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Foot and Ankle Rehabilitation

The foot is composed of different structures including bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. As the feet bear the weight of our body, they are more prone to injury and pain. A foot injury or foot surgery may leave you immobile for a period of time. After any injury or surgery to your foot, a rehabilitation program will help you get back to your daily activities quicker.

A well-structured program will help you return to sports and other activities, and enjoy a more active and healthy lifestyle. Rehabilitation programs provide a wide range of exercises that are safe and effective for your particular condition and are best performed under the supervision of your doctor or physical therapist. These programs focus on strengthening and stretching the muscles and tendons of the lower leg, feet, and ankles to relieve pain and soreness, keep the muscles flexible, provide stability and prevent future injury.

You are encouraged to start walking with crutches or a walker following your surgery. Your doctor will help to structure and supervise an exercise routine that is ideal for you. Some of the exercises that are prescribed include:

Heel cord stretches

Stand with a wall in front of you. Put your unaffected foot ahead of you with the knee bent and your affected foot straight behind you. While supporting yourself on the wall, press your hips forward with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Heel cord stretch with a bent knee

Stand with a wall in front of you. Put your unaffected leg ahead of you with the knee slightly bent and your affected leg straight behind you, with the knee bent and the toes pointed in slightly. While supporting yourself on the wall, press your hips forward towards the wall with your heels flat on the floor. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions. Stretch should be felt in your calf muscles, heel and calf. Perform this exercise for six to seven days a week.

Golf ball rolling

Sit on a chair with both feet on the ground. Use your affected foot to roll a golf ball under the arch of the foot. Perform this activity for 2 minutes.

Towel stretching

Sit on the floor with the legs straight in front of you. Hook a towel under your affected foot and holding both ends pull towards yourself, keeping the leg straight. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds with 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Calf raises

Stand behind a chair and support yourself as you raise your unaffected leg behind you putting all your weight on the affected foot. Lift the heel and raise your body up, then lower. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Ankle range of motion

Sit on the ground in a position that your feet do not touch the floor. Write each letter of the alphabet in the air using your foot. Start with your big toe. Try keeping small movements. Perform 2 sets daily.

Marble activity

Sit down on a chair and place 20 marbles on the floor near your affected foot. Use your toes to pick up one marble at a time and place it into a container.

Follow the exercise routine three to five times a week for four to six weeks or as specified by your doctor. After this, you may continue the program to maintain strength and range of motion.

Following rehabilitation, you can gradually start walking, running and return to sports activities, as advised by your doctor.

  • University of Iowa Health Care
  • UW Health University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics
  • Duke University Medical Center
  • Augusta University Medical College of Georgia
  • The Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • Rush Copley Medical Center