February 28, 2022

The Best Stretches to Relieve Foot and Ankle Tendonitis Pain

Older man outside, holds his right ankle as if in pain

Peroneal tendonitis is a condition that develops when one of the tendons in the back of the foot becomes inflamed. If you have this condition, you may notice pain at the ankle tendon on the outside of your ankle. This peroneal tendon pain can occur as a result of a tear caused by a sudden, forceful contraction. It’s also often caused by overuse. 

Should I Stretch My Foot If I Have Tendonitis?

Doing a peroneal stretch regularly is good for you. Stretching increases the elasticity and range of motion of muscles and tendons, which can help prevent injuries. 

If you’re starting to exercise again following a peroneal tendon injury, you must do any stretching gently and increase the amount of stretching gradually. Your doctor or physical therapist can provide guidance. If you try to do too much too soon, you can aggravate your peroneal tendon and potentially have to return to “square one” in your recovery. 

How Do You Fix Tendonitis in the Ankle?

Incorporating peroneal stretching and strengthening exercises into your fitness routine can help prevent peroneal tendonitis. But if the condition develops, several treatments can address it. 

One is to use RICE — an acronym that stands for “rest, ice, compression, elevation.” Keeping weight off the ankle (i.e., resting it), applying ice to the ankle 1-2 times per day for 10-15 minutes per session, wearing athletic tape or compression socks, and sitting or lying down with your ankle above heart level can combine to reduce inflammation and pain.

Your doctor may also advise you to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as directed. They can also administer cortisone shots to help reduce inflammation if necessary.

Physical therapy and surgery are additional treatment options that can be used if others aren’t effective. 

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How Do You Stretch Ankle Tendons?

Use these stretches to increase flexibility and range of motion in your ankle tendons.

Ankle circles

  1. Sit in a chair and set your right lower calf on your left thigh.
  2. Turn your right ankle in clockwise circles for approximately 10 rotations and then in counterclockwise circles for 10 rotations. Be sure to keep your leg still and only move your ankle and foot.
  3. Switch ankles and repeat.
  4. Instead of completing circles, you may want to trace the letters of the alphabet in the air with the big toe of each foot, doing two sets for each ankle. 

Towel stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs together and straight in front of you.
  2. Holding one end of a towel in each hand, loop the middle around the balls of both feet together.
  3. Pull the towel toward you gently until you feel a good stretch on the bottoms of your foot and the backs of your legs. 
  4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times.

Cross-legged ankle stretch

  1. Sit in a chair and put your right lower calf on your left thigh.
  2. Grasp the top of your right foot and your toes with your left hand.
  3. Gently pull down as if you’re pointing the toes of that foot
  4. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 2-3 times, then switch sides and repeat.

Achilles tendon stretch

  1. Stand with a wall or chair in front of you for support. 
  2. Place your right foot a step behind your left foot.
  3. Keep your right heel on the floor and bend your left knee until you feel a food stretch in your right leg.
  4. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-4 times for each leg. 

Chair pose

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees and move toward having your thighs parallel to the ground. Note: Don’t let your knees go farther forward than your toes. 
  3. Hold at a challenging but comfortable position for 30-60 seconds, return to standing upright, and repeat 3-5 times. 

How Do You Loosen Tight Tendons in Feet?

Use these exercises to increase flexibility in your foot tendons.

Big toe stretch

  1. Sit in a chair and put your right lower calf on your left thigh.
  2. Grasp the big toe of your right foot and stretch it gently up, down, and to the side, holding it in each position for approximately 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat 8-10 times and then switch sides. 

Toe raise/point/curl

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Do each of the following for 5 seconds in sequence.
  2. Raise both heels, leaving the toes and balls of the feet on the floor.
  3. Raise both heels and point your toes so that only the tips of your big toes and second toes are on the floor.
  4. Raise both heels and curl your toes under so only the toes are on the floor.

Toe splay

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Spread the toes of both feet as far as possible without straining. 
  3. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Golf ball roll

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Put a golf ball or tennis ball under one foot.
  3. Move the ball around with your foot, pressing down as firmly as is comfortable for 2 minutes. The intent is to massage the bottom of your foot, which can help relieve painful plantar fasciitis.
  4. Switch to the other foot and repeat. 

Marble pick up

  1. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Put 20 or so marbles on the floor near your feet, along with an empty bowl big enough to hold all of them. 
  3. Using only the toes of one foot, pick up each marble and put it in the bowl. Repeat with the other foot. 

Does Stretching Help Foot Pain and Ankle Pain?

By using gentle stretches for ankle tendonitis and stretches to relieve foot pain — both to prevent and recover from injuries — you can avoid downtime and recover more quickly should an injury occur. The key is to make stretching before, after, and between workouts a habit.

If you suffer an injury to a tendon in your ankle or foot, our orthopedic and sports science experts can do an exam and prescribe treatment as needed. Search our online provider directory if you don’t yet have a Baptist Health provider. 

Next Steps and Useful Resources

Find a Provider10 Best Exercises for Everyone5 Stretches You Should Do Every Day
Ankle Injuries in Basketball: What to Expect and How to Treat At-Home

Learn More.