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Six foot drills for ankle mobility, strength, & stability

When I first stumbled upon The Foot Drills by Russ Ebbets, DC, I was impressed by the elegance of the idea. Six foot drills can be done anytime/anywhere, making them a highly accessible and effective way to strengthen your feet and ankles. This makes it easy to do in all kinds of ways (w/ weight, barefoot, fast, slow, turning, etc.), and by all kinds of people (healthy, stiff, hypermobile, old, young, etc).

After years of tinkering, the six foot drills and variations are now staples in my own training and for many of our students. The drills are simply so easy to do *and* they are effective. For best results, commit to just a few minutes of six foot drills every day for at least a few weeks (and preferably a few months).

Even if your feet/ankles are good for now, consider this financial analogy. Every max effort jump, land, sprint, or cut that you do costs a small bit of money. Doing daily foot drills is like making/saving money for the future. If you constantly put in more money than you take out, you stay healthier and perform better. Take out more than you put back in and it’s an acute or chronic injury waiting to happen.

In high-impact sports like parkour, track & field, tricking, and basketball, foot/ankle injuries are common setbacks that can cost you a lot of time, money, and stress. Even when you’re healthy and exceptionally strong/mobile, it’s taxing to perform high-level run/jump/land movements. Even if you’re a genetic freak, perfect health won’t last forever. Proactively show love to your feet and ankles. Don’t wait until the damage has already been done.

Six foot drills

Do all six foot drills for fewer and/or less serious injuries, as well as better ankle mobility, strength, & stability. If any of the drills feel too hard or easy, explore the various progressions until you find the right amount of challenge:

  1. Toe walk
  2. Heel walk
  3. Ankle inversion walk
  4. Ankle eversion walk
  5. Toes-out walk
  6. Toes-in walk 
  • Easier progressions: less range of motion (ROM), less weight, less turns & odd angles, less distance, moderate speed
  • Harder: more ROM, more weight, more turns & odd angles, more distance, slow speed

1) Toe walk

If you have weak/stiff toe point (plantar flexion), use toe walks to improve your calf strength and the mobility in your shin muscles (anterior tibialis). Better plantar flexion has a direct carryover to bigger jumps and faster sprints. Try this drill to keep your feet/ankles mobile, strong, stable, and less prone to injury.

2) Heel walk

Heel walks help prevent, sometimes even heal, common overuse injuries like shin splints. Many athletes develop tightness or imbalances in their ankles because their calves are much stronger than their tight, wimpy shin muscles (anterior tibialis). For these athletes, training too much or too hard will lead to chronic injuries. Use heel walking to keep your anterior tibialis muscles mobile, strong, stable, and injury-free.

3) Ankle inversion walk

The ankle inversion walk is effective at preventing, sometimes even rehabbing, acute injuries such as the dreaded ankle roll. This particular drill offers extra protection against some injuries because it builds familiarity, strength, and mobility in many “imperfect” positions. Maybe it’s not a “perfect” position to be in, but there is value in prepping yourself for what can go wrong during dynamic movement. Unfortunate slips & falls happen to nearly everyone at some point in life & training, it’s just a matter of when. Build a stronger defense before you need it.

4) Ankle eversion walk

The ankle eversion walk is effective at preventing, sometimes even rehabbing, acute injuries such as the dreaded ankle roll. This particular drill offers extra protection against some injuries because it builds familiarity, strength, and mobility in many “imperfect” positions. Maybe it’s not a “perfect” position to be in, but there is value in prepping yourself for what can go wrong during dynamic movement. Unfortunate slips & falls happen to nearly everyone at some point in life & training, it’s just a matter of when. Build a stronger defense before you need it.

5) 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/ankles have a direct carryover to better performance and fewer injuries. As a bonus, this also helps strengthen external rotation throughout your lower body.

6) 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/ankles have a direct carryover to better performance and fewer injuries. As a bonus, this also helps strengthen internal rotation throughout your lower body.

Bonus tips

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

  • Go barefoot for best results. Shoes make your feet stupid.
  • Push to your end ROM at all times but also stay active, engaged, & safe.
  • Add the six foot drills into daily warm-ups or cool-downs. Consistency is key.
  • Do 10-25m of each foot drill (all 6 drills should take less than 5 minutes total)
  • Start with bodyweight but over many weeks/months, progressively overload the movements with a weight vest, dumbbells, etc. Even just an additional 10-20% BW will make these drills far more challenging.
  • Work odd angles & positions by turning 90 degrees each quarter of the way during each foot drill. Life and sport is not always linear so you should prep in every direction.
  • To make things harder or easier try more/less distance, more/less ROM, & more/less weight.
  • To keep things fun and challenging, try foot drills with slightly different toe/foot/ankle positions, tempos, and movement patterns.
  • Multi-task by doing foot drill variations whenever you go for a walk (especially if you’re not in a rush).

Learn more

Ryan Ford is author of Parkour Strength Training & founder of ParkourEDU and Apex School of Movement.

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