Today we are talking about all things foot and ankle! This is an often overlooked area when it comes to training, but it is INCREDIBLY important. Why? Because your feet are the foundation for the majority of movements and exercises! Patience and consistency will be key to improving your foot/ankle range of motion and stability through all planes of motion. I personally have had to work relentlessly on my own ankle mobility and stability for years to get me to where I am today, and I’m not even close to satisfied yet!
Building strong feet and ankles can also greatly improve conditions such as plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, and prevent/rehab ankle injuries (note: I am not a doctor, so always consult with yours if you believe you suffer from any of these to ensure you are on the right path towards healing). In addition to following proper exercise protocol, wearing high-quality, well-fitting shoes is so important during a workout. Correct footwear supports your joints and creates proper alignment during movement. If you haven’t already, be sure to read our previous blog on selecting the right shoes for you!
Below is a list of several exercises to build feet and ankles that are not only mobile, but stable too! These are not “instant fixes,” but rather exercises that should be incorporated consistently over a longer period of time to ensure lasting change. Happy foundation building!
Mobility work is important for creating more flexible, pliable joints that can move and adapt through movement without injury. Lots of people dread mobility work, but if you’re familiar with how we run things at Straight Shot you KNOW how much we value it. Good mobility in your ankles allows you to keep a more upright squat, lunge, and step up, and is key for increasing range of motion in your knees and hips!
Lax Ball Feet:
Lots of people know the importance of rolling out muscles in their calves, but few people know the importance of rolling out your feet! This is a great warmup to open up your arches, which allows you to build the proper foundation during movement! Rolling out your feet also helps manage pain in tension in your heels from conditions such as plantar fasciitis.
Foam Roll Calves:
This is another great way to release tension built up in your gastrocnemius and soleus (calf muscles), which will allow for greater range of motion in your workouts for your feet and ankles.
Band Ankle Mob:
Another great warmup to increase mobility, banded ankle mobs physically “push” the articulation of your foot and tibia fibula slightly backwards while you drive your knee forwards. What the heck does this mean? Basically, you are giving your ankle joint a greater range of motion that would otherwise be impossible without that external force from the band.
Now that we’ve opened up your feet and ankles, we have to add in some stability! Mobility without stability is like trying to drive a car with loose wheels; they can move in all kinds of directions, but don’t have the support to properly and safely take the rest of the car with it (I know nothing about cars, so apologies if this analogy is technically inaccurate). Give your feet and ankles the support they need to be both mobile and indestructible!
Toe Curls with Towel:
Towel curls are a great way to strengthen up your toe flexors and the arch of your foot. Learning how to create a strong arch and grip the ground prevents uneven pressure in your feet. If foot pressure is uneven, this can lead to poor posture and movement up through your knees, hips, and even shoulders!
4 Way Toe Taps
Single leg exercises improve your balance and coordination in your lower body. Taps are a great way to challenge that by adding in some extra movement! Make sure you grip the ground with your planted foot and keep your knee in line with your toes.
Single-Leg Lateral Hop
If the toe taps feel too easy, try these lateral hops! If needed, slow these down and make sure you keep your landings soft instead of slamming your foot down. To add in some extra stability work, pause and hold each landing for at least 3 seconds.
Double KB/DB Step Ups
Last but certainly not least, it’s time to add some weight! Adding load on step-ups increases strength in your core, legs, and feet while still challenging your balance. Just like the lateral hops, add a pause at the top of each step up to really challenge the stability of your step-up foot.
Building mobile, strong feet and ankles creates a fantastic foundation that improves your movement and coordination from the ground up! If you are having trouble figuring out exactly how to structure exercises like the ones listed above, reach out to us to see how we can help you move well for life!