Exercises For Arthritis In Ankles

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Hi everyone I hope you are all well.

Today I wanted to discuss another important tool in the fight against arthritis, which is, exercise!

I will just be talking about exercises for ankle arthritis as that is where more of my knowledge is. I have looked at various exercises for other afflicted joints and plan on writing a post about them later on.

Use it or lose it!

This has never been more appropriate, use it, keep moving, stay strong!

Due to my injuries and arthritis, I have very very minimal movement in the ankle joint.*

It loosens a bit as the day progresses but then it gets swolen and elevation is needed again. I think that’s the main thing to keep in mind, you know your body better than anyone else.

You know when you are pushing to a reasonable limit and when you are completely overdoing it.

I have been guilty of the latter, especially when there are days when it’s good and the sun is shining and you just want to make the most of it.

the sunshine makes us want to be outside so for people with arthritis they can easily overdo it due to wanting to enjoy the good weather.
Sunshine can be uplifting and many of us want to be outside enjoying it.

Of course, you then pay for it, your body lets you know you have pushed too hard. So yes exercise is key but what is more important is knowing when to and when not to.

The dreaded swell

I will just have a big sigh first.

Swelling is well known to arthritis sufferers, it causes pain, restricts movement and looks pretty unsightly as well.

Before exercising try to rid the joint of any swelling by elevation, or some people will use ice I personally just elevate.

The elevation is common sense as you are letting gravity take care of the swelling.

I do realise ice is necessary for affected areas such as back and hips, but as I said this post will focus on ankles.

We need to get rid of the swelling first as the ankle is already stiff and it will be hard enough to try to encourage movement without asking the joint to move a load of swelling as well.


physiotherapists have the knowledge that can help arthritis sufferers.
Physios have the knowledge that can help you stay strong and stop arthritis taking over!

These people know what they are talking about and have the knowledge, use them!

Any self-respecting doctor should allow you to see a physio in order to help you keep mobile and in the long run prevent you from costing the medical system any more money.

I have seen physios under the NHS and have also seen private physios (not paid for by me though), yes I found the private physio a lot more helpful but the NHS physios still have the knowledge and can still guide you.

The difference is private physios have more time with you and usually have more options available to them, the NHS physios have a heavy schedule with not a lot of time or resource for the appointments.

I no longer see any but I use a mixture of what they both taught me.

The alphabet to squatting?!

I want to split this into two parts, the first:


Anyone who has seen a physio for ankle arthritis or indeed has searched the internet for exercises will know of the alphabet method.

You can do it sitting or laying, you raise your foot and then essentially you write the alphabet using your big toe.

You move your big toe to shape the letters in the air as if your big toe is the pen, you perform it in lowercase and in capitals.

foot illustrating the connection between the big toe and the alphabet method, an exercise that is regularly used for ankle arthritis.
The big toe is your pen get to writing!

This is used to encourage a secondary movement of the ankle joint without that being your primary conscious focus.

The short video below can help to show you how to perform the exercise.

I would also encourage the use of latex resistance bands, physios dish them out and they have different levels of resistance.

These can be used for strength as well but the main focus is still movement. It’s usually used by hooking it around the ankle and keeping tension on the band in one direction, whilst you attempt to push against that tension.

For instance, you can hook it around the bottom of your foot and hold the band in front of you, whilst you try to push down as if someone is pushing the bottom of your foot upwards and you have to push against it.

You can also tie it around an object and pull against it, though I would recommend a solid dining table leg as opposed to that little lamp table you got in the sale.


Another danger to not being able to use the joint as it was intended, is muscle wastage.

Specifically, the calf, be warned the exercises have to be routinely completed because it takes significantly longer to build the muscle than it does for it to waste away.

Muscle wastage, in this case, will cause a real problem, it will make you feel unbalanced and unsteady on your feet and may even make the joint seem more painful.

When one joint is failing we have to encourage the surrounding muscles to take some of the strain, to do this the other muscles must be strong.

I use an exercise bike daily, in the morning religiously as it boosts circulation, eases stiffness and of course builds calf muscle.

I have a mini stationary foot bike so I can use it sat watching television or in any room, not trying to milk this point but I am using it now whilst writing this and they say men can’t multitask!

In all the minimal movements I have in my ankle, the movement of pulling the foot up towards me, or dorsiflexion as it is known, is the hardest.

I try to combat this with calf raises, usually standing on the lip of the bottom step, with the middle of my foot right on the edge, you then dip your heels down and then push back up onto tiptoes and repeat.

The short video below shows how to perform the exercise.

This will encourage that movement and build up the calf muscle, I would recommend holding onto the stair rail for balance, certainly to start off with.

If you don’t feel ready to do this exercise don’t worry too much there is another exercise you can do.

Roll up a small towel you have at home and place the ball of your foot onto the towel and let your heel touch the floor.

Press down through the ball of your foot, this can activate the calf and give you an idea of where you are in terms of flexibility.

If you do start mastering the calf raise on a step then you can adapt it for better results by adding resistance.

I have some different weight dumbbells and will hold one in my right hand, whilst keeping balance with my left hand and then perform the exercise in exactly the same way.

exercise is key in fighting arthritis and weight training can help improve muscle strength.
Add some resistance to add some more muscle.

The added resistance will improve results, particularly where the calf muscle is concerned.

If confident with that you could then try just doing it on the one leg, obviously, the affected one!

Things to remember!

With any exercise above approach them in the right manner, by easing into it, don’t just jump to a single leg calf raise because you think it will be an instant remedy, it won’t!

As with any training exercise, you should build up to the maximum, so your body is more prepared for the exertion and you don’t shock your body that much that it bites back, by giving you a week of crippling pain.

Yes, you need to be disciplined, do the exercises correctly and routinely, but know when to rest and elevate, swelling is the enemy of exercise.

Leave a comment and a like below along with any suggestions people have for exercises that work for them.


*Updated – My ankle now has more range of motion.

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16 thoughts on “Exercises For Arthritis In Ankles

  1. Hi,

    I know in my younger years I use to do a lot of sport! Football, basketball, trampolining, dojo, gym, swimming, badminton and pretty much anything to do with physical exertion!

    Needless to say, my left ankle gives out on me sometime and so does my back due to too much wear and tear.

    So, for me, I will definitely be elevating my ankles more and I will be doing the alphabet routine daily as well.

    Thank you so much as I learned something I can apply straight away here.

    Much appreciated.



  2. Thanks Andy for a great informative post, I really like the alphabet routine and will be doing this on the regular. I am getting up in age and have some arthritis in my hands and feet, especially feel it in the cold. I have always been active and do not plan to change that because of a little arthritis, thanks for the tips and have a great day.

  3. Hey Andy,
    This is a really informative and helpful post. The alphabet exercise seems really interesting. Thanks a lot for your effort to putting up this epic post. I’m sure lots of people need this!

  4. I have been suffering from ankle swelling (from sitting long hours at the office) and I have been looking into ways diminish the swelling. Elevation has helped a lot. So far I had to give up high heels but I am trying to look for more solutions. The alphabet methods look interesting indeed.Will try it out. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    1. Hi Dira sorry to hear you are suffering with the dreaded swell, it really is painful and restrictive. Hopefully something here may help.

      All the best


  5. Hello! I really like this post and this alphabet technique is coming rather as a unique one to me because I have never seen something like that before but then, it is still great to see here and I will surely want to make good use of this here. Though I have arthritis but then, I still try to get very active so, this technique should be well welcomed by me.

  6. Arthritis is a problem we all face in our mature years, however, the use of exercise as a preventative
    can not be understated.
    Most of my joints seem welded together and only consistent exercise keeps me Mobile

    I am actually one of the lucky ones that can resist medication to ease the pain.

    This is such a broad-ranging subject that so many will relate to.

    Kind regards

    Peter H

  7. Living above arthritis is not easy for most people to deal with but the very few that are willing to try it out will enjoy their life after getting these exercises into their routines. I like the various exercises that you have presented here and I truly like every it of this. Thank you so much for sharing these. I have some knee and fingers arthritis, this would be perfectly incorporated for them. thanks

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