Exercises for the toes, feet and ankles


These exercises are helpful for problems and pain affecting the toes, feet and ankles.

Remember to drink water while you're exercising and make sure you have plenty of space around you to avoid injury.

It's a good idea to start slowly and build up gradually if you're new to exercise. For more information and tips on getting started, see our Getting started with exercise page.

Get advice and support from a healthcare professional or fitness instructor if you have any concerns about starting a new exercise plan.

Exercises for toes, feet and ankles

Physiotherapist Jay Milomo is joined by James who lives with arthritis. Together they demonstrate commonly recommended ankle, foot and toe exercises for people living with arthritis.

Achilles tendon and plantar fascia stretch

Loop a towel around the ball of your foot and pull your toes towards your body, keeping your knee straight. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat three times on each foot.

Plantar fascia stretch

Sit down and rest the arch of your foot on a round object, such as a tin of beans. Roll your foot on the tin in all directions for a few minutes. Repeat this exercise twice a day.

Sitting plantar fascia stretch

Sit down and cross one foot over your knee. Grab the base of your toes and pull them back towards your body, until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat this three times.

Wall push

(a) Facing a wall, put both hands on the wall at shoulder height and place one foot in front of the other. The front foot should be around 30cm (12 inches) from the wall. With the front knee bent and the back knee straight, bend the front knee towards the wall, until the calf in your back leg feels tight. Relax and repeat 10 times.

(b) Repeat (a) but bring the back foot forward a little, so that the back knee is slightly bent. Repeat this 10 times.

Ankle range of motion

Bend your ankle up towards your body as far as possible, then point your toes away from your body. Repeat this 10 times.

Ankle rotation

Move your ankle around slowly in a circle. Do this 10 times one way, then repeat in the opposite direction.

Towel pickup

Sit down with a towel on the floor in front of you. Keeping your heel on the ground, pick up the towel by scrunching it between your toes. Repeat 10 to 20 times. As you improve, add a small weight, such as a tin of beans, to the towel.

Standing heel raise

Using a counter or chair for support, rise up on your tiptoes, with your knees straight. Slowly lower your feet back down. Repeat this 10 times.

Toe spread

With your feet resting on the floor, spread your toes apart as far as possible. Hold for five seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Alphabet writing

While sitting down, write the alphabet in the air with your big toe, by only moving your ankle. Try to write the whole alphabet twice a day.

Ankle out

Make a loop out of a piece of elastic fitness band, and hold it in place, either with the leg of a table or chair, or with your other foot. Place one foot in the loop. Keeping your heel fixed on the ground, turn your toes outwards against the resistance of the band. Bring your foot back to the original position slowly. Build up to repeating this 10 times, and doing the set three times a day.

Basic balance

Using a stable object such as a kitchen counter for support, balance on one foot. Build up how long you do this for, aiming for one minute. Try to do this three times, and repeat the set twice a day.

Take any opportunities to practise standing on one leg - building it into your daily activities will help you improve.

When you feel confident with this basic balance exercise, you can make it harder by standing on a cushion or pillow. Build up the amount you do slowly.

When you can easily balance on a pillow, and if you’re feeling confident, go back to standing on the floor and repeat the basic balance exercise with your eyes closed.