The foot and ankle function to provide our connection to the ground. When there are deficits in mobility and stability, problems can occur all the way up the movement chain. Considering humans are the only mammals that functions predominately bipedal (i.e., walking on two legs), it is extremely important that we have proper function at the foot and ankle. Loss of ankle mobility can occur due to multiple reasons such as increased sedentary time, shoes required for occupation such as dress shoes, footwear for sports such as cleats, weakness and improper rehabilitation following injury such as ankle sprains.
The following exercises can be used to address ankle mobility deficits.
Half Kneeling Dorsiflexion with Dowel
In the half kneeling position, place a dowel to the 4th toe of the front foot. Lean forward so the knee moves to the outside of the dowel. Pause for 3 seconds then return back. Repeat 15 times.
Half Kneel Overpressure Dorsiflexion Mobilization
In the half kneeling position, place a weight anywhere from 10-20# on the top of the knee. Lunge forward while pressing the weight down through the leg to provide an overpressure. Hold for 5 seconds then return to rest. Repeat 10 times.
Split Stance Toe Touch
Using a half foam roller or a wedge, place one foot forward so the heel is elevated and the toes are down. Place the back foot so the toes are up and the heel is down. Lean forward so as to provide a stretch over the back foot. Maintain contact with the floor with the front foot so as not to lose balance. Pause 3 seconds at the bottom. Return back up. Repeat 10 times each leg
Slantboard Lunge Mobilization
Place a slantboard in front of a chair or box. Place one foot onto the slantboard slightly angling it inward. Place your other foot on the box or the chair and lunge forward while keeping the rear foot heel down. Hold for 5 seconds then return to rest. Adjust the incline of the slantboard and distance from the chair as needed for a stretch that can be tolerated while maintaining the rear foot heel down to the floor.
Standing Heel Raise, Toe Raise
Stand with a lacrosse ball or tennis ball between the heels. Squeeze the ball while executing a heel raise through both legs. Maintain control of the ball all the way up and back down. Attempt to control the rate of lowering down. Repeat 15 times. Switch the ball to between the front of both feet. Squeeze the ball while executing a double toe raise. Avoid leaning back and try to control the speed of the lowering portion of the exercise. Repeat 15 times.
Standing Resisted Dorsiflexion
Place a versa loop resistance band around both feet. While standing focus on pulling one legs up, driving with the hip and pulling the toes up against the band. Pause and then return back down. Repeat with the other side. Alternate and repeat 15 times each leg.