Ankle Stretches

 Ankle stretch using one hand as a fulcrum.

Ankle stretch using one hand as a fulcrum.

OVERVIEW

Ankle stretches are essential for the healthy functioning of the foot and lower leg, and can also help to prevent injury. It's much easier to injure a stiff, immobile ankle joint than one which is mobile and flexible.

If the ankle joint is stiff and immobile then that joint does not absorb its share of the force of movement. The result can be greater stress absorbed into the lower leg. This can lead to tight calf muscles, knee problems, or shin splints.

The stretches in this section make use of a variety of methods including Active Isolated Stretching, and in one of the videos we'll stretch with the aid of a yoga strap.

Muscles, tendons, and areas stretched will include:

  • Achilles tendon
  • Soleus
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Peroneals
  • Tibialis Anterior
  • Plantar surface (bottom) of the foot
  • Dorsal surface (top) of the foot
  • Outer ankle

 

Ankle Stretch Warm-Up

Description & Instructions

This demonstration is for the left ankle. Starting on all fours we want to take all the weight off the left leg and ankle and put that weight firmly on the other leg and arms.

Begin by rocking the foot back and forth in a rhythmic motion to flex and extend the ankle joint. This will not only warm-up the ankle itself, but also the Achilles tendon, the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles, and also the tibialis anterior muscle. If movement in one direction or the other feels especially good or useful then emphasize that direction. Also feel free to perform more repetitions than are being demonstrated here.

Now, using the toes as a pivot point, roll the ankle in circles several times. First one direction and then the other. Try to make the circles as big as possible. And again, make certain that your body weight is mostly on the your arms and opposite leg.

Next, curl the toes of both feet under and sit back on the legs. Only sit back as far as is comfortable and make certain not to splay the heels sideways. Keep them upright. Repeat several times. This creates a deep stretch of the Achilles tendon and the plantar surface of the feet.

Last, we're going to flatten the tops of the feet down in order to stretch the dorsal or top surface of the foot. Again, only sit back as far as is comfortable and make certain not to splay the heels sideways. Keep them upright. Repeat several times. This stretches the tibialis anterior muscle. This muscle must be stretched in order to avoid shin splints.

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Ankle Stretch Using Hands

Description & instructions

For this ankle stretch we'll use the hands as both the fulcrum and also the activating stretching force. This is an excellent method for deep stretching of the outer ankle and top of the foot, including the tibialis anterior muscle. A tight tibialis anterior muscle can be implicated in problems of the lower leg including shin splints.

This stretching sequence is done seated on the floor. Begin by bringing one foot up over the other leg just above the knee. Hook one hand under to grab a hold of the top of the foot. The other hand is placed just above the ankle on the lower leg forming a fulcrum.

The hand on the top of the foot, then, pulls up toward the chest while the stabilizing hand presses down in opposition. This creates a deep stretch for the outer ankle. repeat 5-10 times.

Now change your hand positions bringing one hand over the top of the foot while the other hand is placed behind the lower leg. Again the hand of the lower leg acts as a fulcrum. Pull back on the foot to stretch the top of the ankle and also the tibialis anterior muscle. Repeat 5-10 times.

Last place the lower leg hand just above the ankle while the other hand performs wide circles with the foot. Repeat 5-10 in each direction. Notice if one direction is smoother than the other and perform more repetitions on the less smooth side.

Repeat entire sequence on the other foot.

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Ankle-Calf Stretch with Yoga Strap

Description & instructions

The ankle and calf are intrinsically connected. This sequence focuses on the calf, inner and outer ankle using Active Isolated Stretching.

Begin in a seated position on the floor. (This can also be done seated in a chair with the foot resting on the ground. This will decrease the intensity of the stretch, if that is preferred.) Wrap the yoga strap (or belt or whatever you've got) around the ball of the foot so that it is secure and you have good control of the foot.

Flex the foot back and, at the end of the range of motion, pull back on the yoga strap to increase the intensity of the stretch. Hold for only 2 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times.

Now we're going to wrap the yoga strap once around the foot so that we can bring the foot into inversion. Maintaining an inverted position, repeat the above sequence. Flex the foot back and, at the end of the range of motion, pull back on the yoga strap to increase the intensity of the stretch. Hold for only 2 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times.

Now bring the foot into eversion (no one's ankles move very far into eversion so don't worry!). Maintaining an everted position, repeat the above sequence. Flex the foot back and, at the end of the range of motion, pull back on the yoga strap to increase the intensity of the stretch. Hold for only 2 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times.

Last, we'll perform what I call roll-throughs. We begin in inversion then roll-through to eversion. repeat 5 times. Then go in the other direction, starting in eversion and rolling through to inversion. Repeat 5 times.

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Outer & Front Ankle Stretch

Description & instructions

This simple ankle stretch is for the outer and front, or top, of the ankle. It's helpful to hold on to something for balance while performing this stretch.

While maintaining most of one's weight on the stabilizing foot, gently roll the ankle outward repeatedly for a 2-second stretch. With each repetition see if you can increase the range of motion just a little. Repeat 5-10x depending on how tight the ankle is and how helpful the stretch feels.

Now roll forward over the toes to stretch the front or top of the ankle and foot. Repeat using a 2-second stretch. With each repetition see if you can increase the range of motion just a little. Repeat 5-10x depending on how tight the ankle is and how helpful the stretch feels.

Repeat entire sequence on the other foot.

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