9 simple exercises that can help improve your ankle mobility

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Ankle mobility is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of overall movement and flexibility. Whether you’re an athlete aiming to enhance performance or someone seeking relief from everyday discomfort, restricted ankle mobility can hinder your ability to move efficiently and perform more challenging exercises. 

According to Dr Pallavi Singh, founder of Stride Podiatry, “Stiff ankles can be a real drag, limiting your mobility and flexibility. Two main culprits are often to blame: tight calf muscles and lingering after-effects of old injuries.”

Imagine your calf muscles as strong ropes pulling on your ankle joint. When these muscles get tight, it’s like they’re yanking on your heel, says Dr Singh, making it difficult to bend your foot upwards (dorsiflexion). This tightness can sneak up on you from inactivity, overdoing exercise, or even wearing shoes that don’t provide enough support.

Sprains, strains, and fractures around the ankle joint can leave behind scar tissue. This scar tissue can act like a tiny internal bully, restricting movement and causing stiffness, especially if the injury didn’t heal completely,” she informs.

However, the good news is that you can improve ankle mobility, alleviate discomfort, and enhance your range of motion with targeted stretches and exercises. 

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Dr Dharitri Rajbangshi, senior physiotherapist and corporate wellness head at Physiotattva recommends these nine effective ankle mobility stretches to help you regain flexibility and strength in your ankles: 

Ankle circles

By performing controlled circles in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions, ankle circles help lubricate the ankle joint and improve its overall range of motion.

Heel raises

Strengthening the muscles around the ankle joint through heel raises enhances stability and support, contributing to improved mobility and reduced risk of injury.

Toe flexion and extension

This exercise not only stretches the muscles and tendons in the front of the ankle but also promotes better proprioception and balance, essential for maintaining mobility and preventing falls.

Resistance band ankle dorsiflexion

Using a resistance band adds resistance to the dorsiflexion movement, intensifying the stretch and targeting the muscles responsible for pulling the foot towards the body.

ankle mobility The good news is that with targeted stretches and exercises, you can improve ankle mobility, alleviate discomfort, and enhance your range of motion. (Source: Freepik)

Foam rolling

Using a foam roller to massage the calves and lower legs can help release tension and improve flexibility, preparing the muscles for deeper stretches.

Ankle plantar flexion stretch with prop

Sitting on the floor with legs extended, loop a towel or resistance band around the ball of one foot and gently pull it towards you, feeling a stretch in the calf and Achilles tendon.

Calf stretch

Stand facing a wall, place one foot against the wall with the knee bent. Lean forward, keeping the heel on the ground, to stretch the ankle dorsiflexors.

Dynamic ankle mobility drill

Perform ankle circles, ankle alphabet (drawing the alphabet with your toes), or ankle figure eights to dynamically warm up and mobilise the ankle joint.

Ankle joint mobilisations

With the guidance of a physical therapist or qualified professional, perform joint mobilisation techniques to improve ankle joint mechanics and unlock restricted movement.

How frequently should these stretches be performed?

“The frequency of your ankle mobility routine depends on your individual needs and activity level. Ideally, aim for 2-3 sessions per week, incorporating these stretches into your existing warm-up routine before exercise or as part of a cool-down,” Dr Singh recommends.

However, if you have tight ankles or are recovering from an injury, you can perform them more frequently, even daily. Listen to your body, she says, if you feel any pain, ease off and consult a healthcare professional.



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