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Six Foot Drills for Ankle Mobility, Strength, & Stability

When I first read The Foot Drills by Russ Ebbets, DC, I was impressed by the elegance of the ideas. I was excited to try a new strategy for making better feet and ankles. Foot drills can be done anywhere, any time making them a highly accessible and potent form of bulletproofing your feet and ankles (if you can commit to a 5-minute routine every day for at least a few months). This made it easy for me to try in all kinds of ways (with weight, in shoes, fast, slow, etc.) and with all kinds of people (healthy, stiff, old, young, hypermobile, etc.).

After many years of tinkering, the six foot drills and variations are staples in my own training and for many of my students as well. They are simply so easy to do *and* effective. Even if your feet and ankles are feeling good now, think of them like piggy banks. Every max effort jump, land, sprint, or cut that you do costs a small amount of money. Doing foot drills on the daily is like making money and putting some back in the bank. If you constantly put in more (prehab/mobility/strength training) than you take out (high-impact power/skill training), you’ll stay healthy and continue to improve. Take out more than you put back and it’s a health issue waiting to happen.

In high-impact sports like parkour, track & field, tricking, and basketball, foot and ankle injuries are common setbacks that can cost you a lot. Even when you’re healthy, it’s difficult to perform high-level running/jumping/landing movements without exceptional lower body strength and mobility. You have to work at it. Unless you’re a genetic freak, you probably need to show some love to your feet and ankles.

 

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My recent Instagram post about six foot drills (above) was my most saved post in 2+ years, which suggests many of you are searching for simple, effective ways to care for your feet and ankles. These six foot drills can most likely help you out and I hope you’ll give them a try. To help you get started, I organized all my foot drill tips and videos together in this blog post. Let’s go.

The Six Foot Drills

Try these six foot drills for fewer and/or less serious injuries, as well as better ankle mobility, strength, and stability:

  1. Toe walk
  2. Heel walk
  3. Ankle inversion walk
  4. Ankle eversion walk
  5. Toes-out walk
  6. Toes-in walk

Toe walk

If you have weak or restricted toe point (plantar flexion), use toe walks to improve your calf strength and ankle mobility. Better plantar flexion has a direct carryover to bigger jumps and faster sprints. Try this drill to keep your feet and ankles mobile, strong, balanced, and less prone to injury.

  • Easier progressions: less range of motion, less weight, less turns and odd angles, less distance, moderate speed
  • Harder: more range of motion, more weight, more turns and odd angles, more distance, slow speed

Heel walk

Ever had shin splints? It’s amazing how effective heel walking can be at healing and preventing common overuse injuries. The heel walk looks simple and benign but it can quickly burn out the shin muscles (tibialis anterior). Many people develop tightness or imbalances in their ankles because their calves are much stronger than their shin muscles. For these athletes who train too hard or too fast, the imbalances can lead to chronic injuries such as shin splints. Use heel walking to keep your lower leg muscles mobile, strong, balanced, and injury-free. To ensure that you strengthen all the shin muscle equally, perform the heel walk with neutral toes, toes in, and toes out.

  • Easier progressions: less range of motion, less weight, less turns and odd angles, less distance, moderate speed
  • Harder: more range of motion, more weight, more turns and odd angles, more distance, slow speed

Ankle inversion walk

Ever roll your ankle inwards? It’s amazing how effective the ankle inversion walk can be at healing and preventing this common acute injury. The ankle inversion walk reduces the likelihood of sustaining an ankle sprain because it trains you to have strength and control in an imperfect position. While this is not an optimal position to be in, it’s important to build robustness in this position to protect yourself against what could possibly, and will inevitably, go wrong during running, jumping, and landing related movements. Unfortunate slips and falls happen to everyone, it’s just a matter of when. Will you be prepared to handle a potentially injurious load in a suboptimal position?

  • Easier progressions: less range of motion, less weight, less turns and odd angles, less distance, moderate speed
  • Harder: more range of motion, more weight, more turns and odd angles, more distance, slow speed

Ankle eversion walk

Ever roll your ankle outwards? It’s amazing how effective the ankle eversion walk can be at healing and preventing this common acute injury. The ankle eversion walk reduces the likelihood of sustaining an ankle sprain because it trains you to have strength and control in an imperfect position. While this is not an optimal position to be in, it’s important to build robustness in this position to protect yourself against what could possibly, and will inevitably, go wrong during running, jumping, and landing related movements. Unfortunate slips and falls happen to everyone, it’s just a matter of when. Will you be prepared to handle a potentially injurious load in a suboptimal position?

  • Easier progressions: less range of motion, less weight, less turns and odd angles, less distance, moderate speed
  • Harder: more range of motion, more weight, more turns and odd angles, more distance, slow speed

Toes-out walk

If you have stiff, weak ankles, use toes-out walks to improve your lower leg strength and mobility. Stronger, more supple feet and ankles will have a direct carryover to better performance and fewer injuries. Try this drill to keep your lower leg muscles mobile, strong, and balanced.

  • Easier progressions: less range of motion, less weight, less turns and odd angles, less distance, moderate speed
  • Harder: more range of motion, more weight, more turns and odd angles, more distance, slow speed

Toes-in walk

If you have stiff, weak ankles, use toes-in walks to improve your lower leg strength and mobility. Stronger, more supple feet and ankles will have a direct carryover to better performance and fewer injuries. Try this drill to keep your lower leg muscles mobile, strong, and balanced.

  • Easier progressions: less range of motion, less weight, less turns and odd angles, less distance, moderate speed
  • Harder: more range of motion, more weight, more turns and odd angles, more distance, slow speed

Bonus tips

For many years, I’ve experimented with six foot drills in lots of different ways. Here are some useful findings to consider and apply in your own foot/ankle training:

  • Go barefoot for best results
  • Push near your end range of motion but stay active, engaged, & safe
  • Try adding these foot drills into your daily warm-ups or cool-downs
  • Do 10-25m of each foot drill (all 6 should take less than 5 minutes total)
  • Start with just bodyweight but over many months, progressively overload toward 10-20% of bodyweight (holding dumbbells works well)
  • Work odd angles and positions by turning 90 degrees every quarter of the way during each foot drill
  • To make it harder or easier try more/less distance, more/less range of motion, and more/less weight
  • To keep it fun and challenging, try foot drills with slightly different toe/foot/ankle positions and movement patterns
  • Multi-task by doing foot drill variations when you walk somewhere for longer than a few minutes (especially if you’re in no rush)

Full video playlist

Watch all six foot drills in order to see how you can finish the full series in five minutes or less.

Ryan Ford is the author of Parkour Strength Training and founder of ParkourEDU & APEX School of Movement. For custom online coaching/programming related to parkour and similar movement styles, send an email to ryan@parkouredu.org 💪🏽

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