Ways to Improve Your Ankle Mobility and to Make it Stick

The ankle is an important part of the body.  It has a great effect on running, walking, and for lifting, particularly when it comes to squatting and deadlifting.  If someone has limited ankle mobility, it can create compensations at the midfoot, knee, hip, low back, etc.

When we speak about ankle mobility, the motion that we usually speak about is dorsiflexion or the ability to bring your toes towards you/bring your knee over your toes.

Having sufficient ankle mobility allows for performance of daily life activities, but also for higher level activities as mentioned before.  

To test your ankle mobility, perform the Knee to Wall Test.

Place your foot 4 inches away from a wall.  Keep your heel flat on the ground and pointing straight ahead.  Then, without lifting your foot up, try to touch your knee to the wall.

If you can touch from 4 inches, then you have sufficient ankle mobility to squat, run, etc.  If you don’t, then here are some ways to improve that ankle mobility.

If you feel tight on the back of your calf and/or achilles is limiting your knee to wall test, try this:

Self-Myofascial Release

If you are feeling pinching or tightness in the front or side of the ankle and that is limiting your knee to wall test, then try this:

½ Kneeling Banded Ankle Mobilizations

Key Points:

-Attach heavy duty band to a stable object.

-Place other end of band around ankle just below lateral and medial malleoli (ankle bones on the inside and outside of your ankle).

-Make sure to keep foot flat on the ground.

Self Talocrural Mobilization


Key Points:

-Place web of hand on the front of your ankle just below the medial and lateral malleoli.

-Apply pressure backwards as you bring your knee forward.

Self Tibial IR Mobilization

Key Points:

-Get a firm grip on your upper tibia just below the knee joint.

-Internally rotate your tibia.

-Make sure to not allow your knee to go into valgus/go towards midline as you do this movement.

If you are dealing with limited mobility, try these different techniques.  If have pain with any of these and the pain doesn’t improve as you do these techniques OR your mobility doesn’t improve, make sure to seek out a licensed healthcare practitioner.

Now, if you can improve your ankle mobility, but you have been attempting to maintain it for years OR you improve it and it just reverts back to being “tight or stiff”, what gives?

Often times when we improve mobility at any joint or area of the body, we need to train your body, specifically our nervous system, to be able to maintain this “new” mobility.  If we don’t give it a stimulus to maintain this mobility, then the body will typically revert back to what it knows.

So, here are some ways to work on controlling this mobility with a few motor control drills.

Bilateral Plantarflexion to Single Leg Eccentric

Key Points:

-Go up on 2 legs and go down on one, slowly.

-When you reach the position where your foot is parallel with the floor, slightly bend it.

-Then, think of slowly pulling your heel towards the floor.

-Perform for 2-3 sets x 10-12 reps.

½ Kneeling Loaded Kettlebell Dorsiflexion

Key Points:

-Perform slow and controlled.

-Maintain foot in a straight ahead position.

-Perform for 2-3 sets x 10-12 reps.

If you are dealing with limited ankle mobility and are having trouble maintaining it, then give these options at try.

Now that you have tried these 2 drills to work you maintaining your ankle mobility, consistently work on them and train with squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc. within your available mobility to train your body to use this “new” mobility.

Andrew Millett