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  • Writer's pictureKeep It Moving PT & Wellness

Week 18: 3-Direction Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobility Drill

Updated: Oct 20

For the month of October, we have selected hiking specific exercises that will help prepare you for a more adequate navigation of uneven terrain often found on hiking trails

Exercise: 3 Direction Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobility Drill

Purpose: To mobilize the Tibiotalar (AKA Talocrural) joint of the ankle allowing for an increase in dorsiflexion biasing Pronation, Supination, and a neutral position of the foot, and to activate the dorsiflexor muscles in the newly acquired end range

What It Targets: Mobilization of the Talocrural joint to increase ankle dorsiflexion range of motion via Posterior glide of the Talus, Anterior glide of the Tibia/Fibula; Stretching of the Ankle Plantarflexors: Gastrocnemius, Soleus, Flexor Digitorum Longus, Plantaris, Tibialis Posterior, Flexor Hallicus Longus; Activation of the Ankle Dorsiflexors: Anterior Tibialis, Extensor Hallicus Longus, Extensor Digitorum


  1. Get into a half kneeling position with the leg of the ankle you are mobilizing in front

  2. Maintain the "Tripod" of the foot keeping equal pressure on the center of your heel, and the base of your 1st and 5th toes

  3. Keep your heel planted firmly onto the floor and your shin parallel to your foot

  4. Advance your knee as far forward as you can while maintaining this stable Tripod

  5. Pause at the end range for 3-5 seconds

  6. Pull your foot up towards the ceiling for 5-10 seconds at the end range

  7. Advance your knee forward and over your big toe

  8. Pull your foot up towards the ceiling for 5-10 seconds at the end range

  9. Advance your knee forward over your pinky toe

  10. Pull your foot up towards the ceiling for 5-10 seconds at the end range

  11. Repeat as prescribed

Main Cues:

  • Maintain the “Tripod” of the foot throughout the entire exercise

  • Keep your heel planted firmly on the floor the entire time

  • Stretch should be felt in the front of the ankle joint and potentially back of the calf

  • You may not move the foot much during the active portion - that’s okay. It is most important that you feel the muscles in the front of the shin trying really hard

Common Compensations/Adverse Effects:

  • Heel coming up off the floor

Correction: Focus on maintaining solid heel contact the entire time by actively driving it down into the ground; Don’t go as far into the range

  • Arching of the low back

Correction: Maintain a straight spine with low level core engagement and glute engagement of the down leg

  • Pinching in the front of the ankle joint

Correction: Don’t go as far into the range; If it still hurts, you may have osteophytes on the talus and thus this mobilization is contraindicated - discontinue exercise

  • Pain in the knee that is kneeling on the floor

Correction: Place your knee on a foam pad or pillow for extra cushion

Why We Love It:

  • Increases a crucial yet often very limited movement (Ankle Dorsiflexion) in multiple planes of ankle movement: Pronation bias, neutral bias, Supination bias

  • Enhances likelihood of maintaining mobility gains via active motor control through the new range

  • Assists in cleaning up squat, ambulation, and stair (or rock!) climbing mechanics

  • HIKING SPECIFIC: Trains the prerequisite ankle motion necessary to safely navigate uneven terrain on hiking trails

*Disclaimer: Not all exercises are suitable for everyone, and participation in novel activities may increase the risk of adverse effects such as pain, soreness, or injury. Please consult with your Physician or a local Physical Therapist prior to attempting any exercise you feel uncomfortable performing. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue performance of the exercise and consult your physician or trusted clinician for evaluation.

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