Heel Raises

Dose

Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions per day. If pain exceeds 3/10, with 10 being the worst pain imaginable and 0 being no pain, perform 3 sets of 5 repetitions, or as many as you are able to while staying below the pain threshold.

Purpose

Pain in the calf, Achilles tendon, ankle, and foot all can be related to dysfunction of the muscles in the calf and foot. This exercise is a good way to make the lower leg more tolerant to loading, so that everyday activities become less symptomatic.

Method

Stand on the edge of a step with both feet facing straight ahead, hip width apart, holding the handrail or wall beside you. Make sure the knees are bent enough so that they are not locked back, and the pelvis is neutral. More information on finding and maintaining a neutral pelvis can be found in the Standing Pelvic Tilt exercise available in this prescription.

With the balls of the feet on the edge of the step, lower the heels down as far as you can to feel a stretch in the back of the calf. Keeping the knees unlocked and the feet straight, use the balls of the feet and the first two toes to drive the heels as high as you can. Pause for a second at the top before lowering into another repetition. If you are able to do 10 full repetitions with both feet, progress to using one foot at a time.

Common Mistakes

∙Moving at the hips and knees. This exercise targets the calves. To make sure no other muscles are not compensating, make sure motion is occurring only at the ankle, and the body is rising directly up and down, rather than tipping forwards and backwards.

∙Rolling onto the outside of the foot. This is common when the muscles that control the ankle are under-active. Try to avoid this by engaging the toes to drive you upwards and ensuring that the line of drive runs through the first two toes.

∙Doing too much. This exercise can aggravate symptoms when done in excess. If your symptoms seem to be irritated during or after the exercise, above a 3/10 pain where 10 is the worst pain you can imagine, decrease the exercise load. This can be done by regressing to double leg heel raises on flat ground and decreasing the number of repetitions performed.

Progression Threshold

Progress to the next exercise when you can lift your heels off the ground without experiencing more than a 3/10 pain. Keep this exercise up until both ankles feel like they have similar movement.