Ankle Stretches

Ankle stretches also involve the foot. Here we explain stretching exercises for the lower leg to stretch the calf muscles, shin, peroneal muscles and plantar fascia under the foot.

Front ankle stretches

Shin stretch

This exercise stretches the muscles at the front of the lower leg including the Tibialis Anterior, Extensor Digitorum Longus, and Extensor Hallucis Longus muscles.

  • Kneel on the floor on both knees, with the shins flat on the ground and toes/feet pointing back.
  • Slowly sit back on the to heels.
  • If a stretch cannot be felt, place the hands on the floor behind you and lean backward.
  • The stretch can be further increased by placing a rolled-up towel under the top of the shin to increase the stretch angle at the ankle.

Standing shin Stretch

Stretching the shins is usually overlooked until an injury, such as shin splints occurs. This is a great treatment and prevention stretch.

  • Stand with your toes of the left foot on the floor on the outside of your right foot.
  • Bend the right leg to push your ankle towards the ground
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.
  • Swap legs!

Advanced Shin Stretch

ankle stretches

This stretch should only be attempted by those who can feel no stretch in the shin stretch and stand shin stretch.

  • Kneel with your shins flat on the ground.
  • Place your hands on the floor next to your knees.
  • Raise your knees off the floor, keep your heels and knees together and feet on the floor.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Ankle stretches for the calf muscles

Calf stretch on a step

Ankle stretching

This stretch is really effective but you must be careful and make sure you have something to hold on to!

  • Stand on the floor in front of a small step or thick book.
  • Lift the toes up to be on the step, keeping the heel on the floor and the knee straight.
  • Shift your body-weight forwards until a stretch can be felt in the calf muscles.
  • To stretch the Soleus muscle, bend the knee slightly.

Calf stretch standing

Stretching the calf muscles can help to prevent a whole range of lower limb injuries.

ankle stretches
  • Stand with one leg far in front of the other and lean forward against a wall.
  • Keep the back heel flat on the floor.
  • Bend the front leg to lean forwards and keep the back leg straight.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Soleus stretch

This stretch targets the Soleus muscle which is deeper, underneath the larger Gastrocnemius. Bending the knee relaxes gastrocnemius, allowing Soleus to be stretched in isolation.

  • Stand with one leg in front of the other close to a wall.
  • Place your hands on the wall for balance.
  • Bend both knees, focusing on the back knee.
  • Move your weight forwards onto your toes but make sure you keep the heel down at the back.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Advanced soleus stretch

This stretch targets the Soleus muscle which is deeper, underneath the larger Gastrocnemius. Bending the knee relaxes gastrocnemius, allowing Soleus to be stretched in isolation.

  • Stand with the toes on a step, the heel off the back and the knee bent.
  • Make sure you have something to hold on to before dropping the heel down carefully until you can feel a stretch.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Ankle stretches for the peroneal muscles

The peroneal muscles run down the outside of the lower leg and are difficult to stretch and so often neglected in a stretching routine.

  • Sit in a chair with one ankle resting on the other knee.
  • With your hands, point the foot (plantarflex) and turn the sole of the foot upwards (invert).
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Plantar fascia foot stretch

Stretching the fascia which runs under the arch of the foot can be a useful part of treatment for plantar fasciitis.

  • Sit on the floor with the knee bent and the heel on the floor.
  • Pull up on your toes to stretch the arch of the foot.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.
This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.

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