Got stiff ankles? Many of us do.
Maybe you had an injury like a sprain or a break that forced you to be in a cast. If this is the case… you know the drill, your ankle got brutally stiff.
Or maybe you have a desk job sitting for long periods so you don’t get a chance to put your feet and ankles through a wide range of motion very often.
Regardless of why they’re stiff, in this article you’re going to learn 4 movements you can do to loosen them up.
And after you practice these movements for some time, you’ll gain more range of motion and be able to do more with your body that might have limited you in the past.
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How Your Ankles Should Move
Your ankles are a complex joint wrapped up with lots of muscles and connective tissue. Here’s a more complete overview of the foot and ankle joint.
But for now, the ankle’s primary movements are flexion and extension. Otherwise known as dorsiflexion (pulling your toes up toward your shin) and plantar flexion (stepping up on your tippy toes).
Over time, if you don’t work through the full range of motion you’re capable of, your ankles will get stiff.
This is especially true with an injury or lack of movement that encourages putting your ankle through its full range.
So, basic exercises like squats and lunges become hard to do properly because you aren’t able to comfortably get your knees over your toes for balance.
The exercises below will help you regain any lost range of motion if you work on them enough.
When Ryan Broke His Ankle, He Thought He’d Never Be The Same
A few years ago, Ryan broke his ankle in 3 places when he fell off his skateboard. Falling sucks, but it happens to everyone (even seasoned athletes). Learn how to fall with grace.
To get back to normal, his rehab was a lot of physical therapy, patience, and moving his ankle as much as he could. This way, he would give himself the best chance of healing and making a full recovery.
Needless to say, Ryan bounced back 100% and he’s as strong as he ever was. When I asked him what he did to regain his ankle mobility, he told me these 4 exercises were what did the trick, and he still does these every day.
4 Ankle Exercises For Greater Range Of Motion
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Foot Circles with Toes Flexed
- Curl your toes gently, but not so much you cramp. 😉
- Do a slow + controlled circle in one direction for the allotted reps, then switch and go the other direction.
- Take a break between reps if you need to if you start cramping.
Do 10-15 reps in each direction for 2-3 sets.
- With this one, you’re working on controlling the movements of your toes and feet with your ankles.
- Curl your toes as you point your foot. Then extend the toes as you flex your foot.
- And now reverse those movements. Extend your toes as you point the foot, then curl your toes as you pull your foot back.
Do 10 repetitions of both variations for 2 sets.
Rolling Up Onto the Toes (via squat)
- Start in any position comfortable for you, whether that’s a full squat, or in a lunge position, or with hands supported on something. Just have one foot in front, and one foot behind.
- Roll forward up on the toes of the front foot. Go as far forward as you can comfortably.
- Play around with positioning, and be sure to work on both sides.
Do 5-8 reps for 3 sets.
- Start the movement on all fours with your arms straight and a slight bend in your knees.
- Lift and move your left hand and right foot forward.
- Lift and move your right hand and left foot forward, continuing this pattern going forward or backward.
We recommend setting a timer for 1-5 minutes and doing the Bear during that time period, taking breaks as needed.
Don’t Stop With Just Improving Your Ankles…
Chances are if your ankles are stiff, the rest of your body might be too.
As you noticed, that last movement there was the Bear, which is one of the animal movements we use in our Elements program to get your body strong and flexible.
Not only does it help unlock your calves and ankles, but it builds strength and mobility throughout your shoulders and upper back. It also helps train your body to move with control and precision, which carries over to any other athletic activity you’re into.
Free Up Your Stiff Ankles along with the Rest of Your Body
With Elements, you’ll build a foundation of strength, flexibility, and control, allowing you to take on any activity you wish.