
Tightness in the calf muscles leads to a whole host of foot and knee problems. Effective stretching should target both of the calf muscles, gastrocnemius and soleus.
Check out our tried and tested calf stretches.
The ankle exercises above will be useful for most causes of foot pain, but some conditions benefit from more specific exercises.
Plantar fasciitis is a common foot problem and is caused by tightness, weakness and inflammation of the tissues underneath the foot.
Exercises are one of the most effective treatments for it, not only to treat the condition but to stop it from coming back as so often happens. Here you will find both strengthening and stretching exercises for plantar fasciitis.
More exercise programmes for specific foot conditions coming soon!
Foot and ankle problems can also result from weakness and tightness in muscles further up the leg and in the buttocks. It may be hamstring tightness, particularly common in men, or glutes weakness, which can cause the foot arches to drop.
With any type of foot pain, the foot should not be looked at in isolation, it is important to look at the whole leg and even the lower back to see if problems further up are to blame.
Here are some of my top tips to get the best results from your foot and ankle exercises:
Choose from the different sections above to find the right ankle exercises for you. But do remember, you should always check with your doctor before starting these exercises, particularly if you have suffered an injury or have any foot pain.
If you want some help working out what is causing your pain, visit the foot pain diagnosis section.
Page Last Updated: 01/03/21
Next Review Due: 01/03/23