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


  • 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

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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • (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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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, 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.


  • 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.


… 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!

118 thoughts on “How to improve Ankle Dorsiflexion”

  1. Hi,

    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.

    Thank you!

    • Hey Steeve,

      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!

  2. Hello,my upper tibia had a fracture,doctor put cast on it ankle also
    Motionless for 40 my ankle is stiff and have only 20 percent movement,also my ball of foot have severe pain how to fix this problem.

    • Hey Tushuar,

      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)


  3. 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!!

  4. 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

    • Hello Summer,

      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)


  5. Hi Mark,
    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.

    • Hi Brianna,

      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)


  6. Hi Mark,

    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!

    • Hey Lewis,

      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.


  7. 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

    • Hi Shira,

      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.


  8. 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?

    • Hi Jacq,

      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


  9. Mark,

    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!

  10. Hey Mark,

    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,

    Mark G

    • 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)


  11. 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!

    • Hey Chris,

      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!


  12. 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.

    • 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.


  13. 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?

    • 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?)


  14. 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?

    • 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.


  15. 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

    • 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.


  16. 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?

    • 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 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).


  17. 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

    • 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.


  18. 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 !

    • 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!


  19. 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

    • 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.


  20. 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.

    • 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.


  21. 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.

    • Hi Sean,

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

      Do you have high arches?


    • 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.


  22. 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?

    • 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!


  23. 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.

    • 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)


    • 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!


    • 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.


    • 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.


  24. 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.

    • 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!


  25. 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!

  26. 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?

    • 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!


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

    • 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!


  28. 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 .

  29. 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?


    • 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)


  30. 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 ?


  31. 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.

  32. 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?

    • 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.


  33. 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!!!

    • 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.


  34. 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?

    • 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.


  35. 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?


    • Hi Krister,

      Active dorsiflexion is more important.

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


  36. 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

  37. 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

    • 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!


    • 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!


  38. 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??

  39. 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!)

    • 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.


  40. 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

    • 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.


  41. 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.

  42. 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.

    • 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.


  43. 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?

  44. 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

    • 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.


  45. 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?

    • 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.


  46. 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?

  47. 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?

  48. 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.

    • 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.


  49. 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.

    • 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.


  50. 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?

    • 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?


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