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September 18, 2018 - TCO

Prevention series: Foot and ankle exercises

The following set of intrinsic and proprioceptive foot and ankle exercises can be performed for injury prevention and are commonly used on the first day of  physical therapy. Whether you have a sprained ankle, toe pain, or you’re just coming out of your boot after surgery, these exercises are a way to jump-start the brain-foot communication.

In the case of recovery, typically, individuals start with their non-injured foot first and then move to the other side. The exercises should not be painful but can be difficult to perform. If you get a muscle cramp from trying the exercises, just take a break, stretch and try again later.

Toe lifts

Foot And Ankle Toe Lifts

  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor.
  • One foot at a time, try lifting your big toe off the floor.
  • Place it down and try to lift toes 2-5 off the floor.
  • If able, alternate between big-toe lifts and little-toe lifts.
  • Perform 10 reps.

Toe spreads

Foot And Ankle Toe Spreads

  • Place your feet together, big toes touching.
  • Keep the feet flat on the floor but lift all your toes and try to spread them apart in the air.
  • Set them down on the floor and then repeat.
  • Perform 10 reps.

Short foot/dome exercise

  • Keep the foot flat on the floor.
  • Try to pull the ball of the foot toward the heel while keeping your toes on the floor. Do not curl the toes under. When performed correctly, the metatarsal heads will elevate and toes will stay straight on the floor. This creates a dome or arch under the foot, which can build strength in the small muscles of the plantar aspect of the foot. You may feel a spasm or cramp in the foot as you contract the muscles.
  • Relax and try again.
  • Repeat the dome movement 10 times.

Whether you’re exercising to prevent or recover from an injury, remember there’s no one-size-fits-all exercise for individuals or specific conditions. If you experience pain or discomfort, stop immediately and consult your trusted health care provider.