Eric Lubell | 10.12.2017

This piece was written by Performance Specialist Daniel Silver. Scroll to the bottom to learn more about Daniel and how he trains for life.

Foot and ankle issues can be a pain, literally and figuratively, for the outdoor enthusiast. A problem with our ankle or big toe can stop us from doing a lot of activities, even if the top 98 percent of our body feels good to go.

That’s frustrating for anybody, and even more so for those of us who love to move, be active, and be outdoors. People frequently turn to equipment like shoes, orthotics, and other outside fixes without paying much mind to the actual body and how it functions. If our foot or ankle hurts or is weak, there are many ways to address the source of the weakness instead of searching for a band-aid for temporary relief.

Making sure the foot and ankle are mobile (you can move the ankle and foot freely with a decent range of motion) stable, (you can control it in those ranges) and strong (you have made the muscles, tendons, and ligaments resilient via training) are usually the best medicine for both working through injuries, as well as preventing them.

Before we get to the exercises, please note:

  • While these can often be used as a tool in a rehab program, if you have a serious injury, check with a medical professional before trying out any advice on the web. That probably extends past this article.
  • These are for the foot and ankle. You have a whole body. You should train that whole body to be strong and resilient for all the activities you pursue (including sitting at a typical desk job for eight hours a day).

Here are a few basic foot and ankle exercises that can be done anywhere. 

Exercise 1: Lift your big toe

No, seriously, that’s it. Keep your smaller four digits down on the ground and lift and hold the big toe as high as possible. You can play with this, but having the mobility and endurance to hold it for a minute is probably all you need. That is, unless you want to bust out the toe weights.

Exercise 2: Lift the other four toes

Repeat exercise 1, but with the other four toes. Work on keeping the little four elevated with the big toe pressed into the ground.

Exercise 3: Spread the toes

Keeping all five toes on the ground, attempt to spread them out as wide as possible. Work up to holding the spread for longer periods of time until you can comfortably separate all the toes from one another.

Exercise 4: Ankle isometrics

Bring the knee forward over the foot until a stretch is found in the back of the calf. Press through the ball of the foot and the toes for 30 to 45 seconds. Start with moderate pressure and work the intensity up until you are pressing as hard as you can.

Exercise 5: Ankle drop

Stand on the ground, raise up on the balls of the feet as high as you can. Lower down with control. When you can perform 10 lowers with a 5 count, start by standing on a 1-inch block and lowering all the way down to the ground.

These five exercises can be a great addition to add in a couple of times a week on their own or plugged into a whole body strength and prehab program. You can do them at the gym, or at home while cooking dinner or doing any number of other routine tasks. Make them a routine, and reap the benefits.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Silver is a client-centered Performance Specialist and has been a coach for nearly 10 years. He uses his education in physiology, functional movement, anatomy, injury, and pain prevention as well as coaching and behavioral psychology to craft a program uniquely tailored to each client. You can find him at Evolution Healthcare & Fitness doing small group fitness classes, individual personal training, or performing some truly unique exercises to maintain his own strength and health.


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