Decreasing Ankle Soreness and Increasing Ankle Mobility

For many athletes and dancers, the feet are their lifeline. Constant practice, dancing, and competing in games will take a toll on your feet.

Lucky for you, here are several methods aimed at improving the mobility of the foot and ankle health of an athlete and dancer. This will require some specific tools – a lacrosse ball and a resistance band. These movements can be performed at home, or in the gym, and I’ve done my best to keep in mind the traveling dancer, since all dancers cannot be under a watchful eye at all times.

Research shows that limited ankle dorsiflexion may alter knee mechanics, along with the mechanics seen at the hip. So if you lack ankle dorsiflexion or the ability to absorb force in an eccentric manner (to account for stability while in plantarflexion), you will be reducing your optimal performance output for sure.

For example, if you cannot dorsiflex to an appropriate range (pull your toes upwards to the front of your tibia), then squatting range of motion will be altered, along with knee valgus (knees caving in) occurring as well. (1)

To apply this to bboys, that means backflips are altered, push-off for power moves is altered, and footwork is altered. Pretty big deal.


Where Do You Stand Now?

Standards for ankle mobility are defined by the FMS. 5” is a lovely goal, but in my experience it is very unlikely for any person to see that due to a number of things: “modern” shoewear, extended duration of time in compromised postures, and simply, soft tissue restriction from lack of daily movement or even on the opposite end – an injury such as an ankle sprain.

If you have 4” to 5” of ankle mobility, it is likely that your ankles’ mobility are not the largest determining factor for your performance woes.

Of course, this lack of mobility could be attributed to either a soft tissue or fascial related problem, or a true structural issue, in which the bones of the feet are mal-aligned.

Viva La Resistance (Band)

Adding an external force in the form of a resistance band in the opposite direction of your ankle mobility issue may cause a noticeable improvement.

Also, it is possible to reduce tension via band distraction. Tension can be generated from compression of the bones of the foot, along with fascia being taut due to activity, so you can enable a “lengthening” of this fascia and slight distraction by simply relaxing your ankle/foot, and pulling in a backward direction while wrapping a band around your foot.

Further, here are other methods that I would classify as active ankle mobility exercises.

3 Way Ankle Mobility (Dorsiflexion)

3 Way Ankle Mobility
Arrows represent the direction that the knee is taking on the ankle, and the small arrow represents the angle of the ankle.

Toe Pulls (Plantarflexion)

Combining Methods (Toes Elevated Dorsiflexion with Resistance Band)

Afterwards, it is helpful to confirm that what you are doing is actually doing something, so re-test and check out your results.

Practical Portion

At the end of the day, I’d like to provide something actionable and practical as well. With that in mind, here are the steps I would take to improve my ankle mobility scores.

Before Practice or At Home

  1. Foam Roll / Lacrosse Ball – 10 passes on each body part, hold for 30 sec on tight parts (calf, popliteal, hamstring, glute)
  2. Band Mobility/Distraction – 2x10reps/side
  3. 3 Way Ankle Dorsiflexion – 2x(3×5/side)/leg
  4. Toe Pulls – 2×10/side

Keep it funky.



1 – Effect of limiting ankle-dorsiflexion range of motion on lower extremity kinematics and muscle-activation patterns during a squat. Macrum E, Bell DR, Boling M, Lewek M, Padua D.J Sport Rehabil. 2012 May; 21(2):144-50. Epub 2011 Nov 15. (

Further Reading