Foot and Ankle Stretches

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program

foot and ankle stretching exercises


Stretching the foot and ankle is a crucial element of maintaining a healthy foot and ankle as you age and your feet become worn and stressed. When it comes to foot and ankle surgery rehab, it is imperative to follow a stretch guide to properly heal and regain full strength in your feet and ankles. Also, after spraining your ankle it is highly necessary to perform rehab exercises to allow the ankle to heal completely and regain full strength. Ankle sprains can result in lifelong problems and repeat injury in the same area can cause long term joint pain and weakness. Foot and ankle stretches can also help soothe pain or potentially prevent various conditions in the foot such as plantar fasciitis.


1. Heel Cord Stretch


Main muscles worked: Gastrocnemius-soleus complex - You should feel this stretch in your calf and into your heel


Repetitions: 2 sets of 10

Days per week: 6 to 7

Equipment needed: None


Step-by-step directions

• Stand facing a wall with your unaffected leg forward with a slight bend at the knee. Your affected leg is straight and behind you, with the heel flat and the toes pointed in slightly.

• Keep both heels flat on the floor and press your hips forward toward the wall.

• Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat.


Tip: Do not arch your back.



2. Heel Cord Stretch with Bent Knee


Main muscles worked: Soleus - You should feel this stretch in your calf, the sides of your ankle, and into your heel


Repetitions: 2 sets of 10

Days per week: 6 to 7

Equipment needed: None


Step-by-step directions

• Stand facing a wall with your unaffected leg forward with a slight bend at the knee. Your affected leg is behind you, with the knee bent and the toes pointed in slightly.

• Keep both heels flat on the floor and press your hips forward toward the wall.

• Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat.


Tip: Keep your hips centered over both feet.



3. Golf Ball Roll


Main muscles worked: Plantar fascia ligament - You should feel this exercise along the bottom of your foot


Repetitions: 1

Days per week: Daily

Equipment needed: Golf ball


Step-by-step directions

• Sit on a stable chair with both feet planted on the floor.

• Roll a golf ball under the arch of your affected foot for 2 minutes.


Tip: Sit up tall and keep your foot toward your chair.



4. Towel Stretch


Main muscles worked: Gastrocnemius-soleus complex - You should feel this stretch in your calf and into your heel


Repetitions: 2 sets of 10 Days per week: 6 to 7

Equipment needed: Hand towel


Step-by-step directions

• Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you.

• Loop a towel around the ball of your affected foot and grasp the ends of the towel in your hands.

• Keep your affected leg straight and pull the towel toward you.

• Hold for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.


Tip: Sit up tall and keep your legs straight.



5. Calf Raises


Main muscles worked: Gastrocnemius-soleus complex - You should feel this exercise in your calf


Repetitions: 2 sets of 10

Days per week: 6 to 7

Equipment needed: Chair for support


Step-by-step directions

• Stand with your weight evenly distributed over both feet. Hold onto the back of a chair or a wall for balance.

• Lift your unaffected foot off of the floor so that all of your weight is placed on your affected foot.

• Raise the heel of your affected foot as high as you can, then lower.

• Repeat 10 times.


Tip: Do not bend the knee of your working leg.



6. Ankle Range of Motion


Main muscles worked: Dorsiflexors, plantar flexors, invertors, evertors -You should feel this exercise at the top of your foot and throughout your ankle 2 sets


Repetitions: 2 sets

Days per week Daily

Equipment needed: None


Step-by-step directions

• Sit down so that your feet do not touch the floor.

• Use your foot to write each letter of the alphabet in the air. Lead with your big toe.


Tip: Keep the movements small, using just your foot and ankle.



7. Marble Pickup


Main muscles worked: Plantar flexors -You should feel this exercise at the top of your foot and toes


Repetitions: 20

Equipment needed: 20 marbles

Days per week: Daily


Step-by-step directions

• Sit with both feet flat and place 20 marbles on the floor in front of you.

• Use your toes to pick up one marble at a time and place into a bowl.

• Repeat until you have picked up all the marbles.


Tip: Do not place the marbles too far out in front or to the side.



8. Towel Curls


Main muscles worked: Plantar flexors - You should feel this exercise at the top of your foot and your toes


Repetitions: 5

Days per week: Daily

Equipment needed: Hand towel



Step-by-step directions

• Sit with both feet flat and place a small towel on the floor in front of you.

• Grab the center of the towel with your toes and curl the towel toward you.

• Relax and repeat.


Tip: You can make this exercise more challenging by placing a weight on the edge of the towel.



9. Ankle Dorsiflexion/Plantar Flexion



Main muscles worked: Anterior tibialis, gastrocnemius-soleus complex You should feel this exercise at your calf, shin, the back of your heel, and the top of your foot


Repetitions: 3 sets of 10

Days per week: 3

Equipment needed: Use an elastic stretch band of comfortable resistance


Step-by-step directions

• Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.

• For dorsiflexion, anchor the elastic band on a chair or table leg, then wrap it around your foot.

• Pull your toes toward you and slowly return to the start position. Repeat 10 times.

• For plantar flexion, wrap the elastic band around your foot and hold the ends in your hand.

• Gently point your toes and slowly return to the start position. Repeat 10 times.


Tip: Keep your leg straight and heel on the floor for support.

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