Foot and Ankle Stretches

1
Ankle and Calf Muscle Stretch

Ankle and Calf Muscle Stretch. Credit: © Getty Images

Foot, calf and ankle stretches can be used in warm-ups before exercise. They may also be recommended by physicians and physical therapists for treatment and recovery from plantar fasciitis, heel spur and sprains.

One way to stretch the ankle is in a seated position using a strap to pull the foot upward (ankle dorsiflexion).

This stretch targets the calf muscles, Achilles tendon, and plantar fascia, which is within the sole of the foot. Not only is this an effective warm-up before exercise, but it also helps prevent and treat painful plantar fasciitis, also known as heel spur syndrome.

Follow your provider's recommendation on how often to stretch and how long to hold each stretch. It's generally recommended that stretching exercises be done at least three times a day, holding each stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds, repeating twice.

If you have or are prone to plantar fasciitis (a cause of heel pain), do this stretch before getting out of bed or after prolonged rest.

2
Lunge

Lunge. Credit: © Getty Images

The lunge, or bent knee calf stretch, gives a deeper stretch to the calf muscles because it targets the soleus muscle of the calf better than a straight-knee ankle stretch. This stretch also targets the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia of the foot.

The stretch can be done on stairs or on flat ground while leaning against a wall or other object for stability. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds on each side and repeat.

3
Toe Stretch

Toe Stretch. Credit: © Getty Images

You may not think of toes as an important part of a stretching routine. The joints of the toes are subject to arthritis, soft tissue injury, and structural problems such as hammer toes and bunions, and can benefit from regular stretching.

Stretching the toes as pictured gives a good stretch to the plantar fascia: a ligament-like support structure that attaches to the heel bone and ball of the foot. The toes can be flexed while squatting down or in a seated position, or while standing in a runner's lunge.

4
Downward Ankle Stretch

Downward Ankle Stretch. Credit: © Getty Images

Pointing the foot downward is known as plantarflexion. This stretch targets the ankle joint ligaments and tendons of the top of the foot.

To increase the range of the stretch, rotate your foot clockwise and counter-clockwise, making an imaginary circle with your toes.

This is a good warm-up for the ankle joint, especially if you're prone to ankle sprains or tendonitis.

Rotate each foot for 30-60 seconds and repeat.

5
Butterfly Stretch

Butterfly Stretch. Credit: © Getty Images

The butterfly stretch is great for stretching hip and inner thigh muscles, but it also stretches the lateral (little toe side) of the foot and ankle.

Holding the soles of the feet together while pulling the knees upward targets the lateral ankle and peroneal muscles of the lateral leg. This area of the ankle joint is prone to sprains and other types of injury, which can lead to chronic pain and joint stiffness. 

Follow-up with a stretch that pulls the foot in the opposite direction (everts the foot), which will target the medial (big toe side) of the foot and ankle. The medial side of the foot and ankle is prone to conditions such as posterior tibial tendonitis and nerve entrapment.

Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and repeat 2 times.

Continue Reading