The muscles of the ankle are connected to the shin, foot or calf area, so stretching other areas of the leg and foot can also stretch the ankle. For example, the muscle that stretches over the front of the ankle is the tibialis anterior. This muscle is connected to the shin, so stretches that target the shin are often good for stretching the ankle. When choosing ankle stretches, don't overlook the ones with names that seem to target other areas, as they may also work the muscles of the ankle. An athletic trainer or orthopedic doctor can provide guidance.
Tibialis Anterior Stretches
There are many stretches you can do to stretch out the tibialis anterior. With both the sitting shin stretch and the standing shin stretch, you pull the tibialis anterior by bending your leg. During the sitting shin stretch, you sit on your calves and lean your buttocks back onto your feet and hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. With the standing shin stretch, you balance your weight on one foot while raising the other foot toward your buttocks with your toes pointing upward. After pulling the toes of your foot toward your buttocks with one hand, you hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
Ankle Dorsiflexion and Plantar Flexion Stretches
Ankle dorsiflexion and plantar flexion stretch all of the muscles of your ankle. This is because they require you to flex your ankle, which engages these muscles. To do ankle dorsiflexion and plantar flexion stretches, sit down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of your and loop an exercise band around the ball of one of your feet. While holding the ends of the elastic in both hands, push your heel forward, hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat four times. Next, push your foot against the band and hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 10 times. You will repeat these stretches with the other foot when you are done.
Stretches Involving the Foot
Stretches that involve the foot work the muscles that connect the foot to the ankle, such as the quadratus plantae, flexor hallucis and the flexor digitorum brevis. Sitting toe curls, foot pronation and eversion, foot circles and pointed toe stretches are all ways to stretch the ankle using movement of the foot. For example, to do a sitting toe curl, sit down in a chair and put your ankle over on the knee of your other leg. Using the heel of your hand, slowly press the toes of the foot that's resting on your knee downward and toward the floor. Then, bend the arch of that foot downward, as well, and hold for 20 seconds and continue the stretch by bending your ankle so that it becomes as straight as possible. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 more seconds and repeat the stretch four times, then switch ankles.
All of these ankles stretches should be done slowly and only after warming up your muscles with some light exercises such as walking or jogging for five to 10 minutes. If you have joint problems or if you feel pain when you stretch, be sure to consult your doctor or other medical professional.
- Book of Body Maintenance and Repair; The American Physical Therapy Association
- ExRx: Standing Shin Stretch
- ExRx: Ankle
- American School of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: Stretching Exercises
- Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images