Ankle arthritis exercises can help you to unlock the pain relief you need to be able to adventure! Activities walking, hiking, skiing, and running are very dependent on your ankles. The healthier you can keep your ankle joints, the easier these activities will be. Imagine if you could walk on uneven ground or feel balanced on rough surfaces like sand when on vacation? It is possible to adventure even with ankle arthritis or chronic ankle pain. You just have to make sure your joints are ready to handle whatever you want to do! Let’s get to mastering these ankle arthritis exercises so you can learn to live again.
Alright, it’s time to build strong and healthy ankles. If you have dealt with lots of ankle sprains in the past or your ankle feels unstable, stiff, and/or painful these are exactly what you need. Even without a diagnosis of ankle osteoarthritis, if you are dealing with chronic ankle pain, these will help too!
It’s important to note that there is a chance not every single one of these ankle arthritis exercises will work for you. But want to know something, that’s okay!
You have 10 options below, so the recommendation is to choose between 2-4 exercises that feel good to you. Do them at least every other day for 4 weeks to start. To see the best results, you want to continue for up to 8-10 weeks. Ideally these would just become a part of your daily routine….for life 🙂
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First things first before we get moving
If you are dealing with significant and chronic ankle pain, it’s important to dissipate some of that pain before we get started.
If you are fearful to try some of the exercises because you are not confident in your ankle, that’s important to address too.
So how do we manage both of these before we try these exercises?
My favorite chronic ankle pain relieving tool is a compression sock. You do want to stay away from hard braces because those begin to work for your muscles, allowing them to get off easy and thus become weak.
Try one of these tight, soft socks to help give your ankle the confidence it is searching for. The good thing? They are usually inexpensive! They are absolutely worth a try.
These braces will help you feel more stable, more confident, and decrease pain. There are many different kinds of these braces but these are my top 3 favorites:
- SB SOX: these are very lightweight to easily fit into shoes but provide enough compression to bring you relief. Get a pair HERE for under $20.
- Techware PRO Ankle Brace: These highly rated braces are also light- weight and come in nude colors if you are looking to conceal the brace. Get a pair HERE for under $20.
- Sleeve Stars Ankle Brace: this brace would beneficial if you are looking for a little more support. The brace is soft but does have extra velcro straps for a little more help. Get a brace HERE for under $20.
For all of these braces, it is important that you measure your foot as directed and purchase the right size. If they are too big or too small, they may not provide the benefits described.
TOP 11 ankle arthritis exercises
Now let’s get right into it. As an arthritis specialist and physical therapist I know how much of a difference these exercises can make for your feet and ankles. As mentioned above, don’t get overwhelmed by thinking you need to do all of these!
Try them out and choose the top 2-4 that make you feel the best. Try to do these at least every other day if not every day for best results.
If one exercise doesn’t make you feel good, that is okay! Move on to the next one. The goal is to feel better after these exercises, not worse.
1. Foot doming
This exercise may feel a little weird at first but it’s so important for healthy feet! The idea is to work hard to keep all of your toes on the ground as you make an arch with your foot.
This will help to strengthen the arch of your foot. Complete 5-10 reps of this one. The good news it can be done easily when sitting watching tv or at the computer!
2. Toe curls
Use a hand towel or a washcloth on a slippery floor for this exercise. Move the towel further towards you by curling your toes. This exercise works those tiny muscles in your toes to help bring more stability to your foot.
Complete 3-4 reps of curling the towel all the way towards you.
3. Foot rolling
When you have ankle arthritis, it is important to keep the mobility in both your ankles and your feet. Many times, your feet and toes can become stiff. Certain self massage techniques can help to bring relief to your feet and ankles.
This is because massage can help bring blood flow to the area. Blood helps to transport inflammation out of the joints and to the “trash”. Using one of these spiky balls can help to bring more blood flow to the area.
This technique would be great to use if you are sitting for a long period of time and want to prevent your foot from getting stiff. It would also be helpful when you are dealing with an increase in pain.
This is my favorite foot massage kit because it comes with 3 different objects you can use. If your feet are sensitive, I would highly recommend this. Even if they aren’t sensitive, you may find you like one texture over the other.
4. Banded Ankle Press Outs
You will need a longer resistance band for this one (these are my favorite brand). This exercise helps to stretch out the muscle that is on your shin and also gets your calf working too! Both play vital roles in your foot and ankle, especially if you are dealing with chronic ankle pain.
Try to complete 5-10 of these. The slower you go and the more resistance you have, the harder it will be.
5. Calf Raises
Your calf muscles play a role in your ankle stability which is why they made this ankle arthritis exercise list! Raise up on your toes and then slowly let your heels come back down to the floor. You can do this on a step to increase the intensity.
Complete 15-20 reps and use upper body support if needed as this can challenge your balance. Try to reach full range of motion at the top.
6. Banded foot eversion/inversion
You will need a small circle band to complete this. Get our EXCLUSIVE Keep the Adventure Alive Bands HERE. Eversion is when your foot goes away from your body and inversion is when you are going closer to your body.
This one can be a little tricky as the movement is a small one. Start with a light resistance band and work your way up. Complete 10-12 reps each direction, focusing on the most painful side.
7. Multi directional stepping
This exercise helps you to gain more confidence putting weight on one leg. You can use support of a kitchen counter or chair initially if you do experience pain putting a majority of your weight on one leg.
You will put most of your weight on one leg and tap forward-sideways-backwards with the other. To make this the most difficult, try to tap as light as possible.
Complete 8 revolutions (forward-sideways-backwards = 1) and then switch to the other side.
8. TRX Rotational Balance
This exercise is great if you aren’t super confident in your balance. The TRX straps will give you some support when trying to build your ankle stability. Balance exercises are some of THE most important when it comes to ankle arthritis exercises. If you don’t have suspension straps, I highly recommend you get some, this is my favorite budget-friendly option HERE. (Here’s my article on the 10 BEST TRX leg exercises for more inspiration!)
Stand with one foot in front of the other. Make sure you have your balance before you begin moving.
Move the band side to side and keep your feet as stationary as you can. Start with 30 seconds on one side and 30 seconds on the other.
Keep in mind, the foot in the back is going to be doing most of the work so you may want to start with the less painful side in the back, just so you know what to expect!
9. Tandem band pass
Grab one of our EXCLUSIVE resistance bands for this balance exercise. Now we lose the straps and use a resistance band to pass back and forth. You can also use a different object too, something that only weighs a pound or two. The heavier the object, the harder it will be.
Stand with one foot in front of the other one for this exercise too. Make your feet a little wider if you have a hard time in this position.
Try to hold for 30 seconds to start and increase the time as you are able. Check out my top 5 favorite balance exercises in this article!
10. Elevated tandem with head turns
This helps you to prepare to stand on one foot. It can also be harder than it looks!
Use a lightweight object, like a cone or a tissue box, something that you can only apply light pressure to before it moves or breaks. The idea is to put most of your weight in your back foot and keep virtually no weight in the front.
Once you master this, you can add in head turns. You may be surprised at how hard this is!
Try to complete for 20-30 seconds to start and increase time as able.
11. Small hops
This can be a difficult exercise if you have ankle arthritis. But, if you have mastered all of the above exercises, try to add this one. Listen to your body and if it says “woah I’m not ready for this” evidenced usually by significant pain, modify.
I like starting this one with both hands on a kitchen counter, a walker, or the back of a sturdy couch or chair. Jump up and down as high as you feel comfortable with to start.
Find a few of these exercises that are appropriate for you. You can determine this by monitoring your pain during and after. If you notice pain >5/10 during or after, that is a sign from your joints it’s time to modify or choose something else.
You want to make sure you take care of your feet and ankles because they are vital for almost everything we need to do during the day! These 11 ankle arthritis exercises can help you stay healthy and limber.
Oftentimes I get asked if there if there is anything you could be doing to reverse osteoarthritis. The answer is yes! I put my top five action steps when it comes to reversing osteoarthritis below. Download the free guide today and get on the list to receive our newsletter every week.
Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this post or site.