Relieve Ankle and Foot Tendonitis with These 3 Exercises

Do you ever feel a nagging foot or ankle pain when you first start to move during an activity? Ankle and foot tendonitis are pretty common and may likely be the cause.

What does ankle and foot tendonitis mean, and what can you do about it? Don’t throw in the towel on your exercise plans. Here’s why tendonitis may occur and how you can get back on your feet.

What is Foot Tendonitis?

The simple definition of tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. Your feet and ankles happen to be common spots where tendonitis occurs.

Less simple than the definition of tendonitis, however, is finding out the reasons why the multitude of tendons in your feet and ankles might be inflamed (and how to get back on the road to recovery).

Because there are many tendons in the ankles and feet, and they sustain a lot of repetitive motion and impact, tendons most often become inflamed due to overuse. In other words, they can’t meet the challenges you’re presenting to them. Three common tendons that become inflamed in the foot and ankle area are the posterior tibial, peroneal, and Achilles tendons.

In this medical illustration of the foot and ankle, the peroneus longus, musculus soleus, musculus gastrocnemius, peroneus brevis, and tendon calcaneus are highlighted, showing the tendons in the ankle.

In this medical illustration of the foot and ankle, the medial plantar artery and nerve, tibial nerve and posterior tibial artery, and flexor retinaculum are highlighted to show the tendons and anatomy of the foot and ankle.

Tendonitis of the foot from overuse can come from a change in demand, like a new exercise or an increase in the distance or intensity of your exercise regimen. Your tendons might not be able to keep up with the additional rigor, and thus they become inflamed—which can feel like a dull ache, heat, or even a sharper pain.

If you suspect ankle or foot tendonitis might be the cause of your discomfort, it is still essential to reach out to a professional for assessment. It’s especially critical to see an orthopedic specialist if your pain seems to increase, impacts your mobility, or lasts for several days.

Fortunately, at MOSH, we’re here to help. Most cases of ankle and foot tendonitis are treatable with conservative measures. Don’t push through the pain—reach out today if you’re feeling discomfort.

Treating Ankle and Foot Tendonitis

The primary medical strategy For overuse injuries resulting in ankle and foot tendonitis is to decrease inflammation. Practitioners may treat the injury in several ways, including ultrasound, iontophoresis, or laser, in addition to massage in the clinic.

One easy way you can decrease inflammation and experience some tendonitis pain relief is with an ice massage.

How to Reduce Tendonitis with an Ice Massage

A person holds a white and red paper cup filled with clear ice that they’re rubbing across the side of a foot and ankle resting on a towel.

Step 1: Fill a paper cup ¾ of the way full of water and place it in the freezer.

Step 2: When the ice is completely frozen, peel down the top of the paper cup.

Step 3: Rub the ice onto the painful foot or ankle area for approximately five minutes until the affected area is numb—whichever comes first.

Once again, while an ice massage can offer some quick tendonitis pain relief, it’s important to have your ankle and foot assessed by a specialist if you suspect a lasting injury. After icing, make sure your tendon feels flexible by performing light stretching.

When you’ve reduced the ankle or foot tendonitis, restart your training with a slower, more deliberate progression of distance and load.

Overpronation: Another Common Cause of Foot Tendonitis

Another common cause of tendonitis of the foot is overpronation. Pronation refers to the natural motion of your foot as it strikes the ground in a more arched position and moves to a flatter foot position to accommodate the ground surface—in other words, your “foot strike.”

Overpronation becomes an issue when the motion is excessive or too fast and strong for the tendons in your foot to control. In the case of overpronation, you and your physical therapist may assess your gate and exercise form to see which muscles may be weak or tight above and around your foot. These muscles might not be doing their part to control the motion of your foot.

We commonly evaluate hip strength, along with ankle and calf mobility, to address overpronation concerns. Practitioners might also suggest orthotics or taping to support and train the other leg muscles to reduce overpronation and the resulting foot inflammation.

Overpronation Exercises to Reduce Foot Tendonitis

If overpronation or muscle weakness are contributing to your ankle and foot tendonitis, your physical therapist will likely suggest some easy exercises to help you build those supporting muscles. Below are a few simple moves you can do today to address your foot and ankle tendonitis.

1. Standing Wall Stretch

An exercise illustration shows a bald man in a blue shirt and black shorts standing and facing a wall with his arms outstretched and his hands flat against the wall.

Setup: Begin by standing upright, facing a wall, and placing your hands against the wall.

An exercise illustration depicts a bald man wearing a blue shirt and black shorts. The man is standing parallel to a wall, with his arms outstretched and hands pushed against the wall. He is bending his front leg, leaning forward, and extending his back leg behind his body.

Movement: With your hands against the wall for support, extend one leg straight backward. Bend your front leg. Extend your back leg until you feel a stretch in the calf, then hold the position.

Tip: Keep your heels on the ground and back knee straight during this wall stretch.

2. Clamshell Stretch

An exercise illustration depicts a brunette woman in a blue tank, black leggings, and sneakers. The woman is lying on her side, knees bent, with her head resting on a lavender-colored pillow. Her top arm is bent with her hand on her hip.

Setup: Begin this simple clamshell stretch by lying on one side, keeping your knees bent and your hips and shoulders stacked. For comfort, you may wish to use a pillow to support your head during this exercise.

An exercise illustration shows a brunette woman wearing a dark blue tank, black leggings, and black sneakers. She is lying on her side, her knees bent and her head resting on a light purple pillow. Her top arm is bent with her hand on her hip as she performs a modified clamshell exercise by moving her knees apart.

Movement: To perform this stretch, engage your abdominals and lift your top knee toward the ceiling, then slowly return your knee to the starting position and repeat.

Tip: Keep your core muscles engaged (contracted) and avoid rolling your hips forward or backward during the exercise.

3. Seated Forward Bends

An exercise illustration depicts a brunette woman with a ponytail, wearing a bright blue tank top, black capri-length leggings, and black sneakers. The woman sits on the edge of a brown wooden chair with her back straight, hands on her hips, and one leg bent. Her other leg is extended forward with the heel resting on the floor.

Setup: Begin this simple food tendonitis exercise by sitting upright in a chair. Sit near the edge of the chair seat, with one leg straight forward with the heel resting on the ground. Bend the other leg, keeping your foot flat on the floor.

An exercise illustration shows a woman with a ponytail in black pants and a blue shirt sitting on a brown wooding chair. The woman's hand is on her waist, and she is bending forward as her leg extends in front of her.

Movement: To perform the exercise, bend your trunk forward, hinging at your hips. You will feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Hold the position.

Tip: Keep your knee straight during the stretch and avoid arching or slumping your back.

Follow these three simple exercises to stretch the muscles that support the tendons in your feet and legs. By doing these exercises regularly, you will increase the range of motion in your ankle and foot, thereby avoiding further inflammation in those areas.

Of course, any time you experience pain or discomfort that doesn’t resolve quickly on its own, it’s time to visit a professional. Reach out today to our staff at MOSH so we can help you address the issue and return to full mobility.