Top 10 Ankle Mobility Exercises

Top 10 Ankle Mobility Exercises

Why is Ankle Mobility Important?

Ankle mobility is crucial for a range of activities, from walking and running to squatting and other athletic movements. Reduced mobility in the ankle can lead to compensatory movements, increasing the risk of injury in the knees, hips, and lower back. Dr. Emily Splichal, a podiatrist and human movement specialist, states, "Ankle mobility is the cornerstone of functional movement. Limited range can significantly impact one's quality of life."

Benefits of Improving Ankle Mobility

Improving ankle mobility offers several benefits, including reduced risk of lower limb injuries, enhanced athletic performance, and improved balance and posture. Research shows that enhanced ankle mobility can decrease the likelihood of ankle sprains and other related injuries by up to 40%.

The exercises outlined in this article are designed to increase flexibility, strength, and overall mobility of the ankle. By regularly incorporating these exercises into one’s routine, individuals may experience improved movement efficiency and a reduction in discomfort associated with stiff or weak ankles. 

Top 10 Ankle Mobility Exercises

There are many exercises designed to improve ankle mobility. Here's a list of common ones:

  • Ankle Circles: This exercise involves rotating the ankle in a circular motion, which helps to improve flexibility and range of motion.
  • Dorsiflexion Stretch: This stretch involves moving the ankle to bring the toes closer to the shin, which helps stretch the muscles and tendons in the back of the leg and improve flexibility in the ankle.
  • Plantarflexion Stretch: This involves pointing the toes downward, stretching the muscles on the top of the foot and shin.
  • Alphabet Writing: Using the big toe as a "pen," pretend to write each letter of the alphabet in the air. This exercise improves range of motion and strengthens the muscles surrounding the ankle.
  • Heel Walks: Walking on the heels helps strengthen the muscles in the ankles and the lower legs.
  • Toe Walks: Similar to heel walks, walking on the toes strengthens the muscles in the lower legs and improves balance.
  • Towel Scrunches: Place a towel flat on the floor and use your toes to scrunch it toward you, which helps improve toe and ankle strength.
  • Band Pushes: Using a resistance band around the foot, push your foot against the band in various directions to strengthen different parts of the ankle and improve range of motion.
  • Standing Calf Raises: This exercise strengthens the calf muscles, which in turn supports the ankles.
  • Seated Foot Pumps: While seated, simply pump the feet up and down by flexing and pointing the toes, which helps improve blood flow and range of motion in the ankles.

These exercises can help increase ankle mobility, but it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have an existing ankle condition or injury.

1. Ankle Circles

Ankle circles involve rotating the ankle joint in a circular motion, a fundamental exercise recommended by physiotherapists to increase mobility and flexibility.

Performing ankle circles helps lubricate the ankle joint, reducing stiffness and improving range of motion. According to Dr. John Miller, a specialist in orthopaedic surgery, "Ankle circles stimulate synovial fluid production, essential for joint health."

Step-by-step Instructions

  • Sit in a comfortable position and lift one foot off the ground.
  • Slowly rotate the foot in a circular motion, clockwise for 10 rotations.
  • Switch direction, rotating anticlockwise for another 10 rotations.
  • Repeat with the other foot.

2. Dorsiflexion Stretch

The dorsiflexion stretch improves the ability to move the ankle so that the toes come closer to the shin. This movement is vital for normal gait patterns. Dr. Helen Sanders, a physiotherapist, emphasises the importance of dorsiflexion for injury prevention and mobility enhancement.

Detailed Execution Method

  • Stand facing a wall with the toes of one foot near the base.
  • Keeping the heel on the ground, lean forward until a stretch is felt in the lower part of the leg.
  • Hold the position for 15-30 seconds.
  • Repeat three times before switching to the other leg.

Tips for Maximum Effectiveness

Ensure the heel remains in contact with the ground to maintain the stretch's integrity. Increasing the stretch gradually will prevent injury.

3. Plantarflexion Stretch

Plantarflexion involves moving the foot away from the body, stretching the top of the foot and the shin. This stretch can counteract the stiffness resulting from prolonged sitting or standing.

Instruction for Proper Form

  • Sit on the floor with legs extended.
  • Use a towel or band to pull the toes towards the body until a stretch is felt.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat three times.

Variations and Advanced Options

For increased stretch, perform the stretch while standing. Keep the toes on a raised surface with the heel dropping below the level of the toes.

4. Alphabet Writing

Writing the alphabet with the toes combines movement in multiple planes, increasing ankle mobility and control. Dr. Laura McMahon, an expert in rehabilitative therapy, suggests this exercise for its comprehensive approach to ankle mobilisation.

How to Perform the Exercise Effectively

  • Sit or lie down with one leg lifted.
  • Using the big toe as a pointer, 'write' each letter of the alphabet in the air.
  • Ensure movements are made from the ankle, not the hip or knee.

Tips for Engagement and Improvement

Focus on forming each letter correctly to engage the full range of motion. As proficiency increases, attempt to write in smaller, then larger letters to vary the challenge.

5. Heel Walks

Heel walks strengthen the muscles around the shin and improve ankle stability. This exercise is recommended by physiotherapists to prevent shin splints and enhance the stability of the ankle, essential for activities such as walking, running, and jumping.

Correct Walking Technique

  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lift your toes off the ground and walk forward on your heels for 20-30 seconds.
  • Ensure your back remains straight and your core is engaged.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Avoid leaning too far back or forwards. Maintain a straight posture to prevent strain on the lower back. Start with short distances, gradually increasing as strength and balance improve.

6. Toe Walks

Toe walks target the calf muscles and the muscles around the ankle, improving both strength and flexibility. Regular practice can lead to better balance and athletic performance.

Execution and Form Pointers

  • Stand upright, lift your heels, and balance on your toes.
  • Walk forward for 20-30 seconds, keeping your heels off the ground.
  • Keep the core engaged and the back straight throughout the exercise.

Progression and Challenges

Increase the duration and speed of the toe walks as your balance and strength improve. For added difficulty, try toe walking uphill or carrying weights.

7. Towel Scrunches

Towel scrunches enhance toe and foot strength, which supports ankle mobility. This exercise is beneficial for individuals recovering from foot injuries or looking to improve foot mechanics.

Step-by-step Guide to Performing Towel Scrunches

  • Sit with your feet flat on the ground and place a towel flat in front of your feet.
  • Using only your toes, grab the towel and scrunch it towards you.
  • Spread the towel out again and repeat the motion for 10-15 repetitions.

Adjustments for Different Difficulty Levels

Increase the resistance by placing a weight at the end of the towel. For those just starting, focus on the motion rather than the resistance.

8. Band Pushes

Resistance band exercises, such as band pushes, are effective for improving ankle strength and mobility. They provide targeted resistance, helping to strengthen the muscles around the ankle.

Directions for Correct Use of the Band

  • Sit with your legs extended and wrap a resistance band around your foot.
  • Push your foot against the band in all four directions: forward, back, left, and right.
  • Perform 10-15 repetitions in each direction.

Ways to Increase Resistance and Progress

To increase difficulty, tighten the band or use one with greater resistance. Progress to performing these exercises standing up to incorporate balance challenges.

9. Standing Calf Raises

Standing calf raises not only strengthen the calf muscles but also promote ankle stability and mobility, critical for daily activities and sports performance.

Technique and Form Essentials

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Raise your heels, standing on your toes, then lower slowly.
  • Perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Variations to Keep the Exercise Challenging

Perform calf raises on a raised surface to increase the range of motion or do them with one leg at a time for added difficulty.

10. Seated Foot Pumps

Seated foot pumps improve circulation in the lower legs and increase ankle mobility. This exercise is particularly beneficial for individuals who sit for extended periods.

How to Execute Effectively

  • Sit with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Lift the front part of your feet, keeping your heels on the ground, then push your heels up, keeping the balls of your feet on the ground.
  • Repeat for 30 seconds to one minute.

Tips for Incorporating into Daily Routine

Perform seated foot pumps regularly throughout the day, especially during prolonged periods of sitting. This exercise can be done almost anywhere and requires no equipment.

People Also Ask

How can I improve my ankle mobility?

To improve ankle mobility, engage in exercises and stretches that target the range of motion and flexibility of the ankle joint. Incorporate exercises such as ankle circles, dorsiflexion and plantarflexion stretches, and towel scrunches into your routine. Additionally, practices like writing the alphabet with your toes can improve mobility and control. Consistency and proper technique are key, and you should perform these exercises regularly for the best results.

What causes weak ankle mobility?

Weak ankle mobility can be caused by a variety of factors including sedentary lifestyle, previous ankle injuries like sprains or fractures, tightness in the muscles around the ankle and calf, or conditions such as arthritis. Wearing footwear that does not provide adequate support can also contribute to weak ankle mobility. It's important to identify and address the underlying causes to improve mobility effectively.

How do you increase range of motion in the ankle?

To increase the range of motion in the ankle, perform stretching and strengthening exercises regularly. Include dynamic stretches such as ankle circles and static stretches like dorsiflexion and plantarflexion holds. Strengthening exercises such as toe walks and heel walks can also help improve the range of motion by building the muscles around the ankle. Using resistance bands for exercises like band pushes can further enhance ankle flexibility and strength. For  19 Best Effective Fitness Exercise

Do calf raises help ankle mobility?

Calf raises primarily strengthen the muscles of the lower leg, particularly the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. While they are not directly focused on improving ankle mobility, strong calf muscles can support the ankle joint and potentially improve its range of motion. Additionally, performing calf raises can help improve balance and stability, indirectly benefiting ankle mobility. However, calf raises should be part of a broader routine targeting ankle mobility for the best outcomes.


Incorporating these top ten ankle mobility exercises into your routine can lead to significant improvements in ankle flexibility, strength, and overall mobility. Regular practice can enhance performance in physical activities, reduce the risk of injury, and contribute to better balance and posture. Remember, consistency is key to seeing progress. Always consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise regimen, particularly if you have existing health concerns or injuries.

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