How to improve Ankle Dorsiflexion

ankle dorsiflexion

Ankle Dorsiflexion is the movement where the ankle (talocrural joint) is bent in a backwards direction.

Why is it so important?

Having full ankle dorsiflexion is ESSENTIAL in your posture and movement.

This is especially true for when you are moving! (walking, running, squatting and jumping)

Restricted ankle mobility can lead to undesirable compensations throughout your entire posture! (… especially excessive foot pronation and the development of a big toe bunion.)


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.

For more information: Medical disclaimer.


What limits your ankle dorsiflexion?

1. Tight calf muscles:

  • Gastrocnemius
  • Soleus
  • Plantaris
  • Achilles tendon
  • Flexor Digitorum Longus
  • Flexor Hallicus Longus
  • Tibialis Posterior

2. Tight ankle joints:

Limited ankle mobility in your joints can restrict the total amount of dorsiflexion available.

3. Joint capsule issues/Scar tissue:

Past injuries to the ankle (eg. sprain ankles) tend to block full ankle mobility.

4. Neural tension:

Did you know nerves can get tight too?

(Well… not the actual nerve itself,  but the connective tissue that surrounds it)

In this case – Ankle dorsiflexion is usually limited when the knee is completely straight.

5. Genetics

If you are born with limited ankle dorsiflexion, then there may be a limit as to how much you can reclaim.

How do you test for ankle dorsiflexion?

Knee to Wall test:

knee to wall test for ankle dorsiflexion

Instructions:

  • 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.
    • (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.

What should I aim for?

My recommendation: Aim to get the tip of the big toe approximately a “Fist-width” or more from the wall.


Where do you feel the restriction?

ankle mobility

The area where you feel the stiffness/restriction in your ankle should be the area you focus most of your attention on.

a) FRONT of ankle:

Your ankle dorsiflexion is limited by a Joint-related restriction.

b) BACK of ankle:

Your ankle dorsiflexion is limited by a Tendon restriction.

c) BACK of calf:

Your ankle dorsiflexion is limited by Neural tension and/or Muscular restriction.

Note: (More often than not, you will likely need to address all of these areas.)


How to improve ankle dorsiflexion

Image courtesy of usamedeniz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Note: All exercises are designed to be performed with nil pain! If you have any doubt, please feel free to catch me on the Facebook page.


1. Warm up

a) Ankle circles

Instructions:

  • 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. (Ankle Dorsflexion)
    • You might hear some clicking. As long as it isn’t painful, keep going!
  • Repeat 20 times in each direction.

2. Releases

a) Calf

Instructions:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  • Place one leg over the other.
  • Place the calf of the bottom leg on a foam roller.
  • Apply a downward pressure.
  • Roll your leg up/down the entire calf.
  • Pause on areas of tightness.
  • Duration: 1-3 minutes.

b) Achilles tendon

Instructions:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
  • Place the back of your Achilles tendon on a ball.
  • 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) Muscles under feet

Instructions:

  • Place your foot on a massage ball.
  • Apply pressure on the ball.
  • Roll your foot up/down.
  • Do this for 1-3 minutes.

3. Stretches

a) Gastrocnemius

gastrocnemius stretch

Instructions:

  • Stand on the edge of a step.
  • Lower both of your heels.
  • Do not allow for your foot arch to collapse.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in your calf muscle.
  • Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

b) Soleus

soleus stretch

Instructions:

  • 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 your foot arch to collapse.
  • Aim to feel a stretch in the back of your calf.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.

c) Toe flexors

toe stretch

Instructions:

  • Sit down on a chair.
  • Place your ankle onto the other knee.
  • Hold the big toe with your fingers.
  • Pull it backwards.
  • Aim to feel a stretch underneath your foot.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Continue the same stretch with the other toes.

4. Joint mobilisation

a) Traction

Instructions:

  • (To perform this exercise, you will need assistance. So – go grab a friend!)
  • Lie on the floor.
  • Instruct your friendly 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 joint

Instructions:

  • 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

Instructions:

  • 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.

d) Progression

Perform the above exercise whilst holding a weight on top of your knee.

5. Strengthening exercises

You might be wondering:

“What has strengthening got to do with increasing ankle dorsiflexion? Isn’t it just about stretching and stuff?”

… It has a lot to do with it!

If you do not have the muscular control over the full range of motion of your ankle joint,  the body will limit itself from going into those ranges. (… it’s a protective mechanism!)


a) Seated Dorsiflexion holds

exercises to strengthen ankles

Instructions:

  • 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

Instructions:

  • Whilst standing, lift the front part of your feet off the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • With control, slowly lower your foot.
  • Repeat 30 times.

6. Nerve flossing

Note: Nerve tension is not a common cause of limited ankle dorsiflexion.

Instructions:

  • 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.

Things to avoid:

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) Tippy-Toe walking

Walking on your toes will tighten up the muscles.

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 will it take to fix?

This is a very common, but very difficult question to answer.

Why?

… Everyone is different!

If you are consistent, you will see improvements every week.


What to do next…

1. Any questions?… (Leave me a comment down below.)

2. Come join me on the Facebook page. Let’s keep in touch!

3. Start doing the exercises!

95 thoughts on “How to improve Ankle Dorsiflexion”

  1. Mark,
    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.

    Reply
    • Hey Keith,

      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.

      Mark

  2. Hi Mark,

    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?

    Reply
    • 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?)

      Mark

  3. 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?

    Reply
    • Hey Jeff,

      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.

      Mark

  4. Hi Mark,

    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

    Reply
    • Hi Bree,

      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.

      Mark

  5. 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?

    Reply
    • 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

    • Hi Yousaf,

      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).

      Mark

  6. Hello,
    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

    Reply
    • 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 .

    • Hey Rajesh,

      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.

      Mark

  7. Hi Mark
    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 !

    Reply
    • Hey Yass,

      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!

      Mark

  8. Hi Mark,

    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

    Reply
    • Hey Baskaran,

      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.

      Mark

    • Hey Jessie,

      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.

      Mark

  9. Hello,

    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.

    Reply
    • Hi Sean,

      Where are you feeling the restriction when placing your ankle into full dorsiflexion?

      Do you have high arches?

      Mark

    • Mark,
      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?

    • Hi ,
      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 ?

    • Hey Chandan,

      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.

      Mark

  10. 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?

    Reply
    • Hey Mark,

      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!

      Mark

  11. 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.

    Reply
    • Hey Helga,

      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)

      Mark

    • 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.

    • Hey Helga,

      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!

      Mark

    • Hi Mark

      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.

      Thanks
      CP

    • 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.

      Mark

  12. 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.

    Thanks, Mark.

    Reply
    • Hey Steve,

      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!

      Mark

  13. 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!

    Reply
  14. 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?

    Reply
    • Hi Carleen,

      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!

      Mark

  15. Mark,
    Great article! Thank you! Do you think PRP injection would help with dorsiflexion? Specially after numerous sprained ankles through the years???

    Reply
    • Hey Ken,

      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!

      Mark

  16. 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 .

    Reply
  17. Hi Mark,

    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?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Danny,

      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)

      Mark

  18. Hello,

    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 ?

    regards,
    SendyR

    Reply
  19. Hi Mark,
    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.

    Reply
  20. 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?

    Reply
    • Hi Cheryl,

      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.

      Mark

  21. Hi,
    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!!!

    Reply
    • Hi Vulkan,

      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.

      Mark

  22. Hi Mark,

    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?

    Reply
    • Hi Danielle,

      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.

      Mark

  23. Hey Mark!

    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?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Krister,

      Active dorsiflexion is more important.

      You need to have the ability to control and have strength in your full ankle range.

      Mark

  24. 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
    Thanks

    Reply
  25. Hi Mark,
    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?
    Many thanks

    Reply
    • Hey George,

      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!

      Mark

    • 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!

      Mark

  26. 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??

    Reply
  27. 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!)

    Reply
    • Hey Jo,

      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.

      Mark

  28. 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

    Reply
    • Hi Mark,

      Sorry to make you confusing. Can I know walking on the heels is dorsiflexion or plantarflexion? And why is that?

    • Hey Nelson,

      Heel walking where you have toes up in the air would be dorsiflexion.

      Walking on your tippy toes would be plantarflexion.

      Mark

  29. Hi Mark
    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.

    Reply
  30. Hey Mark,
    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.

    Reply
    • Hey Ronnie,

      You can have APT and lack of ankle dorsiflexion. You can do exercises for both issues.

      They should not specifically lead to knee hyperextension.

      Mark

  31. Hi
    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?
    Thanks

    Reply
  32. Hi Mark,
    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?
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hey Brad,

      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.

      Mark

  33. Hi Mark,

    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?

    Reply
    • Hi Jeff,

      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.

      Mark

  34. 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?

    Reply
  35. 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?

    Reply
  36. 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.

    Reply
    • Hi Montana,

      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.

      Mark

  37. 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.

    Reply
    • Hi Mathias,

      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.

      Mark

  38. Hi Mark,
    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?

    Reply
    • Hi Ekrem,

      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?

      Mark

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