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Toe and Ankle Stretches

Active stretches to help you kneel more comfortably

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Toe and Ankle Stretches

ankle stretches with tops of feet on the floor, lean forwards and slowly sit upright. Kneeling ankle stretch with toes tucked under. Lean forwards and slowly sit upright. In both cases press toes into the floor as you sit upright.

If you can't kneel because your ankles are too tight then these toe and ankle stretches may help. The key in all of them is to activate (and then relax) the toes by pressing them into the floor. I've also include simple movements that help you to add weight to the stretch and then take it off. In all cases work slowly and smoothly. Smoothly add weight and smoothly subtract it again.

Moving towards kneeling from all fours

To learn to kneel comfortably as shown below, start of on all fours.

gradual quad stretch while kneeling, ankle stretch, hero pose variation, hero pose for beginners

Slowly move your hips and torso backwards. When your weight is off of your hands you can lift your hands. As you move your hips back bring your torso slowly upright. Press your toes down into the floor as you do so. Stop when you need to and slowly and smoothly return to the starting position. Repeat a few times (x3 or more) seeing if you can go a little bit further each time.

If your knees hurt when you do this, then work at sitting up slowly, and stop before the onset of knee pain.

gradual quad stretch while kneeling, ankle stretch, hero pose variation, hero pose for beginners
gradual quad stretch while kneeling, ankle stretch, hero pose variation, hero pose for beginners
gradual quad stretch while kneeling, ankle stretch, hero pose variation, hero pose for beginners

Activating toes while stretching the tops of the toes

If you can already kneel comfortably, you can stretch the toes by pressing them down. You can then try leaning back to increase the stretch to the top of your toes.

If you have to slowly work towards kneeling, remember to press your toes into the floor as you sit back. Relax your toes as you go forwards again.

It either case, (comfortable or not comfortable while kneeling) Try to push the tops of all ten toes evenly into the floor.

Increasing the depth of the kneeling toe stretch

You will probably need several weeks (or months) of practice before you can knee comfortably. Once you can kneel comfortably you can increase the toe stretch by leaning back and placing your hands on the floor.

Slowly lift your knees to stretch the fronts of the ankles and the toes, then lower the knees.

Move slowly. Stop if you need to.

ankle stretch for the front of the ankle by leaning back while kneeling. Knees can lift slightly

Stretching the Bottoms of the Toes

A stretch for the bottoms of the toes is to kneel with the toes tucked under.

If you are uncomfortable with kneeling, bend forwards initially with hands on the floor. This is the relaxed or resting position. Slowly sit up while pressing your toes into the floor. Then slowly bend forwards again and relax your toes.

sitting quad stretch with toes tuck under, toe stretch. stretching bottom of toes, quad stretch for beginners, neil keleher, sensational yoga poses
sitting quad stretch with toes tuck under, toe stretch. stretching bottom of toes, quad stretch for beginners, neil keleher, sensational yoga poses
sitting quad stretch with toes tuck under, toe stretch. stretching bottom of toes, quad stretch for beginners, neil keleher, sensational yoga poses

Once you can get your butt to your heels, hold the seated position. Slowly press your toes down and then relax them.

Lengthening your spine while stretching the bottom of your toes

While kneeling upright, you can lengthen your spine as you press your toes down. Then relax your spine as you relax your toes.

To increase the toe stretch your can try walking your knees a little bit forwards (away from your toes.)

Stretching the Backs of the Ankles

To stretch the backs of the ankles you can use the downward facing dog yoga pose. First try lifting your heels as high as possible. This will actually stretch the front of your ankles. Then to help touch your heels to the floor (and stretch the back of your ankles) focus on pulling upwards on the fronts of your feet.

A simple set of toe and ankle stretches

A rather simple set of toe and ankle stretches is to sit upright with legs in front of you with knees straight. (Sit against a wall if you need to or support your upper body with your hands on the floor behind you).

In this position you can bend your toes forwards and then backwards to stretch your toes.

You can then bend your ankles forwards and backwards.

Combined toe and ankle stretches

You can try combining toe and ankle stretches

Again sitting upright with knees straight, bent your toes forwards, then bend your ankles forwards.

Bend your toes back, and then bend your ankles back.

Another option is to bend your ankles forwards but your toes back. Then bend your toes forwards with your ankles bent back.

downward facing dog as an ankle stretch 1
downward facing dog as an ankle stretch 2

You may also find this ankle stretching video on youtube helpful.

Published: 2015 04 20
Updated: 2021 02 10

Neil Keleher

Hi, I'm Neil Keleher

I have a bachelor's degree in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

I've taught yoga for over 20 years with a focus on force perception and using it to improve body awareness, stability, strength and flexibility.

My main interest is in basic principles that can be applied in any endeavor to make learning and doing easier and to make problem solving easier.

You can find more by me on my other website zeroparallax

Clearly defined poses, exercises and stretches for improving stability, body awareness and flexibility.

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