Exercises for Broken Ankle Recovery

Your healthcare provider will likely recommend exercises as part of your broken ankle recovery plan. This will include a variety of movements aimed at helping to restore your ankle strength, flexibility, range of motion, and stability so you can resume your normal activities quickly and safely.

Therapeutic exercise is actually one of the main treatments to help restore mobility after an ankle fracture. Your physical therapist can prescribe the right exercises to do at the different stages of healing, gradually adjusting their recommendations as your ankle function improves.

This article reviews the variety of exercises that can help you recover from a broken ankle and why they can be helpful.

Before starting any exercise program for your broken ankle, check with your healthcare provider to ensure that it is safe for you.


Range of Motion Exercises

Photo of physical therapist assessing ankle mobility.

Jeannot Olivet / Getty Images

Ankle range of motion (ROM) exercises are one of the first things your physical therapist (PT) will prescribe once you get out of your cast or brace after an ankle break.

Your physical therapist may passively move your ankle joint through various motions and then have you actively move your ankle to improve the motion around the joint.

Some simple exercises to improve your ankle ROM include:

  • Moving your ankle by pointing your toes up and down as far as possible
  • Inversion (moving your foot in) and eversion (moving your foot out)

Hold each position for a few seconds, and perform 10 to 15 repetitions.

The ankle alphabet is another useful ROM exercise. Simply pretend that your toes are a pencil and draw letters with your foot by moving your ankle. Draw each letter slowly and deliberately in both upper and lower case. This can be performed several times per day.

Expect to feel a little pain, but stop the exercises if you feel any lasting or intense pain. If that happens, check in with your PT or healthcare provider.

Once you have perfected ROM exercises, it is time to start to improve ankle flexibility with new exercises.


Flexibility Exercises

To improve muscular flexibility around your ankle after a fracture, you can perform a few different exercises.

Some ankle flexibility exercises:

  • Towel calf stretching can improve the flexibility of the muscles on the back of your lower leg. Wrap a towel around your toes and give a slow, gentle pull to stretch your calf.
  • Standing runner's stretches can also be done to improve the flexibility of your calf.
  • To stretch the muscle on the front of your ankle, perform the kneeling anterior tibialis stretch. Kneel down with your ankle and toes pointed. Gently press on your foot to stretch the front of your lower leg.

Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Then move on to the next exercise group—ankle strengthening.


Strengthening Exercises

After a period of immobilization in a cast or brace, the muscles around your ankle may be significantly weakened. This is common after an ankle fracture, and your PT will likely prescribe exercises to improve your ankle strength.

You can use a resistance band to perform ankle-strengthening exercises.

Place the band around your toes and have someone hold it as you move your ankle into dorsiflexion (toes pointing up), plantarflexion (toes pointing down), inversion, and eversion.

Perform 15 to 20 repetitions of each exercise. Stop if you feel any sharp pains.

Once you have gained some strength, you can begin weight-bearing exercises for your ankles. The Alfredson Protocol for Achilles' strengthening is a great way to start to place some controlled stress through your ankles to improve the strength of your calf muscles.


Return to Walking and Running

After an ankle fracture, you may be having difficulty returning to normal walking. Your PT may have you perform various gait training exercises like stepping over and around obstacles to improve the way you walk.

They can also help you choose the correct assistive device like crutches or a cane as your gait changes and improves.

Many people wonder if returning to running after an ankle fracture is a possibility. This depends on the severity of your injury and how things have healed, so check with your healthcare provider before attempting to run to make sure it is safe for you to do.


Balance and Proprioception Exercises

After an ankle fracture, you may notice that your balance is a bit off. Your PT may prescribe single-leg standing exercises to improve your balance.

Your PT may also use specific tools like a BAPS board to improve your proprioception after your ankle fracture.

Once basic single-leg standing exercises are mastered, you may benefit from advanced balance exercises like using a wobble board or a BOSU to challenge your balance and proprioception.

Safety First

Challenging your balance can improve it. This means creating situations where you may be unsteady. This can be a safety hazard. Be sure to prioritize safety while performing balance exercises by having someone else around who can help you if needed.


Plyometric Exercise

If you participate in high-intensity sports, you may want to perform plyometric exercises like jumping and hopping to prepare for a return to the sport after an ankle fracture.

Learning to jump and land properly can ensure that your ankle can tolerate the forces placed upon it when running, cutting, and hopping during sports.

Your PT can devise a specific training strategy to include plyometrics after an ankle fracture.

A Word From Verywell

If you are recovering from a fractured ankle, you may benefit from exercises similar to this program to help you return to normal walking and mobility.

The best plan is to check in with your healthcare provider regularly and participate fully in a rehab program geared specifically for your condition and needs to quickly and safely get back to your normal activities.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Barlow C, Duggleby L, Barton T. Early weight bearing in elderly patients with ankle fractures reduces care needs and maintains independence. Foot Ankle Surg. 2022 Sep 21:S1268-7731(22)00191-6. doi:10.1016/j.fas.2022.09.006

  2. Habets B, van Cingel REH, Backx FJG, Huisstede BMA. Alfredson versus Silbernagel exercise therapy in chronic midportion Achilles tendinopathy: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2017;18(1):296. doi:10.1186/s12891-017-1656-4

  3. Plinsinga M, Manzanero S, Johnston V, Andrews N, Barlas P, McCreanor V. Characteristics and effectiveness of postoperative rehabilitation strategies in ankle fractures: A systematic review. J Orthop Trauma. 2022 Dec 1;36(12):e449-e457. doi:10.1097/BOT.0000000000002436

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.