Health

6 Ankle Mobility Exercises to Keep You Agile and in the Game

It’s not your imagination — the joints that connect your feet to the rest of you get stiffer as you get older. Here’s what to do about it.

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a parent practices one of the ankle mobility exercises in their living room

Constantine Demetracopoulos, M.D

An Ankle Mobility Action Plan

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Ankle Mobility Exercises

  • Squats: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Bend knees and sink your hips back as you squat down to the floor, keeping your back flat. Go as far as your ankles will allow (or until knees are over toes) then straighten. Do three sets of 10 reps. (Note: If this movement causes too much strain on your ankles, modify to a sit-and-stand exercise using a chair 10 times.)
  • Reverse lunges: Stand with feet together. Take a large step backward with your right foot. Centering your weight between your forward and back foot, bend your right knee until it almost touches floor and bend your left knee until it is over your left toes. Hold this deep reverse lunge for two counts, then straighten. Do 10 on your left side, 10 on your right side; repeat three times. “This movement is great because not only are you working on flexibility in your ankle but also balance and proprioception,” says Dr. Demetracopoulos.

Ankle Mobility Stretches

  • Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall, feet about a foot from the base. Pressing your hands against the wall for support, flex your right foot and place it so that the heel is up against the base of the wall and toes point up in the air. Lean your weight forward onto your right leg and feel the stretch in your heel and calf. Hold 5 counts and release. Repeat on opposite side. Do five stretches per side.
  • Achilles stretch: Stand facing a wall, about a foot away. Place hands on wall for support. Bend your left knee and step back with your right foot, keeping right leg straight. Feel the stretch in your right Achilles, bending your left knee more and leaning into the wall for a greater stretch. Switch sides. Do five stretches on each side.
  • Outside ankle mobility move: Start sitting on the floor. Stretch your right leg out in front of you. Using either exercise bands or a towel, wrap the material around the arch of your foot, then hold both ends in your left hand. Keeping pressure on the material, turn your right foot out, so that it is pulling away/against the tension of the bands. Return to neutral, then press your foot to the outside again. Do 10 of these on your right side, then do 10 on your left. Repeat entire sequence three times.
  • Inside ankle mobility move: Repeat the above exercise, but instead of hold the bands wrapped around your right foot with your left hand, this time you’ll hold them in your right hand, then turn your right foot in and away from your right hand to work on inner ankle mobility. Do 10 on your right side, 10 on your left, then repeat three times. “Technically, this is part of strengthening the ankle area but it also helps with tightness,” says Dr. Demetracopoulos.

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