Do you have TIGHT ANKLES? This blog post is for you!
What is Ankle Dorsiflexion?
Ankle Dorsiflexion is the movement where the ankle (Talocrural joint) is bent in a backwards direction.
Why do you need Ankle Dorsiflexion?
Having full ankle dorsiflexion is ESSENTIAL in your posture and movement.
This is especially true for when you are moving! (such as when Walking, Running, Squatting and Jumping)
Having tight ankles can lead to undesirable compensations and injuries such as:
- Excessive Foot Pronation
- Knee Valgus
- Development of a Big Toe Bunion
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Achilles Tendinopathy
- Inside Knee Pain
What limits ankle dorsiflexion?
1. Tight calf muscles
- Achilles tendon
- Flexor Digitorum Longus
- Flexor Hallucis Longus
- Tibialis Posterior
2. Tight ankle joints
Limited ankle mobility in the Talocrural joint can restrict the total amount of dorsiflexion available.
3. High Foot Arch
Presence of a high foot arch may be involved with impaired ankle dorsiflexion.
4. Joint capsule issues/Scar tissue
Past injuries to the ankle (eg. sprained ankles, fractures, surgeries) tend to block full ankle mobility.
5. Neural tension
There is a nerve called the Sciatic Nerve which runs down the back of the leg.
Tightness in this nerve can limit ankle dorsiflexion when the knee is completely straight.
The bony structure of your ankle (as determined by your genetics) will dictate the maximum amount of dorsiflexion available in the ankle.
Ankle Dorsiflexion Test
Try out this quick test to see how much range of motion you have in your tight ankle.
Knee to Wall test:
- Face a wall.
- Whilst keeping your knee in contact with the wall, aim to get the front of your toes as far away from the wall. (The tibia bone should angle forwards over the foot.)
- (Don’t cheat! Make sure the back of your heel does not lift off!)
- Maintain your foot arch.
- Measure the distance between the tip of your big toe and the wall using a tape measure.
What is normal Ankle Dorsiflexion?
My recommendation: Aim to get the tip of the big toe approximately >4 inches from the wall.
WHERE do you feel the restriction?
The area where you feel the most stiffness/restriction in your ankle should generally be the area you focus the most on.
(Note: More often than not – you will likely need to address a combination of these.)
a) FRONT of ankle:
Your ankle dorsiflexion is limited by a Joint-related restriction. (Anterior Impingement)
- Focus on Joint mobilizations.
b) BACK of ankle:
Your ankle dorsiflexion is limited by a Tendon restriction.
- Focus on Achilles tendon stretch.
c) BACK of calf:
Your ankle dorsiflexion is limited by Neural tension and/or Muscular restriction.
- Focus on Nerve glides and/or Calf stretches.
Mobility Exercises to improve Ankle Dorsiflexion
1. Warm up
The ankle is going to be performing a lot of exercises. Let’s warm it up!
a) Ankle circles
- Draw a large circle with your ankle.
- Aim to firmly push the outer edges of this circle as much as possible.
- Focus especially on the movement when you are bringing your foot up towards you.
- You might hear some clicking. As long as it isn’t painful, keep going!
- Repeat 20 times in each direction.
Performing releases on tight muscles are effective in increasing ankle mobility.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
- Place the calf of the bottom leg on a foam roller.
- Place the other leg on top.
- Apply a downward pressure.
- Roll your leg up/down the entire calf.
- Pause on areas of tightness.
- Duration: 1-3 minutes.
b) Achilles tendon
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
- Place the back of your Achilles tendon on a ball (or a handle of a dumbbell).
- Apply a downward pressure.
- You can apply additional pressure by placing your other leg on top.
- Rock your foot from side to side.
- Duration: 1-3 minutes.
c) Achilles tendon glide
- Sit down on a chair.
- Place your ankle on the other knee.
- Pull your ankle into dorsiflexion.
- Firmly grip the top of your Achilles tendon.
- Slowly glide your fingers towards the heel.
- Repeat 10 strokes.
3. Ankle Dorsiflexion Stretches
The tight muscles which are limiting the ankle mobility will need to be stretched.
- Stand on the edge of a step.
- Slowly lower the heel of the back leg.
- Do not let the foot arch to collapse.
- Aim to feel a stretch in your calf muscle.
- Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds.
- Repeat 3 times.
For more stretches like this, check out Gastrocnemius Stretches.
- Assume the lunge position with back leg bent. (see above)
- Sink your body weight onto your back leg.
- Think about getting your shin bone as close to the floor as possible.
- Do not lift your heel!
- Do not allow for the foot arch to collapse.
- Aim to feel a stretch in the back of your calf.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat 3 times.
For more stretches like this, check out Soleus Stretches.
c) Achilles tendon stretch
- Rest the entire back against the wall.
- Squat all the way down.
- Bring the heels as close to the wall as possible without letting your heels lift off the floor.
- Lean your body weight on top of your feet.
- Hold this position for 1 minute.
4. Joint mobilization
Tight joints in the ankle can limit the amount of ankle dorsiflexion.
(To perform this exercise, you will need assistance.)
- Lie on the floor.
- Instruct your helper to firmly grasp your ankle below the bony bits on the side. (see above)
- Relax your leg as your assistant pulls your foot away from you.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat 3 times.
b) Create space in front of the ankle
This exercise will help stretch any tight ligaments and joints that might blocking the normal movement of the ankle.
- Whilst sitting, place your ankle on top of your other knee.
- Place one hand on top of the ankle and the other on the forefoot.
- Whilst anchoring the ankle joint down, pull the fore foot towards you.
- Aim to feel a stretch on the outside/front of the ankle.
- Explore the stretches by pulling the foot downwards at different angles.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
c) Dorsiflexion with band
This exercise will help glide the Talus bone backwards (posterior translation) which is required in normal ankle dorsiflexion movement.
- Attach a resistance band to something behind you. (Make sure it doesn’t move!)
- Lace the band around your ankle.
- Make sure the band is below the bumps on side of the ankle.
- Move away from the anchor point as to increase tension in the band.
- Assume the lunge position with your ankle on a bench. (see above)
- Lunge forward.
- Do not allow for your foot arch to collapse.
- Repeat 30 times.
- Perform the above exercise whilst holding a weight on top of your knee.
5. Strengthening exercises
If you do not have the muscular strength/control over the ankle whilst it is in dorsiflexion, the body will limit itself from going into that range. (… it’s a protective mechanism!)
a) Seated Dorsiflexion holds
- Whilst sitting, slightly slide your foot underneath you whilst keeping your foot flat.
- Lift the front part of your foot off the floor.
- Aim to feel the activation of the muscles in the front of your shin.
- Hold for 10 seconds.
- Repeat 20 times.
b) Eccentric drop
- Whilst standing, hold onto something for balance.
- Lift the front part of both feet off the floor.
- Hold for 5 seconds.
- With control, slowly lower your foot.
- Repeat 30 times.
7. Ankle Dorsiflexion Exercises
Now that you have addressed the tightness and weakness of the ankle, the next step is to practice using the foot in the dorsiflexed position.
a) Forward Lunge with foot lift
- Place a small block under the ball of your foot.
- Keep the foot pointing forwards at all times.
- Lunge forwards.
- Aim to move your knee as far forwards as possible.
- Do not lift your heels.
- Perform 30 repetitions.
b) Wall Squats
- Stand with your back and heels against the wall.
- Keep the knees in line with your toes throughout this exercise.
- Slowly bend your knees forwards as you slide down the wall.
- Squat as low as possible without lifting your heels off the floor.
- Perform 20 repetitions.
c) Toe taps
- Stand up right and hold onto a stationary object for support.
- For the leg that is on the ground, keep the knee in line with your toes throughout this exercise.
- Reach and tap your toe as far forwards as possible.
- Return to the starting position.
- Perform 20 repetitions.
d) Eccentric Heel Drops
- Stand on a step with your heels off the edge.
- You can hold onto something for support if required.
- Keep your knees straight throughout this exercise.
- Slowly lower your heels until you can feel a deep stretch in the calf muscles.
- Raise your heels back to the neutral position.
- Perform 10 repetitions.
- Progression: If this exercise is too easy, try performing it using one leg at a time or holding onto weights.
8. Stretch the Nerves
If the nerves which are located at the back of the leg become “tight”, it can limit the amount of ankle dorsiflexion. (Especially when the leg is completely straight.)
(For more information, check out this blog post: Sciatic Nerve Stretches.)
Sciatic Nerve Glide
- Place your foot on a bench.
- Keep your leg completely straight.
- Lean forwards at the hips.
- Point and bend your ankle.
- Aim to feel a deep stretch anywhere along the back of your leg.
- Repeat 20 times.
9. What causes lack of Ankle Dorsiflexion?
The 2 main causes of poor ankle mobility is due to:
a) Shoes with an elevated heel
Shoes with a raised heel will place the foot in a degree of plantarflexion.
This can cause the muscles that limit ankle dorsiflexion to become tight.
b) Toe walking
Toe walking is a pattern of walking where one walks on the ball of the feet.
(It is mainly seen in children.)
This may lead to increased tightness in the calf muscles and limited ankle dorsiflexion.
10. Improve walking Pattern
The following factors tend to discourage the ankle dorsiflexion required for a normal walking pattern.
a) Duck Feet Posture
This is where the feet are out turned.
For more information: Duck Feet Posture.
b) Flat Feet
Flat feet is where the arch of the foot has collapsed.
For more information: Flat Feet.
c) Limited Big Toe Extension
Whilst walking, big toe extension in the back leg is required as the toes push off the ground.
If there is stiffness in the big toe, this will impact the way your entire foot/ankle interacts with the floor as you walk and force the entire foot to pivot outwards.
This prevents the ankle from achieving pure dorsiflexion.
Here are some simple exercises to improve your big toe extension:
- Place your foot on a massage ball.
- Apply pressure on the ball.
- Roll your foot up/down.
- Do this for 1-3 minutes.
b) How to stretch the big toe:
- Place the bottom of your big toe onto the wall.
- Keep the rest of your foot on the floor.
- Move your foot as close to the wall as possible as you slide your big toe up the wall.
- Gently lean your weight into the big toe.
- Aim to feel a stretch underneath the base of the big toe.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Keep your foot on the floor.
- Lift up your big toe as high as you can.
- Do not move the other toes as you do this.
- Aim to feel a contraction of the muscles at the top of your big toe.
- Hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat 20 times.
11. Common questions:
a) How often should I perform these exercises?
As many times as you can.
I recommend you adopt the “More the merrier!” strategy!
There is no reason why you could not do these exercises every day.
At a bare minimum, I recommend doing them at least 2/week.
b) How long does it take to fix Ankle Dorsiflexion?
With consistent effort, you should see small improvements every week.
If you have persisted with these exercise for at least 3 months and see no improvements at all, I would advise you to get assessed by a health professional.
Limitations in dorsiflexion can lead to issues associated with the body’s attempt to compensate.
Try out the suggested ankle mobility exercises to improve your ankle dorsiflexion.
What to do next
1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)
2. Come join me:
3. Start doing the exercises!
Disclaimer: The content presented on this blog post is not medical advice and should not be treated as such. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Use of the content provided on this blog post is at your sole risk. For more information: Medical disclaimer.
153 thoughts on “Exercises to improve Ankle Dorsiflexion”
You can recognise me from the other post. I’m getting all the info together and it sounds like you’re right. During all that time I was focusing on other parts and I had some sort of relief but never actually was able to put myself out of this hole.
Final question is that when I’m walking downstairs I have noticed that I don’t put my foot straight I just can’t do that, instead I put them to the outside (like a duck) what part of calves would that be ?
Anyways I will give a go to everything in this topic and see how it goes. If it gets significantly better in 12 weeks. I owe you a donate 🤙
Perhaps you are using your Peroneal muscles too much. This will tend to angle the foot outwards. You can stretch/release them out.
Wow! I can’t tell that you put a lot of time into this. I have so many things going on and no clue why. At 33, I’m in pain all day every day and my voice just isn’t being heard by the doctors I’ve seen. 2 years now and no help. 😞
Usually I come to these blogs and I scroll through it to find the same information almost word for word. I learned so much. You broke down a lot of stuff for us here. I was surprised that I wasn’t overwhelmed with all the information, but I think you just did a great job at delivering it. I don’t know if what I learned is going to help the pain I have but I will be trying and sticking to it for 3 months. No matter the results I just want to say thank you for your time and dedication. I’m certain you have helped many people.
This is such a nice comment. Thanks for taking the time to write it for me. I really do appreciate it.
Feel free to private message me on the facebook page and I’ll see if I can help point you in the right direction to address your issues.
All the best.
hey Mark , i am feeling tightness in my calfs in inner side what should i do
If the calf is tight, check out these 2 blog post:
– Gastrocnemius Stretch
– Soleus Stretch
That should help!
I’ve been in PT for about 8 months. I have very limited ankle dorsiflection (I can only reach 2 inches in the foot test). I’ve had persistant extremely tight calves, and tight achilles tendon. I get nerve pain in my legs regularly. I do the stretches often but my ankle and lower legs hurt a lot just walking. I often get tendonitis when I stretch every day and it doesn’t improve unless I stop the stretches. The pain can last for months. I’m afraid I’m not making any progress. My legs are just so stubborn. They are always sore and aching and tight and tender. I guess I’ll keep with the PT but I haven’t seen good progress yet. I’m always told keep stretching do it 3 times a day. Shouldn’t it be helping already? I want to feel better.
If you have tendonitis, you probably don’t want to forcefully stretch the tendon as this will usually irritate the inflamed tendon. You’ll need to wait until the inflammation reduces before applying a substantial amount of stretch to the tendon.
What you’ll probably benefit more from is performing strengthening exercises in the range that you are able to without major pain. Progressively work in a more stretched position as tolerated. (This takes time! And it is very easy to over do it!). If your tendon is very sensitive, you’ll likely need to do exercises that are less than your body weight.
If you do a lot of walking (or if small amounts of walking aggravate your symptoms) – you might need a temporary heel lift in your shoe (or wear shoes with a slightly elevated heel) to minimize the stretch to the tendon. Keep in mind – you don’t want to use this for long as it will encourage your calf/achilles tendon to get tighter.
Once you are symptom free, then you’d want to chase after getting more ankle dorsiflexion.
Hope this helps.
Hi, I think I may have duck feet and ankle dorsiflexion. I have very limited inward motion of my right foot (if I try stretch my foot right foot towards the left without moving my knee, I can’t get far at all. What would be the best experience to strengthen this movement and what muscle should I be focusing on stretching to help with this motion
Sounds like you are referring to the movement called Ankle Inversion. If you are limited in ankle inversion, it could be due to tight lateral ankle structures such as the ligaments and tendons.
You will likely benefit from stretching these muscles. If you google “Extensor digitorum longus stretch”, you’ll get some helpful ideas of how to stretch it.
Hi there, I just had a quick question. On some of your exercises you say do not let your foot arch collapse, but what exactly do you mean by this. I just want to be sure as I don’t want to perform the exercise incorrectly.
You don’t want the whole foot/ankle to roll inwards.
Once your foot is planted on the ground, it shouldn’t really move a whole lot as you dorsiflex the ankle.
Hope this makes sense. If not – let me know.
Thanks so much Mark! ALL your info is so very helpful!
Could very poor left ankle dorsiflexion over a period of time CAUSE a pelvis rotated to the right? And then a follow-up: could a rotated pelvis cause my body to “crunch over” forward at the waist when attempting to walk? (It’s very difficult to stand erect when walking — except behind a shopping cart.)
Hey there Evalynne (Nice name btw, I haven’t seen seen it spelt that way before!),
Limitations in ankle dorsiflexion on the left ankle can lead to the pelvis turning to the right when walking. This could be due to the left foot/ankle pronating/external rotating.
A rotated pelvis wouldn’t directly cause the body to flex symmetrically forwards.
What stops you from standing up right? Is it pain?
Hi there, I have Ehdlers Danlos Syndrome and this has created kaos on my body. I have been bed ridden for nearly two years I am looking forward to getting started on this.
Thanks for commenting.
Do you have limited ankle dorsiflexion with EDS?
Are these stretches safe for kids? My 8 year old was walking on his toes. We did some PT and they released him but his ankle is still limited and after looking at your blog I’ve realized his knee goes in during squats and his feet do the duck thing you talk about. Do we do all the stretches at the same time or should we strengthen one thing first and move on? We’ve been working on the ankle/calf stretches PT gave him for 6 months now but his right leg especially still seems to need a lot of work. He also sleeps with a boot to keep his foot flexed but it’s just a generic one off Amazon. Thanks!!
Yes – these exercises are fine for kids to perform. Although given the young age, I would advise to do so under the guidance of a trained professional.
Is/was your 8 year old a toe walker? Or did he use a baby walker when he was younger? Any medical history of cerebral palsy? These factors can often lead to tight calves and limited ankle dorsiflexion.
You can combine the release/stretches and strengthening together. Ideally – if you can eventually progress him to performing heel raises over the edge of a step whilst keeping the ankle in a neutral position, this exercise alone would help the most.
Another thing to watch out for is if your child has an anterior pelvic tilt. This pelvis position can shift the center of mass forwards which will load the front of the foot. This in turn will force the calf muscles to be over active.
All the best.
Yes he did walk on his toes often, but not always, so I didn’t realize it was a problem until I realized he couldn’t squat. He couldn’t bring his knees forward at all to even do a shallow squat without falling over backwards. We did some PT and he can squat now but his knees still wobble in and out when he squats. His right foot especially still has limited dorsiflexion. I am going to look into your info on pelvic tilt bc I think he may have that. The PT never addressed all that, just focused on the ankles. I wish I could find someone like you to work with him in person.
I have duck foot posture on my right foot. I have tightness in the top right of my foot of my when going into ankle dorsiflexion, and my Flexor Digitorum Longus is tight, as when I sit on my heels (child’s pose, but sitting up), the upper part of my right foot is tight.
How should I proceed?
Thank you so much!
Sounds like that upper top part of the right foot is compressed and perhaps tightness in the Flexor Digitorum.
Pulling your ankle into plantarflexion + inversion can help decompress the outer side of the ankle.
This can all be due to a result of reduce ankle dorsiflexion.
Thank you so much for the reply!
Also, is it possible that strengthening my arch would benefit my dorsiflexion?
You can never go wrong with a strong arch, however, you might find that your ankle dorsiflexion may be LESS as you maintain your arch.
The foot will tend to roll inwards (compensation) to create more ankle movement.
Just have a question my physio told my that the ankle dorsiflexion is dictate by genetic.
It is necessary to do these exercises?
He told my he worked year on it and it only increased a bit to him.
So i for him i can try but i will win a slight improvement.
He told my too flexibility is the same some people are some order not a’d we can improve a bit.
I don’t know listen to who :O
Ankle dorsiflexion can certainly be limited by the structure ( shape of bones, joints) as largely dictated by your genetics.
If you are 100% certain your limited ankle dorsiflexion is due to your structure, there will likely be a limit as to how much you can improve. (but you wont really know until you give the exercises a go)
Hi, thank for the exercises, they are very well done.
But i have a question,
My ankle mobility went i put my knee forward my ankle is like going to the right, he don’t alow my ankle to go forward.
But if i let it go right i have a good mobility.
What is the issue in my case that i should focus on ?
I think it’s A but I’m not sure if you can confirm.
Thx good day to y
It sounds like you are referring to your left ankle?
If you are, the ankle/knee can move towards the right if you have limited pure ankle dorsiflexion.
This is due to the fact that the foot is likely pronating (aka arch collapsing).
Improving ankle dorsiflexion should help with this.
Yes i was talking about the left foot.
I used your test i got 5cm which is bad i think ahha.
Yes i have the feet trying to go flat if I don’t use muscle contraction :/ my father got the same ( i got his bad legs xD) but very hard and he got knee issue :/ modern world modern problem ^^`
But it very strange that it collapse to right (left foot) like there is a wall when i try to go forward.
I have exercises for my patella feromo syndrom with my kinésithérapeute (Physio in France). And i do your exercise on rest day for muscle of the legs.
6 months im on it and i finally see the end of the rehab Jesus^^`
If i had mobility ankle i shouldn’t have the issue i got now that so sad. Now my goal is to prevent problem and not try to fix them when they come later it’s more smart i think.
And The flat feed exercises are burning my Peroneals muscle i got very weak, it’s a bricks after the exercises like single leg balance !
I will update it in 1 month if i got finally the 10cm ^^`.
Sorry for the long message i got inspiring^^` btw your website is wonderful !!
Good luck! And hope to see hear from you in the near future.
On my left side, I have a bunion, and my dorsiflexion ability, quad strength/size, and glute activation are much less. Then, on my right side, I get issues with my hip and SI joint. To me, it seems like my right leg is doing more work because the left side isn’t functioning well. When I run, it is difficult to land quietly on my left foot, whereas the ride side works effortlessly.
Improving my dorsiflexion through the techniques you’ve written about here have helped me run smoother. And, I can actually feel my left glute working. Similarly, when I concentrate on maintaining dorsiflexion while doing leg extensions at the gym, I can feel my quads activate a lot more (particularly my vastus lateralis).
Is there something about dorsiflexion that is necessary for correct muscle activation patterns elsewhere?
Ankle dorsiflexion is one of the most important components whilst running. Without adequate dorsiflexion, the body will usually end up compensating somewhere along the movement chain. (and even lead to the things you have mentioned).
Unlocking your dorsiflexion may give the opportunity for the other parts of your body to function properly.
Another thing I would quickly check is to see if you have a rotated pelvis. If you lack ankle dorsiflexion on one side, it could be related to rotation of the pelvis.
See post: Rotated Pelvis.
My name is Anessa and I severely sprained my ankle a little over a year ago. I have very little if not any dorsiflexion in my left ankle. I have gone to physical therapy and even a chiropractor to try to fix my loss of dorsiflexion. Nothing seems to work. I have been doing all of the therapy moves at home daily. It still seems to barely improve. Do you have any advice? Do you think I need to see a doctor? If so, who should I see?
The main culprit is a tight calf complex. Try to spend more time in a prolonged stretched position.
If you feel that the calf is not tight, the next area that limits dorsiflexion is that anterior talocrural joint. I have some exercise for that on the blog post using the band.
Did your therapists mobilize this said joint?
Do you recommend doing stretches 3a & 3b + exercises 5a & 5b if I have a light insertional achilles tendinopathy?
I can hike 13km 600 D+ (just to give you an idea of how light my insertional achilles tendinopathy is.
In the early stages of an insertional tendon issue, you will want to avoid stretching at end range as this will likely aggravate your symptoms.
However – as you transition away from the acute inflammatory stages and are able to progressively stretch towards end range without getting any increase in symptoms, this is completely fine to do so.
The end goal would be to progressively strengthen the achilles tendon as it is in a lengthened state. Once you can do this, add plyometric training.
I will do the strenghting exercise 5a & 5b everyday and I’ll do the stretches every other day. I did the stretching yesterday and I feel fine today. Thank you!
Hello,my upper tibia had a fracture,doctor put cast on it ankle also
Motionless for 40 Days.now my ankle is stiff and have only 20 percent movement,also my ball of foot have severe pain how to fix this problem.
If your doctor has cleared you to start exercises, the best thing to do now is to start to do some exercises to get your ankle moving again.
You might need to start with the gentle exercises first and progress as appropriate.
(For anything post-surgical, I would strongly recommend guidance under a health care provider as to prevent any long term complications)
Hi there :),
I just came across this article and I am so grateful that you wrote it! I’ve been dealing with horrible dorsiflexion for 3 years- after many Neurologist visits and PT, they still have no idea what could’ve caused it. (The best they could come up with is that “it’s all in my head”….yikes) Even with stretching/etc, my feet have shown little improvement. You mentioned some new stretches I haven’t tried yet- so thank you for giving me hope! As cheesy as it may sound, I’m at my wits end- thank you!!
Hope it works out for you!
Hello! My daughter is a burn survivor from a house fire and we have been battling ankle contractures for about about 5 years now. She is 6 years old. On the right ankle, we were unable to get her ankle back to 90 degrees with months of stretching, wearing AFOs, and treatment with serial casting. She had gotten to the point that she regressed back to crawling at 3 years old. She had a failed tendon lengthening and then finally, had a second tendon lengthening with a pin in the ankle while it healed and a skin graft on the back of the ankle. That surgery was about 2 years ago and that ankle is still doing well and remains at 90 degrees without much flexibility either way. Now, for the past year, we have been struggling with the left ankle, which is her “good” ankle with much less burn scaring. However, she does have foot drop in it and had a fasciotomy on that calf soon after her burns. I really don’t want her to have to get the same surgery she had on the right ankle, but I can barely get the ankle to 90 degrees anymore. She cannot tolerate her AFO on it for more that 15 mins without begging for it to be removed due to pain. She has been walking up on the ball of her foot for several months now. Do you have any advice for us? Thanks
Do you know if it is the ankle joints or the soft tissue (muscles, skin, tendon) that is the main limiting factor for her ankle dorsiflexion?
Both would require different strategies. If the main issue is the calf, have you tried botox injections with follow up casting? This might help avoid surgery.
With ongoing tippy-toe walking, this will unfortunately encourage the calf to get even tighter and further limit ankle mobility. It may also cause bony spurs to develop which can make it difficult to achieve normal ankle motion. This will usually result in the big toe deviating to the side. (hallux valgus)
My 4.5 year old son, with a lot of front calf leg pain when walking and out toeing and toewalking/running, saw a podiatrist today who did xrays and said he has Kohler disease which might take 2-3 years and will be fine. And also limited ankle dorsiflexion. He has short calf muscles, tight Achilles’ tendon, and stiff ankle. He recommended similar calf lengthening exercise as you which is great as I started doing them with him recently. But he also said we have to get him to wear all day even in house ankle height shoes with arch support inserts to prevent him from toe walking. And I can no longer let him barefoot he said. I been having him barefoot all the time even outside and encourage walking in sand and dirt and only wears flat loose sandals if we go anywhere. What’s your feeling on the shoe vs barefooting in this situation? im not a fan of supported shoes I feel it will make him weak in other areas. But don’t know about this situation with Kohlers. He also goes to chiro often for uneven pelvis that causes one leg to be shorter. Chiro has helped left foot to turn in a lot but right foot still isn’t turning in all the way. Also had a small fracture when 2 on ankle and had boot for 6 weeks. And toe walked as baby before that.
Walking on the toes will encourage the calf and achilles tendon to become even tighter. This will limit the ankle dorsiflexion available in the ankle joint which will usually lead to duck feet posture.
Performing the stretches mentioned on this blog post will be a good place to start.
I would also suggest that you look to see if he has an anterior pelvic tilt as this may be encouraging fore foot loading.
My personal opinion with children is to encourage more barefoot play on uneven surfaces ( as opposed to inserts), however, you will need to talk with your healthcare provider if this is viable with Kohler’s disease. (which I assume they diagnosed with a Xray)
I’m posting this because I don’t know if my last went through. Last Januray I landed on somebody’s foot when taking 3 point shot. I believed I injured both sides of my ankle since both were in pain and swollen. I didn’t go to the doctor because I didn’t have insurance and thinking it was going to heal despite lots of pain and not being able to put weight on that foot. I did some research, I decided to to buy a boot to immoboilze the ankle because in my head I tore ligaments at the very least and possibly had fractures (not the smartest thing I’ve done).
I had the boot on for about 4-5 weeks, I had lots of swelling/edema for the first 6 weeks and could barely stand up without the ankle swelling up again after having it elevated (the boot helped a lot with edema). Around 5-6 weeks I took it off, swelling was getting better and but my ankle was very stiff with very limited dorsiflexion, no pain at this point. I noticed my dorsiflexion was gone two days after the injury, so I don’t think the imobilisation had a lot to do with loss of dorsiflexion. I walked with a lime for another 6 weeks or so after taking off my boot after week 6. The limp eventually went away and I started walking more normally and dorsiflexion got a little better (maybe like a 20% improvement/still missing 80% of total dorsiflexion). During this time (around March-April) I remember going to use an elliptical machine and a stationary bike and after the workout, my ankle got swollen again.
Fast forward, ankle pain is completely gone, ankle doesn’t get swollen when using bikes or elipticals anymore, I can rotate my ankle all around similar to the healthy foot with no pain, but my dorsiflexion still about 60% gone and I have a bunion now and morning I can barely walk on that foot until minutes later that the ankle warms up. I feel a lot stiffness around the medial area of the ankle when bending my knee, and I noticed if cross massage the chilies and the area between the medial ankle and achillie along side a calf stretch I feel improvement in dorsiflexion but the effect goes away within a few hours again.
Your opinion on what happened and what can be done for this situation is appreciated!
Firstly – We can’t rule out a fracture especially if you weren’t able initially place weight on it. If there was one, there is a chance that the fracture site did not heal as optimally as it could have. You would have to get an XRAY to check it out.
If we assume that there was no fracture (which we can’t without investigations!), and purely a soft tissue injury, it is more likely there was injury to the ligaments and/or tendons
If lack of ankle dorsiflexion is your main issue, it really depends WHERE in the ankle you feel the restriction. You mentioned the region between the medial ankle and achilles tendon. This area is the where the posterior deltoid ligament fibres (posterior tibiotalar ligament) are. Scar tissue/tightness in this ligament could potentially limit ankle dorsiflexion. This area also has your tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis longus and flexor digitorum tendons which can get injured with ankle injuries. Tightness in these muscles can also limit dorsflexion.
Hello Mark – I just came across your website today. My ankles have never flexed very far, even in childhood. I recently got diagnosed with Ankylosing/Axial Spondylitis, which explained my plantar pain and achilles pain. The achilles pain only began after I saw a massage therapist who was able to get my talus bones moving, finally, for the first time in my memory. Before that, when dorsiflexing my foot I felt stopped up at the front of the ankle. Afterwards, I felt amazing space at the front (though probably in reality it was just a small improvement), however very soon my achilles tendons began to be in pain and they also won’t let me flex far. I backed off, assuming I too-much-too-soon had inflamed the tendons/ligaments (as per my diagnosis). I’m not sure how to go forward with increasing my ankle range now. The only evidence that I’ve ever had more range is one photo when I was one year old, squatting. Doing a soleus stretch is almost impossible because I have so little bend at the ankle. I’d love some advice. Thanks
Sounds like the achilles tendon had no control/strength in the new unlocked range of motion.
As result – it strain and developed some sort of tendinopathy.
If the achilles tendon is what is now limiting your dorsiflexion, you will need to address the tendon directly with a progressive tendon loading program (ie. loading the fore foot).
You can start with isometrics, progress to eccentric contractions, partial range concentric/eccentric contractions, full range, loaded/resistance and then finally, speed/power.
This is the most comprehensive, useful site I’ve found! Thank you!
My 15 year old son is training as ballet dancer. We are at the point of considering whether or not to go full time. He had a bad ankle sprain last year (from sport not dance) and he ended up with an anterolateral impingement from lack of rehab and inadequate recovery time. We soon realised he has serious issues with dorsiflexion. The most toe-to-wall he has ever achieved was 7.5cm (both feet). He has high arches, a beautiful pointe and amazing turnout. And he has always walked like a duck.
We are doing the mobilisation exercises after another flare up and he improved from 3cm to 7cm in a week.
My question is- I know 7-8 cm toe-to-wall is considered restricted dorsiflexion from my reading. If we can’t increase it do you think this will rule him out of ballet.
Is there anything else you would suggest?
I am not well versed in ballet but I’d say 8cm is fairly average.
Of course as a ballet dancer, I would feel that he might need to work on it to get >10cm at least.
If he has high arches, working on loosening up midfoot stiffness might actually help!
Examples of exercises:
– Ball rolling underneath arch
– Mid foot mobilizations
– Kneeling stretch for plantarfascia and flexor hallucis longus
Wanted to let you know that these exercises have made a HUGE difference in my life. I’ve had worsening plantar fasciitis, achilles tendon soreness / pain, and really tight calves. After a day or two of short runs, I’d have to take at least a couple of days off because my feet and my calves would be screaming. A PT neighbor once noted that it looked like I had mildly flat feet, so I did some Googling and found your site. I’m about four weeks in, and I have noticed a massive improvement across the board. I wish I would have found your site sooner, as my mother recently had bunion surgery, and I wish I could have gotten her doing these exercises to see if they might have helped.
Very grateful for everything you provide!
Hi Mel T,
Thank you so much for leaving me this nice comment.
So good to hear that you are getting some results with the exercises!
BTW – I have a blog post for bunions!! See post: 40 tips for big toe bunions.
This is great content that you provide on this site!
My left ankle has poor dorsiflexion. Did the knee to wall test…and dorsiflexion of my right ankle gets close to the wall : ) …and dorsiflexion of my left is about a fist distance away from the wall : (
I got an x-ray done. The comments from the x-ray are … “there is new bone formation along the medial side of the talus. This suggests remote ligamentous injury. The ankle mortise is otherwise congruent well aligned. No sign of fracture”.
Probably from my ankle sprains playing soccer.
Given these x-ray results, can I improve my dorsiflexion? Will I be able to get my knee to touch the wall!?
What are the exercises/movements that I should focus on? And frequency?
Thanks in advance,
Hey Mark G,
If the bone formation at the medial side of the talus is where the talus meets the tibia, it could add as a physical block. This would limit how much ankle dorsiflexion you might be able to achieve. If the bone formation is more on the side, that might not affect dorsiflexion at all! (great news!)
I would focus on the joint mobilisation exercises. (but no harm doing the others if they are related to your issues)
Hey Mark. Would really appreciate if you’d be able to give me some insight here!
I run track & have been plagued by issues on my left leg over the years – mostly chronic calf tightness & shin stuff. My left leg is structurally longer & I’ve experimented with a heel lift but with limited success!
With some more time on my hands, I’ve been spending recent months trying to sort out my weaknesses from the hip down.
I’ve noticed my ankle ‘pinches’ at the front during any Soleus stretch & my front shin muscle feels super stuff in any of these stretches too. I’m guessing this is down to joint restrictions? ‘Knee to wall’ is worse on my left leg.
Would you have any suggestions for some additional joint mobilisation exercises to try get some more bang for my buck? Or any ideas I could invest some time in?
Many thanks for your time!
Restriction at the front of the ankle during end range dorsiflexion is usually due to poor movement in the Talocrural joints.
Ideally – you want the talus bone to slide back a bit relative to the tibia as the ankle goes into dorsiflexion.
(best to look up google if you are not sure if what these are!)
There are exercises such as the “Dorsiflexion with band” exercise to help with this.
There are other ways of achieving this. I personally like to place my target ankle on the other knee whilst sitting. Place to web space over the talus and push it down as you guide the ankle into dorsiflexion using your other hand. Keep the foot COMPLETELY relaxed.
Probably best to google “Talocrural mobilisation” on youtube/google and see what other options there might be!
I broke my ankle in 1984 while training in the Navy. It was a simple fracture of the fibula. In 1990 I started having problems with it locking up. I hade surgery in 1995 to remove osteophytes that were growing in the joint. In 2000 I had another surgery to clean out the joint and remove more osteophytes. In 2009 I had surgery again to clean out the joint and remove scar tissue from soft tissue. I wound up developing issues with other joints in my foot. I’ve had three more surgeries. In surgery 4 besides cleaning out the joint and removing more scar tissue, I had bunion surgery on the big toe. In surgery 5, more scar tissue removal, more cleaning out the ankle, more cleaning out the joint at the base of the big toe, plus a strayer procedure on the Achilles’ tendon and a fusion of the subtalar joint. Last October I had a total ankle replacement. I now have significant dorsiflexion issues. The pain and pull are coming from the side of the ankle, on the inside. What can I do to help that area? As much as it scares me, I’m actually thinking about BKA due to the pain, life style impact and mobility issues.
Wow- That is quite a history of surgeries to the ankle/foot!
It’s quite common to have other joints start to experience issues following a surgery to the foot. (This is due to compensation and likely change in walking pattern)
Fusion of the subtalar will result in a lot of your ankle movement to be limited. (such as inversion and eversion).
You should be able to regain your ankle dorsiflexion as this mainly involves the talocrural joint. (this is a priority)
If you having the pull in the inside ankle area, this may be the location where the talus comes in contact with the tibia. If the talus sits forwards, this may causing ankle impingement and leading to reduced ankle dorsflexion.
You can try the joint mobilizations as indicated in the blog post to see if it helps. However – it is better if someone else does it to you.
I am a collegiate track and field athlete, and I am having some trouble getting my dorsiflexion to be even between my two legs. I had a navicular bone stress fracture over the summer that I didn’t fully recover from until October, and I have been running all season feeling fine. But, my times are not as good as expected, and I think it is because my reduced dorsiflexion is not allowing me to hit the ground with the force needed. What exercises should I key in on to get the good range of motion and dorsiflexion back?
Hi there Colby,
All of the exercises mentioned on the blog post will help.
Focus on the area that is the mainly limiting your ankle dorsiflexion (eg. is the calf tight? Or perhaps more so a joint restriction?)
Hello. How much improvement have you seen with these techniques? When I squat down, my heels lift a couple of inches off the ground, and I have been like this most of my life—I am 47. By doing theses exercises religiously, can I ever hope to get my feet flat while squatting?
As long as your bony/joint formation is not structurally stopping your full ankle dorsiflexion, these exercises work really well. (… but it can take some time!)
All the best.
In 2015 I had key hole surgery at the back my ankle for a snapped bone spur. I wonder if scar tissue has built up behind my outer ankle bone (Peroneal) as I often feel a throbbing pressure. Also this muscle feels stuck during the Soleus stretch and it feels painful and blocked. No doctor or physio etc is able to tell me what it is. They always say that it’s usually pointing the foot that causes this pain whereas mine is dorsiflexion.
I have flat feet but I make sure to not over pronate during the stretches.
Look forward to learning from you
It could be the Posterior TaloFibular Ligament that might be restricting your movement. (Just a guess based on the information provided)
If this is the case- Try to do a deep massage over the area of restriction. Follow up with more stretches in the dorsiflexion +inversion direction.
Hi Mark. Thanks for sharing tips to improve ankle dorsiflexion.
I’ve been using the ‘dorsiflexion with band’ technique you mentioned for about two months. Thanks to your tip I could finally pass the knee to wall test(about 11 cm apart). However my left ankle is extra stubborn and I don’t feel any stretch in the back nor front of the left ankle during the wall test, whereas with my right ankle I could immediately FEEL the tension in achilles tendon and soleus muscle after using the ‘dorsiflexion with band’. And when I force myself to go past certain range, I just feel pinch sensation even though the talus bone was pushed back.
At this point I don’t know what to do with left ankle anymore. I think my problem with left ankle is that I don’t know how to “activate” the soleus muscle and achilles tendon during dorsiflexion. Could you please give me some advice?
Thanks Mark for sharing your knowledge. I found some of these exercises and concepts to be very helpful!
Hope the exercises help you out.
Hello there, I am not sure that i will get a reply or not but here’s my question If you please please reply me. I am a stroke survivor with excellent recovery.my question is about when I walk and put my left heel on the floor my front part of the foot comes down very quick. While walking the dorsiflextion is very limited while sitting the dorsiflextion is not bad but standing it is restricted so when I walk I can’t lift the front part of my foot as much I can lift my right foot. My left side was Paralyzed due to stroke last year. I am driving aswell Manual car and mostly bare foot so My ankel get stronger n stronger and it is but for walking dorsiflextion is ristricted
It sounds like you might have a tight gastrocnemius. (can occur after having a stroke)
If this is a purely muscular issue, you will need to stretch it out and strengthen it (eg. heel raises off the edge of a step) as per mention in the blog post.
If you developed it from the stroke, there is likely to be some neurological factors. It is better to see a physiotherapist who is trained in treating stroke victims, however, I would recommend doing calf stretch
(with the leg straight) for 10-20 minutes a day perhaps even longer if tolerated).
I had a road accident 2 years ago. I got my Tibia, Fibula and ankle fractured. Some nerves and muscles were damaged too. Now more than half of my leg between knee and ankle is having a grafted skin. I have a rod inserted and Tibia bone has healed well . The problem is my ankle motion is half restricted. I cant run , jump or squat. But yes I don’t limp that much while walking. My surgeon says he isn’t sure whether my ankle motion will heal or not . Whether I will be able to run or not etc . He says any operation for ankle is not an option. The only way I can improve is exercise ( physiotherapy) . He has suggested me 3-4 exercises daily multiple times a day – walking on toes, walking on heels, ankle motion practice, and cycling. But …. he isn’t sure it will heal or not
Sir , I will be grateful for you help here . I just want to know can the dorsiflexion in my case be healed ? I am asking this because I still don’t have a sure answer whether will it heal or not .
Following ankle surgery, there is going to be an increase in scar tissue, tightness, weakness etc. It is common to have limited ankle dorsiflexion following the surgery.
In terms of will it heal or not? I have not assessed you personally, but I am sure it can definitely improve. To what extent though, I am not sure.
Thanks for this great article !
i have a two questions
i had a bad ankle sprain about a month ago and i am still suffering from a lack of dorsiflexion .
sometimes i feel the constraint in the Achilles sometimes in the front of the knee .
Should i work on strengthening and stretching both sides ( my foot cracks often but with no pain) ?
is it normal to still feel some tenderness occasionally in the lower fibula and ATL .
Thanks again Mark !
Keep stretching out that Achilles tendon. It can get quite tight due to altered walking pattern and/or wearing a camboot following a bad ankle sprain.
The tenderness will improve as it has only been 1 month.
Keep up the good work!
I had an accident and broken my ankle. It was a bi-malleolar compound fracture. It has been four months now. I have very limited dorsiflexion. Doctor told me it is 10 degree. He also said that the joint is damaged because of the fracture and told it is irreparable. He also added, cartilage and ligaments have been damaged so it will take several months to heal and to walk normally. Can you please suggest me on how to increase my dorsiflextion? I am just started to walking in 50% weight bearing with the support of walker and sometimes with single elbow crutch. There are lot of pain on the medial malleolus side. Thanks
Try to get to 100% weight bearing as quickly (and safely) as you can.
From here – you can implement these exercises to increase your ankle dorsiflexion.
Thanks a lot, Mark. I have started the exercises as per your advice.
Hey mark i’d like to know your thoughts on this article on how important toe mobility is for posture. Personally doing this before the exercises here has improved my gait and dorsiflexion noticeably and i think it could be benefiting others on this page.
Big toe extension is VITAL!
Without big toe extension, the foot will tend to pronate and fan outwards during the gait cycle.
Thanks for the link.
I am a college athlete with extremely severe lack of dorsiflexion. I have measured 0-2° of dorsiflexion laying down pulling my toes as far back to my shin as possible. I have soent countless hours doing stretching routines to try and fix them, even have been told to hold stretches for 2 to 3 minutes for each thing.
Everyone i have ever talked to about it has said i have the worst ankles they have ever seen, and im tired of spending countless hours stretching for no results. Obviously, it restricts my athletic performance along with many weightlifting activities i like to engage in.
I will be trying your above routine but extending the amount of time per exercise for each, but in the meantime, is there any other wise words of advice that you suggest? I’m just very frustrated and getting to the point of wanting to get an xray or mri to see if its like a genetic dysfunction in my ankles or something.
Where are you feeling the restriction when placing your ankle into full dorsiflexion?
Do you have high arches?
I can relate to Sean’s frustrations as I have similar issues with my ankles.
I’m curious about your question regarding high arches. I have high arches. What’s the connection?
I have undergone orif with 5 screws on June 6 th for a distal tibia fracture. As per the diagrams , I have movement restricted at points a & b. Now dorsiflexion and plantarflexion is limited, I have a stiff Achilles, antalgic gait and limp walking. Since the screws are placed engaging the lateral and medial malleolus , my question is will my range of motion improve with time ? Or it will never improve ?
It will for sure improve!
Following surgery – there will be a tonne of scar tissue/tightness in the area in which you will need to address.
The exercises mentioned here are great for that.
Hi iv got 3 questions Mark if you have time.
1) Is it better to do these exercises barefoot or while wearing my runner and orthotic?
2) For the strengthening exercises is it safe to do these on one leg – only my left ankle is bad?
That’s only 2 questions!
1) Do them bare foot. It is much easier to feel and sense the floor.
2) You can do the strengthening exercises for both. You can never be too strong!
I had surgery about 3 years on my ankle, tibia and fibula. I shattered my ankle on a obstacle course and after surgery and many months of healing and therapy my ankle hasn’t gotten any better. I have two plates and about 15 screws. My ankle is really stiff, and hurts alot when I try to walk. I still have a limp, especially when I rest and start walking. I always need to warm up my ankle before I can move anywhere. What can i do to fix this problem? My ankle is tight, and I feel like its stuck. My guess was the scar tissue or maybe the plates that get stuck on the screws or plates? I need all the help I can get. I want to live a normal life and be able to wear my heels again.
When you try to perform ankle dorsiflexion, where do you feel the restriction?
If it is more so at the front it is likely due to pinching of the joints (which can be exaggerated after any surgery).
Are the screws/plates directly impacting the joint line at the front? (check scans)
It is in the front if my ankle, after 3 years it still has the same pain. Do you think that’s correctable with surgery or continue doing the exercise? I only have the 2 plates and screws on the sides, where the tib and fib are located.
I feel that the screws should not be physically blocking the movement. (… unless the surgeon had a reason to do this?)
I would persist with the exercises. Further surgeries to the area may increase scar tissue and cause more stiffness!
I have the same injury and problem as Helga. My knee to wall is 10cm (injured left leg) vs 15cm. Now it is affecting my right side with hamstring problem. My pain is at (b) ie archilles tendon. It is almost 20 months now.
Appreciate your advice.
Hi CP Lim,
The exercises in the blog post post are a good place to start.
If your main concern is pain at the achilles, I would advise you to strengthen it as much as you can to see if that helps.
Hi, Mark. You’re site has helped me address my pelvic tilt/rotation, but in doing so has illuminated other issues with my mechanics. One of those is a serious lack of ankle dorsiflexion. Unfortunately, doing the soleus stretch you’ve outlined here seems impossible on my right leg (it works on my left).
Before I feel a stretch in the calf, my ankle folds a bit, my arch colapses, and my knee tilts inward (pretty sure my femur is actually rotating at the hip a little). I’d point out that I’ve noticed this also happening when I run downhill (right knee bending/rotating inward).
The only way I can prevent this ankle folding from happening is by laying an extremely grippy yoga mat on the floor which allows me to apply a some outward rotational torque without my foot sliding out. I have trepidation’s about doing this however, as I feel it twisting my knee in a way that doesn’t feel safe.
Now, I have a good arch on both feet while, but given how prone my right ankle is to bending inward, I’ve been doing strengthening exercises (such as your short foot exercise). I’d point out that I’ve never had ankle injuries, my legs are symmetrical in length, and the only knee problem I’ve had is on my right knee with ITB friction when doing excessive down hill running, which I believe is directly related to this lack of uneven ankle dorsiflexion.
How can I possibly stretch the soleus if my ankle/foot/knee fold and rotate before there is a stretch? Any insight you could lend would be greatly appreciated.
This is what I would suggest you do:
1. Place something under the inside of your medial arch. This is to minimise the collapse of your feet.
2. Place a resistance band around your ankle ( but under your malleoli). See exercise: “Ankle dorsiflexion with band”. You might need to play around with the positioning of your body, but the gist of the exercise will remain the same.
3. Start to “groove” pure ankle dorsiflexion without the collapse of your ankle. Only plunge forward as far as you can maintain good alignment.
It’s likely that you have some sort of joint restriction that is forcing your ankle to move in the path of least resistance ( for you – that is why your foot flares out/ arch collapse)
See how you go with that!
I have equinus contracture of left ankle, high arches. I am having ball of foot pain mainly under big toe and also pain in big toe. I also have idiopathic neuropathy in both feet, non diabetic. I am at a good weight, thin side.
I am doing an ankle stretching but with the neuropathic pain which exercises are the best to do to prevent excess nerve pain? Thanks for your help!
Your duck feet article and this have been exactly what I have been looking for. I definitely have both external hip rotation and limited ankle dorsiflexation that appears to be mostly related to my tight calves but also perhaps some joint restriction. I can only get about 3 cm from the wall! I am also an ultra runner and have frequent flare ups of peroneal tendonitis that I assume is related to those issues. Are there any other exercises I should add to address the tendonitis or should the exercises here and for external hip rotation probably be sufficient to start addressing that?
If you have duck feet, you are likely over using your peroneal muscles with lift your foot off the ground. (as opposed to your tibialis anterior)
Release your peroneal tendons, stretch them out, and strengthen them with a resistance band.
The exercises on the blog post should help out heaps too!
Great article! Thank you! Do you think PRP injection would help with dorsiflexion? Specially after numerous sprained ankles through the years???
PRP has been quite hit and miss (with what I have seen).
Theoretically – it should help with healing. I would still say exercises are better though!
I have flat feet and as a result of malalignment probably I’ve developed pain in my sacroiliac joint and foot as well specially on left side. Can you possibly help me how to consciously correct my gait and posture .
I have some great exercises for your flat feet.
View post: Fix your flat feet!
I have a joint restriction in both my ankles and have been doing the band dorsiflexion on and off for about a week now. Should the band be resting on a specific spot? I’ve been using PTP microbands and when tension is applied they tend to roll up and become quite thin so is this suitable?. Also, I am currently at 7cm on the Knee to wall test, can you give a rough estimate of how long it’ll take to reach that 8?
Make sure that the band is underneath the medial and lateral malleolus of the ankle. It should be pulling your ankles backwards.
I prefer to use power bands with this exercise as the band provides more pull onto the joint. Microbands may be too thin! (Not sure though as I haven’t personally used them before)
I have Joint mobilisation, i am trying the to do the lunge position. But i have pain in my knee in that position. Like there is some bubble in the knee and cannot hold for more that a few seconds. only my right knee has this problem. The other leg, i can do the exercies you have explained.
Is there other stretch that i need to do before on the knee that will help ?
Sounds like you might have something going on in that knee.
Where exactly is the pain in the right knee?
Thank you for the exercise. I’m a flat feet runner. Every time i want to increase my pace, my tendon feel hurts and i got shin splint. If i run to often (5 days a week) i got shin splint also.
And i just realize that my left foot finger (beside toe) are lifted up when i’m running, and it hurts the finger joint.
Will try the exercises and update later.
Hello Mark, thanks for your useful guide to improving dorsiflexion. My husband has a condition called Inherited Spastic Paraplegia, which affects his mobility and balance (he uses two ski-type walking sticks). Is this exercise useful for him? Are there others that would help?
They should be fine to do.
I would also add to keep the ankle in a stretched position for long periods throughout the day as well!
Focus on relaxed and slow breathing whilst stretching.
3) b (soleus stretche) feels like nothing is happening in the calf, although the calf is super tight and the shin angle very narrow, maybe a third of your angle.
Also because i cannot go much forward it’s difficult to apply significant body weight on the knees to deepen the stretch. Any thoughts? I want those 8 cm!!!
If you can’t get the stretch, you might need to focus on releasing the muscles.
If your joint is stiff, it may not allow you to get the ankle position to allow stretching of the soleus. If this is the case – try to do the joint mobilisations to create more room in the joint.
I have limited ankle dorsiflexion. I used to have impingement in the front of the ankle, but that has improved a lot after a lot of work with joint mobilizations. However, my right foot is always externally rotated (originating from the ankle/foot and not the hip or tibia, as far as I can tell). I have a lot more dorsiflexion on that side if I just let the foot stay turned out, but if I try to force it straight and bend my knee over it, I lost most of that range.
Do you have any advice for performing these exercises to correct an out-turned foot? I try very hard to keep my big toe screwed into the ground when doing stretches or banded mobilizations, but it’s very difficult to keep my foot pointing straight at times. Sometimes I even feel impingement at that part of the front ankle, and it is hard to relax the other muscles/Achilles into the stretch. I don’t think I have pronation issues as I have pretty high arches on both feet, but who knows?
Is there a way to make it easier to keep my knee tracking over the toes when I have such limited range in that orientation? Is there a different way I should be mobilizing the joint to fix impingement that only affects one side of the front of my ankle?
This is quite common!
Your ankle has basically learnt a way to by-pass pure ankle dorsiflexion by externally rotating.
You will need to continue with the ankle mobilisations.
On top of that – keep “grooving” the pure ankle dorsiflexion with the plunge exercise.
This post might help about a bit too:
How to fix Duck feet posture.
I cannot properly dorsiflex when my knee is straight and I go in an anterior pelvic tilt. I feel some pain and pull in my upper calf. I discovered this when I tried to stretch my hamstrings by staying on a chair in an anterior pelvic tilt position.
Do you know what is happening?
It could be:
1. Tight calf muscle
2. Neural tension
Addressing these points should help you out !
What is most important? Passive OR active dorsiflexion?
Active dorsiflexion is more important.
You need to have the ability to control and have strength in your full ankle range.
hi, can I still do the exercises after 2 years of the broken ankle never went to physio, but I can wear small heels
In the scenario where there are no other factors, I see no reason why you can’t do them.
i’ve been searching treatments for the equinus And your name seems to pop up frequently. I’ve read several paragraphs on the Equinus brace . It’s interesting because I’ve been to three podiatrist with foot pain and they all tell me to try a different orthotic that they want to sell me. And just recently I went to another Doctor Who diagnosed me quickly with equinus and yes! I have been wearing the brace for about two weeks now. It’s still kind of shocking how the other podiatrist never mentioned it before and this doctor #4 was pretty quick .I’ve had multiple x-rays, MRI, EMG test, and they all seem to be negative.
Do you have any articles that I can read on the success of the brace and what I should be experiencing while wearing it and any other tips would be greatly appreciate it. Oh and also if you can ,maybe briefly explain why three other train doctors were clueless about dorsefkection and Equinus
Good advice above.
I am in the early stages of an achilles rupture. I am still wearing the Vacoped boot, full weight bearing in the locked position, as advised by the hospital.
As I am a very keen cyclist/time trialist I have been doing some aerobic indoor cycling. No pain.
I am accepting of good pain for recovery, but I have some concern regarding how much muscle loss I have had? and, outlook for cycling/racing?
If it is just a tear, you will eventually be able to return to your usual cycling once you regain full function of your lower limb.
It’s a steady rehab process that will require a lot of work, but I see no reason why you wouldn’t be able to race again.
However- if it is a complete rupture, this is a different story!
Thanks for the reply.
It is a complete rupture!! :-(
George, that sucks!
If you have a complete rupture of the achilles tendon and if your foot does not move at all when you do the above test, then you might need to get it fixed!
Hi Mark,, many thanks for your efforts.
2 years ago i had a bad ankle sprain while playing football and my leg was immobilized in a plastic cast (below knee) for 21 days,,, after removing cast i tried all types of physical therapy,,, but till now and after 2 years ,i have many issues such as,,
Limited dorsiflexsion and when i stand or walk i feel like a stone under my heel. I still feel my foot contracted as it was in cast.
When i do knee to wall test i feel pinching pain inside front of ankle,,
I also have a mass loss in calf muscle… 2 cm loss in circumference.
I tried many therapies but unfortunately i didn’t have any improvement.
Can you advise please??
I would still recommend doing all of the exercises on this blog post.
Hi, I fully ruptured my Achilles Tendon in March last year (2017), whilst playing in a badminton match, and I was treated conservatively. I didn’t receive much (at least it wasn’t good) physio in the early months, so I’m still struggling with it now, nearly 16 months later. For the last few months I’ve been doing daily calf stretches (straight leg lunge, bent leg lunge, and bent-knee Soleus, 30 seconds x 3 each) and calf raises off a step ( I can manage three sets of 15 – just – whereas my good leg can do almost endless ones), and I do some mobilisation exercises using a resistance band looped around my foot. I also do proprioception and balance work on a Bosu Ball at the gym, and I swim a lot. Despite all of this, my calf muscle is still atrophied, I still have some tightness in my calf and the tendon, and there’s still some weakness in my ankle… but my biggest problem is dorsiflexion (current knee-to-wall on my injured leg is 8cm and on my good leg is 13cm). It feels like there’s a ‘clamp’ around the front of my ankle stopping me from reaching full dorsiflexion and I feel it when I’m going up and down stairs too. I’m guessing that it might be scar tissue causing it, but don’t know for sure. What can you recommend for easing this tightness and generally getting back to ‘normal’ which, for me, is doing plenty of walking and sports (although no more badminton, as I’ve now quit after 20+ years playing competitively). Thanks very much, Jo (I’m 42, by the way, no idea if that makes any difference!)
Common issue after a Achilles tendon rupture.
The main thing I find with most people is that the achilles tendon itself is likely thickened… and as a result, gets very tight! (thus limiting your dorsiflexion.)
You want to continue your calf stretches but try to bias the stretch towards the achilles tendon as opposed to the calf muscle itself.
You can do this by performing the exercises with the band as mentioned in the post. (you can do it without the band). Try to plunged over that ankle as much as you can.
If you can’t seem to get the achilles tendon to stretch, you can hold onto a weight to get more force going through that joint.
A tight achilles tendon will tend to cause the block feeling at the front of the ankle when going into ankle dorsiflexion.
If you still can’t get it, you might need some firm manual therapy directly to the tendon.
Hi Mark, I was wondering since dorsiflexion is the ankle is bent in a backwards direction. Then why walking on the heels is consider dorsiflexion but not plantarflexion? As when walking on the heels, your ankle is bent in a forward direction
I am not too sure of what you are asking.
Could you please clarify.
Sorry to make you confusing. Can I know walking on the heels is dorsiflexion or plantarflexion? And why is that?
Heel walking where you have toes up in the air would be dorsiflexion.
Walking on your tippy toes would be plantarflexion.
I have APT associated with hyperlordosis. Now I figured that I also lack full ankle dorsiflexion.
So can I do these exercises?
It is just that it shouldn’t worsen my APT.
I don’t know the science thats why asking.
I have got APT associated with hyperlordosis.
Now I figured out that that I also lack full ankle dorsiflexion.
1)So should I do these exercises???
It is just that it shouldn’t worsen my APT. I do not know the science thats why asking it???
2) will doing these exercises lead to knee hyperextension??
I hope so not.Waiting for your reply. Then only I shall start the above mentioned exercises.
You can have APT and lack of ankle dorsiflexion. You can do exercises for both issues.
They should not specifically lead to knee hyperextension.
I had a motorcycle accident in November just gone. I have been doing all of these excersises, stretches etc, for joint, calf and tendons, using balls, rollers, bands help from others and a tool for breaking up internal scar tissue. etc all to help with getting the dorsiflexion back to normal.
I cannot pass anything more than 5 degrees, with my toes against the wall my knee cannot touch the wall without the heel lifting.
I had a stress fracture in my ankle, medial deltoid repair and a fractured patella. Along with several puncture wounds.
Over the last 3 months I have seen no improvement. Any suggestions?
Where is the most restriction located when you try to dorsiflex?
Ive been trying to work on my ankle dorsiflexion for about a year now with no luck, glad I stumbled on this article. I cannot squat straight down without raising my heels or I will fall backwards. I cannot overhead squat for the same reason. I would really like to be able to do these lifts properly but my extremely limited ankle dorsiflexion will not allow it. If I havent seen much of an improvement after stretching / foam rolling in 1 year am I doomed? Is my problem structural?
There really shouldn’t be too much structural issue if you haven’t had any major injuries to the area.
It is also very doubtful you were born with tight ankles (… I could be wrong though!)
If you have been working on your ankles for this long and still no improvement, I would try to increase the duration and intensity of your stretches in as many different angles as possible.
Love this article, but in the beginning you said the restriction is either in front of your ankle or along the calves and Achilles. What should I do if I feel a restriction mostly along the shin muscle?
Sounds like the restriction may be in the area of the tibialis anterior/extensor digitorum.
If this is the case, try rolling and stretching it and re-assess ankle mobility.
Thank you for sharing your skills!
I didn’t realise i had such problem until today when i came across this site.
i knew i had minor posture problem butnot this.
i wanted to know if lacking dorsification can cause my feet to bend little left when i walk?! is it toally different problem altogether.
and i can’t deadlift with proper form which i just realised today.. can this cause it?
Lack of ankle dorsiflexion can cause your foot to rotate outwards as a compensation during walking.
I’m curious on how simply replacing sitting on a chair vs squatting on a chair (often, but not always) and letting my weight do the work to load and stretch deeper into ankle dorsiflexion can do. Would you recommend this?
If you can do this and it is practical for you, this is a great idea!
Very impressive article, exactly what I’ve been looking for. I have a question for you, could limited ankle mobility cause my feet to turn outwards? It’s not a hip problem or anything. My femur and my tibia are both perfectly straight in near perfect alignment, it’s literally just my feet that like to turn outward. If I drop into a full squat on my toes, everything is perfectly straight, but if my heals are on the ground, I have to turn my feet outward. You think increasing my ankle flexibility could correct my posture? My email [removed] if you’d like to reach me directly. I’d really appreciate it.
could limited ankle mobility cause my feet to turn outwards?
Yes! Due to limited ankle dorsiflexion, when you walk, the ankle will compensate for the lack of ankle mobility by external rotating and pronating (toe out gait).
The exercises mentioned on this post will be perfect for you to improve your squat.
Hello. Ive got high arch feet and lacking dorsiflexion. Its a joint restriction and I get pain when stretching. Do high arches always mean bad dorsiflexion? I’m unable to squat and deadlift.
High arches doesn’t always mean limited dorsiflexion.
On top of working through your joint, consider releasing/stretching the plantarfascia (under foot) and calf complex.
I do also have bow legs, they literally look like ( ) in fornt of a mirror. I have heard that vitD lackness results in that but it can’t be possible. I had enough sunbathing and my nutrition was good in my childhood. So I guess it can only be postural and I find some websites pointing that, however I don’t find them as reliable as your blog. Thank you for all of this by the way. My question is, do these moves would help fixing that problem too?
If you have high arches and lack of ankle dorsiflexion, it may have caused (or have been caused by) the bow legs. These exercise will help in this case.
Do you play a sport?
I have some doubt about foot inversion wat exercise do u recommend for fix the problem
Do you mean your ankle tends to be inverted? If so, you may have a supinated foot. Here are some exercises for that.