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Four Simple Exercises for Healthy Ankles and Feet

Strong ankles and feet can lead to better balance and performance, and can also reduce the likelihood of injuries. By maintaining proper ankle kinetics, a healthy foundation is set for the entire body, from the ground up, aiding in the proper mechanics of the knees, hips and the back. Here are 4 simple exercises and stretches to help promote healthy ankles and feet.

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1. Heel - Toe

Lying supine or in a seated position, begin by placing the legs, knees and ankles together. Lift the heels and roll them up and out to the ground, followed by walking the toes up and out. Continue to alternate rotating the heels and the toes, allowing the knees and hips to move simultaneously. Return using the same movement pattern bringing the legs, knees and ankles all the way back together again. Repeat leading with the toes first. This allows for a nice easy range of motion through the ankles, knees and hips.

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2. Point -  Flex

Lying supine or in a seated position, begin by lifting the heels off the floor. Keep the inner ankles connected, not allowing the ankle to lift so high that the feet roll to the outer edge. Focus on keeping even weight between the big and pinky toes. Bring the heels back to the floor. Rocks back onto the heels, lifting the toes off the floor, while still keeping the feet connected. Repeat the movement back and forth. This works the ankle joint through both dorsi and plantar flexion. It promotes healthy mobility through the talus, which facilitates both movement in the ankle and foot, and transfer of weight between the foot and the leg, enabling us to walk while maintaining balance.

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3.  Ankle Circles

Lying supine or in a seated position, slowly rotate the ankle in a complete circle, trying to fully rotate through the joint. Try to isolate the movement through the ankle only and not rotate through the knee or the hip. Repeat this 8-10 times in the same direction and then reverse the direction. Repeat then in both directions with the other foot. While encouraging blood flow to the joint, this also promotes both a nice easy range of motion through the ankle and a release of tight muscles through the ankle and the foot. 

4. Calf Stretches

Tight calf muscles (the gastrocnemius and the soleus) can contribute to improper mechanics of the ankle and the foot. This can inhibit proper motion in the ankle joint due to a lack of flexibility. 

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With hands pressing into a wall or flat surface, stand in a lunge with one leg forward, knee bent, and the opposite leg straight behind, keeping the heel on the floor. Try to keep the front knee tracking over the big toe and activate both legs to feel both feet press into the ground evenly. Keep the hips squared forward. The lunge distance should be such that a stretch can be felt in the calf while maintaining an engaged heel on the floor. Aim to hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.

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Repeat the same starting position as with the gastrocnemius stretch. However, allow the opposite leg straight behind to move closer inward with knee slightly bent, but while still keeping the heel on the floor. Aim to hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds. Repeat to the other side.