How to Increase Ankle Mobility

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How to Increase Ankle Mobility

Think about all the activities you perform during the day. Walking, sitting, and even picking up objects require you to use your ankles. If your ankle mobility is limited, you're at a higher risk of injuries like sprains and fractures. Limited mobility can also lead to arthritis and other health issues. So to prevent this, here are some effective techniques to increase ankle mobility.


Causes of Limited Ankle Mobility

 

woman holding ankle on yoga mat
Credit: Envato Elements/ Rawpixel

Poor ankle mobility can stem from several factors, some of which might surprise you:


  • Sitting for Too Long: Spending too much time sitting can lead to tight calf muscles and stiff ankles because they're not being stretched or used regularly.
  • Wrong Footwear: Wrong shoes that don't support your feet properly can lead to poor ankle mechanics. High heels, for example, can shorten calf muscles over time.
  • Previous Ankle Sprain Injuries: According to research, ankle sprains account for 16–40% of lower limb injuries reported by athletes. Injuries like this can cause scar tissue and stiffness. If not properly rehabilitated, they can reduce ankle movement.
  • Lack of Stretching: Not stretching regularly can cause the muscles around the ankles to tighten which in turn could reduce the range of motion.
  • Genetic Factors, Genetic Factors, and Age: Some people may have naturally tight joint structures or muscle compositions that limit their range of movement. In particular, younger females typically have a greater range of motion in their ankles than younger men, while older males have a greater range of motion in their ankles than older females.

How Do You Know If You Have Ankle Mobility Issues?

 

woman stretching and holding ankles
Credit: Envato Elements/ ShintarTatsiana

Here are some signs that you might have restricted ankle mobility:


  • If you struggle with movements that require bending your ankle, such as squatting or walking up stairs, it could indicate limited mobility.
  • If you find yourself tripping or losing your balance more often, it might be due to limited movement in your ankles which affects your ability to walk smoothly.
  • When one ankle doesn't move as well or as far as the other, this imbalance can suggest a mobility issue.
  • Any persistent pain or discomfort around the ankle, especially during movement or after prolonged rest, can be a sign of mobility issues.
  • Try moving your ankle in all directions (up, down, and side-to-side). A reduced range of motion compared to your other ankle or to what is generally expected could indicate a mobility problem.

 

What's Ankle Dorsiflexion?

 

man stretching ankle
Credit: Posture Direct

Dorsiflexion is a term used to describe the movement of lifting the foot upwards towards the shin. It's an essential motion that plays a crucial role in activities like walking, running, and climbing stairs. When you dorsiflex, the angle between your foot and your leg decreases.

If your ankle joint dorsiflexion range is limited, it can change your walking pattern, increase the risk of tripping, and even cause injuries in other parts of the body like the knees and hips. Having good dorsiflexion helps you move smoothly and keeps your weight balanced when you walk or run. It's especially important for athletes, as it helps them perform better.


How to Improve Ankle Mobility

 

woman exercising ankles
Credit: Envato Elements/ flaviutanase

Here are 8 exercises to increase ankle mobility:


1) Ankle Circles

  • Sit on a chair and extend one leg out.
  • Slowly rotate your foot in a circular motion, making large circles.
  • Do this for 30 seconds, then switch directions.
  • Repeat with the other foot.

Tip: Make sure to move only your ankle. The rest of your leg should be still.


2) Wall Calf Stretch

  • Stand facing a wall with one foot behind the other.
  • Keep your back heel on the ground and lean forward towards the wall until you feel a stretch in your back leg’s calf.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch legs.

Tip: Keep your back straight and hips facing forward.


3) Towel Stretch

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Place a towel around the toes of one foot, hold both ends and gently pull the towel towards you while keeping your knee straight.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch feet.

Tip: Don’t pull too hard; the stretch should feel comfortable and not painful.


4) Downward Dog

  • Start in a plank position and lift your hips up and back. Make sure to press your heels towards the ground.
  • Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Focus on pushing your heels down to stretch your calves and hamstrings.

Note: If your heels don’t touch the ground, that’s okay. The goal is to feel a good stretch in your ankles and calves.


5) Step-Ups

  • Find a step or a stable platform.
  • Step up with one foot. Press through the heel to lift your body up, and step down backward.
  • Repeat 10 times on each side.

Tip: Focus on a slow, controlled movement to strengthen your ankles.


6) Seated Dorsiflexion Stretch

  • Sit with your legs straight out and wrap a resistance band around your feet, holding the ends with your hands.
  • Flex your feet back towards you and hold for a few seconds, then release.
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

Tip: Keep the tension in the band consistent.


7) Squat with Ankle Hold

  • Perform a squat while holding onto something stable like a door frame or squat rack for balance.
  • As you squat down, stay on your heels and try to push your knee forward to increase the stretch in your ankles.
  • Hold the squat for a few seconds, then stand up.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Tip: Keep your back straight and chest up.


Advanced Ankle Mobility Exercises

 

woman stretching ankles
Credit: Envato Elements/ Unai82

If you're looking to further improve your ankle mobility, advanced exercises may be a better option. Here are a few options to consider:


1) Single-Leg Deadlifts

  • Stand on one leg, with the other leg slightly bent behind you.
  • Lean forward with your body while lifting the back leg, keeping your standing leg slightly bent.
  • Your body should form a 'T' shape.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 times on each side.

Tip: Focus on keeping your balance.


2) Banded Lateral Walks

  • Place a resistance band around your legs just above your ankles.
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and then perform a half-squat.
  • Step to the side in a controlled manner, keep the band taut, and walk sideways for about 20 steps, then switch directions.

Tip: Keep your movements slow and controlled to maintain tension in the band.


3) Jumping and Landing Technique Training

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Perform a small jump and focus on landing softly on your toes, rolling down to your heels.
  • This can be practiced from a small height, like a step.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.

Tip: Concentrate on soft landings to reduce impact.


4) Eccentric Heel Drops

  • Stand on a raised platform or step with your heels hanging off the edge.
  • Rise onto your toes, then slowly lower your heels down below the level of the step.
  • Drop slowly for about 5 seconds, then raise back up quickly.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.

Tip: The slow-lowering phase is crucial as it strengthens the muscles and tendons.


5) Plyometric Hops

  • Start with small hops on one foot, focusing on quick, explosive movements off the ground.
  • You can increase difficulty by hopping over a line or small obstacle.
  • Do 10-20 hops on each foot.

Tip: Make sure you're performing these on a soft surface to reduce impact and protect your joints.


How to Prevent Ankle Injury

 

doctor checking woman's ankle
Credit: Envato Elements/ lakobchuk

Warm up with at least five to ten minutes by doing some light cardio, such as walking or jogging. Then, gradually include ankle exercises. If you feel any pain, reduce the intensity or frequency. Make sure to have the proper form over the number of repetitions to prevent strain.


Summary


Improving ankle mobility is crucial for daily activities and athletic performance. Remember to warm up before starting, progress at a comfortable pace, and stay consistent with your routine.

Looking for a way to boost your ankle mobility exercise? Check out Acupoint resistance bands. These durable, high-quality bands are perfect for a range of exercises. Shop with us today.

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