11 Exercises To Increase Ankle Flexibility

Having an agile joint necessitates having features such as flexibility, solidity, resilience, power, and being able to work together.

Having good flexibility has numerous desirable outcomes- having flexible hips and ankles can help reduce pain in the knees and lower back, and the ability to twist and rotate the spine helps us to use our body in powerful ways when we are running. Conversely, if flexibility is lacking, this can lead to pain and injury.

Our joints are similar to springs, providing cushioning and the ability to rebound springily. For springs to be effective, they must have the correct amount of looseness and firmness in combination. Mobility training helps us fine-tune this balance.

Examine your body regularly, either before or after exercise, to identify your physical boundaries. Where are the springs too loose? Where are you restricted or hypermobile?

Mobility training isn’t simply about being able to flexibly stretch; it’s a more complex process than that. Stretching and using a foam roller alone will not be sufficient in gaining joint mobility.

In addition to implementing stretching and myofascial release exercises, another great way to heighten mobility is to exercise with weights and utilize the muscles to deliberately bring joints to their full range of motion.

Tackling joint impediments necessitates an approach that specifically concentrates on areas where a joint (or a set of joints) has to rotate, slip, glide, swivel, or rotate.

Exercises which help to promote joint flexibility often utilize tools such as bands, anchors, light weights, and trigger-point balls in order to effectively hone in on the desired joint(s).

It is essential to evaluate one’s own flexibility to establish which areas need to be strengthened, stabilized and stretched further. This is determined by individual characteristics such as existing ailments, heredity and level of activity.

A local trainer, physical therapist, or an online coaching service can all offer comprehensive mobility assessments.

These exercises offer a good starting point for a self-evaluation process, beginning with ankle flexibility and moving up through the spine and upper body.

If you haven’t done this type of exercise routine before, begin slowly, gradually adding weight and speed. If you experience discomfort while engaging in any form of physical activity, reduce the amount of motion or the intensity of the exercise. Adjust the movement to work for you.

Ankle Flexibility Exercises

1. Ankle dorsiflexion mobilization with a band

This motion increases the range of motion of the ankle in the dorsiflexion direction, which is necessary for activities such as jogging, strolling, crouching, skiing, and more.

If the ankle does not move as it’s intended to, that foot and limb will attempt to make up for the lack of mobility, potentially leading to unpleasant foot issues like hammertoe and bunion, as well as a potential pain in the knees, hips, and spine.

Even after healing, a damaged ankle can still prevent the bending of the foot upward toward the body. Having great mobility in the ankle joint provides us with greater flexibility in the Achilles tendon, which is beneficial when sprinting and leaping.

The usual range for bending the ankle forward while carrying weight is from 15 to 30 degrees, though this amount can differ due to genetics, previous injuries, and how it is used. You can check your flexibility with a knee-to-wall assessment, which is explained here.

Having restricted ankle dorsiflexion (generally less than 15 degrees) can be manifested as premature ascending of the heel during walking uphill or squatting or having problems going straight downstairs without making slight adjustments like over-flexing the foot to make up for the shortfall at the foot joint.

The intent is to have a working and even range of motion in both ankles that is suitable for the person.

Attach a thin resistance band designed to give you assistance when lifting, with approximately 15 pounds of resistance, just a few inches away from the ground.

Begin with one leg bent underneath yourself on the ground, with a band wrapped around the ankle closest to you. Gently push your lower leg forward with your hands as you lean forward until your knee is farther than your toes.

You should feel a stretch but no pain. To increase the intensity, go further away from the anchor point or place a small weight on the top of the leg to make it easier to drive the foot into the ground and put extra pressure on the mobilization.

One to three sets of exercises should be done with five to eight repetitions each, holding each exercise for between five and thirty seconds. Does this exercise two to seven times a week?

2. Internal and external knee rotation

Knee movement is frequently disregarded when it comes to knee flexibility. When the knee is extended, the larger of the two bones in the lower half of the leg (the tibia) faintly rotates to the outer side. The opposite happens when the knee bends.

If you experience difficulty or suffer from discomfort in your knees when performing squats, kneeling, jogging, bouncing, or ascending or descending stairs, it is essential to take a look at and exercise this type of motion.

This technique can be of assistance in assessing what is available and dealing with any impediments to rotation caused by lack of exercise by working the internal and external rotation motions to the maximum extent possible as part of your movement rehearsal.

Begin seated on the floor. Bring one leg up, so the knee is at a 90-degree angle, and keep the ankle at a 90-degree angle. Find the bumps on the front of the shinbone that is known as the tibial tuberosity (at the top of the lower leg; the blue dot in the image is a reference).

Without twisting your hip or pivoting through the toes or ankle, try to move your lower leg (shank) clockwise and counterclockwise as shown. Your lower leg will rotate around your calf.

You might perceive strong muscles contracting at the back of your knee, for example, the popliteus, which is responsible for the process of turning the tibia inwards. As you twist inwards and outwards, you will be aware of when you’ve moved enough based on how your other knee is functioning and sensation.

Healthy joints have an elastic feeling on the outermost level that is like pushing into a wet, flexible sponge, rather than a solid wall or a piece of leather.

If a certain motion feels uncomfortable or forced, your aim should be to make it more flexible through exercise and for your body to relax and become more extendable in the full range of motion.

Do 1-3 sets of 5-8 reps on each knee, holding the position for 2-20s at the start and end. Do this one to five days a week.

3. Ankle circles

Start off with a stretch. These movements help improve your flexibility and you can do them either sitting or lying down.

  1. Put a rolled towel or foam roller under your ankle.
  2. Turn your ankle slowly in circles, clockwise 10 circles and counterclockwise 10 circles.
  3. Move just your foot and ankle, not your leg.
  4. Vary the stretch by tracing out the letters of the alphabet with your big toe.

You can find more ankle stretches here.

  1. Stand on a flat surface with your feet shoulder-width apart. Have a chair or wall nearby for support if you need it.
  2. Holding your arms out to your sides, stand on one foot.
  3. Do this daily, and try to increase the number of seconds you can keep steady on each leg.
  4. When you’re able to balance on one foot for 60 seconds, try the following variations:
    • balance with your eyes closed
    • balance with your arms at your sides
    • balance standing on an unstable surface, such as a pillow, folded towel, or a balance disc
  5. Do 1 or 2 repetitions.

This exercise can be incorporated into your daily routine. As an illustration, try balancing on one foot while you are brushing your teeth or as you are standing in line.

5. Standing heel lifts
  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Have a chair or the wall nearby for support if you need it.
  2. Lift your heels off the floor so that you’re standing on the balls of your feet.
  3. Slowly lower your heels to the floor. Control is important for strengthening your muscles.
  4. Do 2 or 3 sets of 10 lifts each.
  5. You can add resistance to this exercise by holding free weights while you lift your heels.

You can include this practice in your regular schedule, like when you are doing the dishes.

6. Toe raises and heel drops on a step



This move is more challenging than the heel lift on the floor because it flexes the ankle more.
  1. Stand on the bottom step with your weight on the balls of your feet and your heels hanging off the step. Use a bannister for support if you need it.
  2. Raise up onto your toes and then slowly lower your feet, with your heels dropping below the step level.
  3. Do 2 or 3 sets of 10 lifts each, every other day.
  4. You can add resistance by holding weights while you do toe raises.
7. Ankle flexion (plantar)

This exercise involves utilizing a resistance band to enhance your ankle as you direct your toes towards the bottom of your foot (plantar flexion).

  1. Sit on the floor with one leg bent at the knee, with your heel on the floor, and the other leg comfortably on the floor.
  2. Loop the band around the front of your foot, and hold both ends with your hands.
  3. Point your toes slowly forward and then back, releasing the tension.
  4. Do 3 sets of 10 flexes on each foot, three days a week.
8. Toe-heel walks

This exercise can be performed either by wearing shoes or not. It strengthens both your ankles and your feet.

  1. Walk about 30 feet standing on your toes.
  2. Turn around, and walk back standing on your heels.
  3. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

It is possible to incorporate some of these exercises into your daily habits. For example, try toe-walking around the kitchen.

9. Lunges (static)

Lunges help strengthen your ankles and improve your balance. There are many types of lunges. You might want to begin slowly and gradually progress to more challenging forms. Start by doing a stationary lunge, or perform lunges while keeping your feet in the same position.

  1. Start with one foot in front of the other, with your toes facing forward.
  2. Keep your back straight.
  3. Bend your back knee down so that it almost touches the floor.
  4. Then push yourself up again.
  5. Repeat 10 times, and do 2 sets.

Try varying the static lunge and your leading leg. Move forward three paces in between lunges, switching which leg is leading with each lunge.

10. Walking lunge

The walking lunge is more challenging. It works your core and lower body. When initially attempting this exercise, it is recommended that you have a coach or fitness specialist check your technique.

  1. Step forward with one leg, and bend that knee at a 90-degree angle.
  2. At the same time, lower the back knee to the ground. Your thigh should be almost parallel to the ground.
  3. Hold the position for a few seconds.
  4. Then take a step forward with your back leg, and repeat the lunge leading with this leg.
  5. Work up to 10 lunges per leg.
11. Plyometrics

Plyometrics are exercises that involve jumping movements. Their purpose is to enable your muscles to generate the maximum possible power as rapidly as possible.

You need a certain level of strength for these activities, so take it easy at the beginning. It is suggested that you have a fitness trainer or professional nearby when performing certain activities, as proper technique is essential.

Make sure you get your body ready before you perform any of these activities.

Ankle jumps

  1. Stand straight with your hands on your hips.
  2. Jump up straight without bending your knees.
  3. Flex your ankles, and pull up your toes while you’re in the jump (dorsiflex).
  4. Extend your ankles back just before you touch the floor.
  5. Push the balls of your feet into the floor explosively, and then jump again. Try to keep your feet on the floor for as little time as possible.
  6. Start with a few repetitions per set, and do 2 or 3 sets. Work up to 25 repetitions per set.

Double leg hops

  1. Stand straight with your arms at your sides.
  2. Jump up straight, raising your arms as you lift.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

Single leg hops

  1. Stand straight with your arms at your sides.
  2. Jump up straight on one leg, raising your arms as you lift.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

You have the option to do both double-legged and single-legged hops, whether going from one side to the other or back and forth.

Ankle strengthening benefits

1. Increased movement awareness

Heightening the strength of your ankles will lead to an increase in your proprioception. This is the scientific name for the capability of your body to determine its location in space when you are in motion. For instance, your body will sense if you are going to trip up or sprain your ankle and take measures to avoid the mistake.

Activities that improve your equilibrium heighten your proprioception. An exercise that involves balancing on one leg with your eyes closed is especially beneficial for improving proprioception. A study published in 2015 combined the results of different research studies and indicated that proprioceptive training is useful for avoiding ankle strains.

2. Leg strengthening

Engaging in activities that will help to shore up your ankles will also build the muscles in your legs, as well as help you to develop a secure way of walking. A 2014 study recommends that those training for running should start by strengthening the ankles and build from there.

3. High-heel relief

Exercises such as stretching and strengthening can be useful if you wear high heels for extended periods, which can put stress on your ankle joints.


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