Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program

Safe, Effective Exercise for Foot and Ankle.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends this stretch to prevent injury and improve range of motion.

To ensure that this exercise program is safe and effective for you, it should be performed under your doctor’s supervision. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about which exercises will best help you meet your rehabilitation goals.

Depending on your mobility, you may be unable to do some of these stretches and exercises at the beginning.  Focus on what you can do and go from there. To ensure that this program is safe and appropriate for you, consult with your physician, After an injury or surgery, exercise will help you return to daily activities and enjoy a more active, healthy lifestyle. Following a well structured exercise program will help you return to daily activities and enjoy a more active, healthy lifestyle.

Stretch first : Run through as many of these stretches as you can at one time, devoting at least 30 seconds — ideally 1 to 2 minutes — on each (per side, if applicable) before moving on to the next.

Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program Exercise Guide

To ensure that this program is safe and effective for you, it should be performed under your doctor's supervision. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about which exercises will best help you meet your rehabilitation goals.

After an injury or surgery, an exercise conditioning program will help you return to daily activities and enjoy a more active, healthy lifestyle. Following a well-structured conditioning program will also help you return to sports and other recreational activities.

1. Heel Cord Stretch

Repetitions 2 sets of 10
Days per week 6 to 7

Main muscles worked: Gastrocnemius-soleus complex
You should feel this stretch in your calf and into your heel

Equipment needed: None

Step-by-step directions

  • Stand facing a wall with your unaffected leg forward with a slight bend at the knee. Your affected leg is straight and behind you, with the heel flat and the toes pointed in slightly.
  • Keep both heels flat on the floor and press your hips forward toward the wall.
  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat.

Tip Do not arch your back.

Heel cord stretch

2. Heel Cord Stretch with Bent Knee

Repetitions 2 sets of 10
Days per week 6 to 7

Main muscles worked: Soleus
You should feel this stretch in your calf, the sides of your ankle, and into your heel

Equipment needed: None

Step-by-step directions

  • Stand facing a wall with your unaffected leg forward with a slight bend at the knee. Your affected leg is behind you, with the knee bent and the toes pointed in slightly.
  • Keep both heels flat on the floor and press your hips forward toward the wall.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat.

Tip Keep your hips centered over both feet.

 

Heel cord stretch with bent knee

3. Golf Ball Roll

Repetitions 1
Days per week Daily

Main muscles worked: Plantar fascia ligament
You should feel this exercise along the bottom of your foot

Equipment needed: Golf ball

Step-by-step directions

  • Sit on a stable chair with both feet planted on the floor.
  • Roll a golf ball under the arch of your affected foot for 2 minutes.

Tip Sit up tall and keep your foot toward your chair.

Golf ball roll

4. Towel Stretch

Repetitions 2 sets of 10
Days per week 6 to 7

Main muscles worked: Gastrocnemius-soleus complex
You should feel this stretch in your calf and into your heel

Equipment needed: Hand towel

Step-by-step directions

  • Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you.
  • Loop a towel around the ball of your affected foot and grasp the ends of the towel in your hands.
  • Keep your affected leg straight and pull the towel toward you.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.

Tip Sit up tall and keep your legs straight.

Towel stretch

5. Calf Raises

Repetitions 2 sets of 10
Days per week6 to 7

Main muscles worked: Gastrocnemius-soleus complex
You should feel this exercise in your calf

Equipment needed: Chair for support

Step-by-step directions

  • Stand with your weight evenly distributed over both feet. Hold onto the back of a chair or a wall for balance.
  • Lift your unaffected foot off of the floor so that all of your weight is placed on your affected foot.
  • Raise the heel of your affected foot as high as you can, then lower.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Tip Do not bend the knee of your working leg.

Calf raises

6. Ankle Range of Motion

Repetitions 2 sets
Days per week Daily

Main muscles worked: Dorsiflexors, plantar flexors, invertors, evertors
You should feel this exercise at the top of your foot and throughout your ankle

Equipment needed: None

Step-by-step directions

  • Sit down so that your feet do not touch the floor.
  • Use your foot to write each letter of the alphabet in the air. Lead with your big toe.

Tip Keep the movements small, using just your foot and ankle.

 

Ankle range of motion

7. Marble Pickup

Repetitions 20
Days per week Daily

Main muscles worked: Plantar flexors
You should feel this exercise at the top of your foot and toes

Equipment needed: 20 marbles

Step-by-step directions

  • Sit with both feet flat and place 20 marbles on the floor in front of you.
  • Use your toes to pick up one marble at a time and place into a bowl.
  • Repeat until you have picked up all the marbles.

Tip Do not place the marbles too far out in front or to the side.

Marble pickup

8. Towel Curls

Repetitions 5
Days per week Daily

Main muscles worked: Plantar flexors
You should feel this exercise at the top of your foot and your toes

Equipment needed: Hand towel

Step-by-step directions

  • Sit with both feet flat and place a small towel on the floor in front of you.
  • Grab the center of the towel with your toes and curl the towel toward you.
  • Relax and repeat.

Tip You can make this exercise more challenging by placing a weight on the edge of the towel.

Towel curls

9. Ankle Dorsiflexion/Plantar Flexion

Repetitions 3 sets of 10
Days per week 3

Main muscles worked: Anterior tibialis, gastrocnemius-soleus complex
You should feel this exercise at your calf, shin, the back of your heel, and the top of your foot

Equipment needed: Use an elastic stretch band of comfortable resistance

Step-by-step directions

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • For dorsiflexion, anchor the elastic band on a chair or table leg, then wrap it around your foot.
  • Pull your toes toward you and slowly return to the start position. Repeat 10 times.
  • For plantar flexion, wrap the elastic band around your foot and hold the ends in your hand.
  • Gently point your toes and slowly return to the start position. Repeat 10 times.

Tip Keep your leg straight and heel on the floor for support.

Ankle dorsiflexion/plantar flexion

Choose Your Body Part Exercises Group

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Further information: 

The information provided on this site is intended to be used as an educational resource only. It is not intended to be medical advice for individual conditions. Consult with your physician prior to beginning any medical regimen.

Please contact a healthcare professional: 

  • If you notice an increase in pain  while doing any of these exercises make sure not to ignore it. Immediately stop the exercise activity and contact your health care provider for advice.
  • If you experience excessive or acute pain that cannot be explained by another cause.
  • If You have questions or concerns about stretches or exercises, to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.