Foot and ankle stretches are an important part of any foot rehab programme.
Tightness in the foot, ankle and calf leads to subtle changes in foot position and how forces are transferred through the foot which can lead to a whole host of foot problems.
In order to stretch the foot properly to regain full, pain-free mobility in the calf, ankle, foot and toes it is important to stretch both the muscles and the joints.
Here, we will look at some of the best foot and ankle stretches which can be used to both help treat and prevent foot problems. They target both the muscles and the joints to help you regain full movement and flexibility.
Here we will look at some ankle stretches to improve the mobility and movement around the ankle joint.
Heel slides are a great place to start with foot and ankle stretches and are suitable for pretty much anyone. They help to improve joint mobility and stretch the muscles.
To make this ankle stretch easier, you can reduce friction by placing a tray or plastic bag underneath your foot.
If you want to increase the stretch further:
Foot pulls help to stretch the muscles across the front of the ankle and improve plantar flexion at the ankle joint (pointing your toes down).
Top Tip: You can stabilize the foot further by supporting just above the ankle
These passive ankle stretches are a great way to improve inversion and eversion, the important twisting movements of the ankle.
Top Tip: If only one of these movements is limited, just work on that one, but if the whole ankle is tight and stiff, do both movements.
Heel sit backs are great ankle stretches that help to stretch the front of the ankle and improve plantar flexion.
Performing ankle stretches on a foam roller is a great way to improve ankle movement, and also helps to improve stability in the foot and ankle
Top Tip: If you don’t have a half roller, improvise. For example, fix a hard backed book to a wide drinks bottle – just make sure it doesn’t slip away from you as you tilt.
So we've looked at the best ankle stretches to improve ankle mobility, now lets move on to some stretches for the foot and the toes, which also help to improve ankle mobility.
This is a great stretch to improve ankle and toe plantar flexion movement as it stretches the muscles on the top of the foot and toes and the front of the ankle.
These are a really simple but effective way to stretch the toe joints and muscles. These toe stretches can be modified and used for stretching any of the toes. You can do all the toes at the same time or to be more effective, stretch one at a time.
Top Tip: You can isolate the movement to different joints in each toe by either pushing through the tip of the toe or further up the toe, just below the knuckle
Whilst this is not an actual exercise, it is certainly worth mentioning here. Wearing Toe Stretchers, such as the Yoga Toe, are one of the best ways to stretch the toes. They can make a real difference to a whole host of foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, bunions and foot corns.
They are really comfy to wear and help to stretch out the toe and foot joints and muscles really well. They can make all the difference to sore, tired feet alongside ankle stretches. Find out more about them in the Toe Stretchers section
These are a selection of ankle stretches to get you going. It would also be worth visiting the heel stretches section for exercises to help you stretch out the sole of the foot and calf regions. Always do your ankle stretches before exercising and if your foot pain is worst first thing in the morning, stretching before you get out of bed can make a big difference.
With most foot problems, ankle stretches should also be accompanied by strengthening exercises – find out more about how to improve the strength, stability and balance of the foot in the foot.
If you aren’t sure what is causing your foot pain, visit the foot pain diagnosis section for help working out what the problem is and what you can do about it.
Page Last Updated: 09/29/22
Next Review Due: 09/29/24