The ankle joint is a hinge joint between the medial and lateral malleoli of the tibia and fibula, and the talus. Plantar flexion and dorsiflexion can occur at this joint.The muscles that move the ankle and toes are located primarily in the lower leg ; these muscles have tendons that are as long as or longer than the muscles.
The movement range for the ankle and toes is limited by the strength of the agonist muscles, flexibility of the antagonist muscles, tightness of the ligaments, and bone contacts or impingements. Tightness in the foot, ankle and calf leads to minor changes in foot position and how forces are transferred through the foot which can lead to foot problems.
One of the most notable limiters in foot movements is the plantar fascia. A tight plantar fascia limits toe extension, and in cases where the fascia is inflamed, it will also limit plantar flexion. The range of motion for both plantarflexion and dorsiflexion can also be limited by the formation of bone spurs. Most of the range-of-motion limiters, except bone impingements, can be changed by doing stretching exercises.
You are on their feet for a good part of the day. Therefore your muscles of the foot and lower leg are typically used more extensively during normal daily activities such as standing, walking, or running than any other muscles in the body. Although the musculature of the lower leg is substantially smaller than that of the upper leg, it supports the entire body and receives the heaviest load during the day to day activities.
Stretching and strengthening of these smaller muscle groups of the ankle and foot can reduce much of the fatigue and pain caused by daily activities. In addition to helping reduce pain, stretching the muscles of the lower leg and foot can also improve overall flexibility, strength, strength endurance, balance, and stamina.
Improving strength and flexibility in these muscle groups generally will enable a person to be more productive by increasing his ability to work longer and harder at work or during recreation activities.
Chronic use of these muscles can also increase muscle tightness. Tightness may lead to conditions such as tendinitis and shin splints.
To stretch these specific muscles in an effective manner the stretch must involve one or more movements in the opposite direction of the desired muscle’s movements.The following ankle stretches are designed to restore movement to the ankle and improve flexibility of muscles crossing the ankle:
Gastrocnemius stretch with towel
Plantar flexion stretch in standing
Plantar fascia stretch
Toe flexors stretch with towel
Toe extensors stretch
Great Toe flexors stretch
Great Toe flexors stretch with elastic