Are you struggling to get into a deep squat? You may think this is because of tight hips or specific weaknesses, but the limiting factor could be your ankles.

Stiff ankles can hold back great squatting technique. More ankle dorsiflexion will improve your squat depth and technique.

Not sure how to go about it? I have put together 15 ankle mobility exercises for squats to get your squats better and deeper than ever before.

Good ankle mobility will improve your squat technique and how much weight you can lift.

Limited ankle mobility is one of the most limiting factors of good squatting technique, whether you're a Crossfit athlete or a complete newbie.

The ankle is one of several joints involved in squatting, and its ability to flex properly will dictate how low you can squat and how stable you are.

If your ankles are stiff and lack the range of motion, you are likely to feel like you are going to rock back or even fall backward as you do a good deep squat.

Imagine somebody squatting while wearing ski boots; this image should give you an idea of what someone with tight ankles looks like when they squat.

If your tight ankles limit your squat technique, it could cause a failed lift attempt or even open yourself up to injury.

Ankle dorsiflexion has been associated with a whole host of lower body injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon injury, calf strains, shin splints, patellofemoral pain, IT band syndrome, and even ACL injuries.[1]

Woman Wearing Orange Shoes Massaging Her Ankle

Testing Your Ankles Range Of Mobility

Good ankle mobility is the ability to move the joint through complete range of motion.

Research shows that a normal range of motion for ankle dorsiflexion is somewhere between 10 and 20 degrees. The average plantar flexion is 40 to 55 degrees.[2]

If someone shows less than these averages, then they need to do mobility exercises to improve their ankle mobility. Pain is also an indication of issues with ankle mobility.

Assess Your Squat

It can be as simple as having your body weight squat pattern assessed by physical therapists or a personal trainer and allowing them to see where you have restrictions.

For example, they will be looking for the degree to which you can get your knee over your toe when your feet are flat on the floor.

Knee To Wall Test

The knee-to-wall test is an excellent marker of ankle range because it removes the weight-bearing component through the half-kneeling position.

You are testing how far you can get the knee over the toe while keeping the heel on the floor.

Position yourself close to a wall in a half-kneeling position. Place four fingers against the wall, then place your big toe in contact with your fingers and touch your knee against the wall.

If this is too far and you cannot touch your knee, then you need to decrease the distance. If you can touch easily, then you need to move further back.

You need something to measure the distance, like a ruler. Measure the point you can touch your knee without your heel coming up.

Do this on both sides; you may find that one side has less range than the other.

15 Exercises To Improve Ankle Mobility For Squats

Here are 15 of the best exercises to improve your ankle mobility for squats. By adding a handful of these to your warm up routine, you'll have no issues with achieving a deeper squat. 

1. Calf Foam Rolling

man doing Calf Foam Rolling

Before squatting, try foam rolling on the calf muscle. The surrounding muscles and facia can have a big effect on your ankle dorsiflexion mobility.

Break up the tissue by using a foam roller around the heels and further up the calf muscles.


  • Loosens the calf muscles.
  • Improves dorsiflexion mobility.

How to do it:

  1. Place a foam roller underneath your calf.
  2. Roll starting from your heel up to the top of the calf muscle.
  3. When you find a tight spot, work into that area, trying to place more pressure to release the tightness.
  4. Flex and point your toe to work into the site.

Tips From A Trainer!

Use this mobility exercise as part of your warm up routine (before you begin squatting). 

2. Shin Foam Rolling

woman doing Shin Foam Rolling

Don't neglect your shin when using a foam roller to increase ankle mobility. Working on the anterior tibialis muscle can be just as beneficial for tight ankles.

While this is a great mobility movement to perform before your workout, I find it can place a lot of pressure on your shins, which may be uncomfortable for some gym-goers.


  • Helps loosen your ankles. 
  • Works your anterior tibialis muscle. 

How to do it:

  1. Face towards the floor, place the roller at the bottom of the shin, and roll upwards.
  2. The same goes here with rolling the calf; you want to spend time applying pressure in areas that are tender or tight and flex and point the toe. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Use this with the previous mobility exercise before your lower body workout.  

3. Resisted Dorsiflexion With Band

woman doing Resisted Dorsiflexion With Band exercise

This is a great exercise to improve dorsiflexion and build stronger ankles that are less susceptible to injury.

I'm a fan of this movement because you can perform this movement anywhere, even when you're on the move. I've performed this movement in my hotel room, office, and even a public park.


  • You can do them anywhere. 
  • Doesn't require much equipment.

how to do it:

  1. Looping the band around a surface, place the other end over your mid-foot and sit on the floor.
  2. Move back to bring tension into the band, keeping your leg out straight.
  3. Flex your foot and hold for 10-15s.
  4. Repeat 2-3 more times and switch sides.

Tips From A Trainer!

Choose a resistance band with a moderate resistance, you don't want to go too "heavy" with this movement.  

4. Slow-Eccentric Calf Raises

man doing Slow-Eccentric Calf Raises

Slow eccentric calf raise reps are a great dynamic warm-up exercise to do before squatting. This exercise will warm up the ankles for squats and stretch out the calves to release any tightness.

This is also an effective exercise to build strength after an ankle injury. I've used this movement with many clients in the past.


  • Develops ankle strength. 
  • Improves ankle mobility.
  • Releases calf tightness.

How to do it:

  1. Position the balls of your feet on an elevated surface and let one heel slowly sink towards the floor with the other leg hanging down, don't use it for support on the surface.
  2. Stop when you feel the stretch.
  3. Then position the other foot on the platform to return to the start position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Use this movement while you're travelling. You only need an elevated platform such as stairs. 

Related Article - What Causes Tight Muscles?

5. Toe Raises And Heel Drops

Man Doing Toe Raises And Heel Drops Exercise At The Gym

Ankle mobility exercises such as the toe raise and heel drop, essentially a calf raise exercise, will improve overall mobility as it moves the ankles through both plantar flexion and dorsiflexion.

This exercise will also strengthen and stretch the calf muscles and is great after a long cycling session.


  • Strengthens the calf muscles.
  • Great exercise for cyclists.
  • You can do them anywhere.

How to do it:

  1. Standing on a raised surface, with your heels hanging over the edge, press into the balls of your feet as far as you can go and hold.
  2. Then lower your heels down as far as they will go and hold in this position.
  3. Repeat for 10-12 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

Use this movement if you're on the move. You don't need any equipment and minimal space. 

6. Banded Ankle Distraction

Man Doing Banded Ankle Distraction Exercise

Banded joint mobilizations place a band below the crease of the ankle and are a very effective and popular technique used to improve joint restriction in the ankle.

Make sure you don't place the band too high on the ankle, as the goal here is to pull the talus down and back while the tibia glides over the top of it.

The reason using a band is effective is because it locks the talus bone in place. This is an excellent exercise if you experience a pinching sensation in the front of your ankle.


  • Great for gym-goers on the move. 
  • Improves joint mobility and strength.

how to do it:

  1. Secure a resistance band around a pole or squat rack and loop the other end around the top of your foot; it should be sitting on the talus bone (the bone that makes up the lower part of your ankle).
  2. Bring tension into the band and hold it tight at your heel.
  3. Move your knee over your big toe as far as possible and hold, then return to the start position. This can be done on the floor or on a raised surface like a small box.

Tips From A Trainer!

Going travelling? Take a resistance band with you. You'll be able to perform this movement anywhere you take your resistance band. 

7. Ankle PAILs And RAILs

Man Doing Ankle PAILs And RAILs Exercise At Home

These stretches are a form of isometric loading that requires no equipment and is a great addition to warming up for squats.  

As this movement doesn't require equipment, you can perform it anywhere. I've done this movement many times before running.


  • Requires no equipment. 
  • Simple for all ability levels.

how to do it:

  1. In a lunge position bend your front ankle as far as you can while keeping your heel flat.
  2.  Lean forward placing pressure on your lead leg. 
  3. Relax and repeat on the other leg. 

Tips From A Trainer!

If you want to increase your mobility further, elevate your front foot. It'll place more of a stretch on your lead ankle. 

8. Bench Stretch

Woman Doing Bench Stretch Exercise Outdoor

As you've probably already guessed, this movement makes use of a bench.

The bench stretch is a great and simple way to improve dorsiflexion as it targets stretching the calf’s soleus muscles more than the gastrocnemius (the large calf muscle).

The soleus muscle can limit dorsiflexion when squatting. This stretch will improve both ankle mobility and tight calves.


  • Stretches your calf muscles.
  • You can do them in most locations. 

how to do it:

  1. Place one foot on a bench and extend the back leg out behind you.
  2. Use your body weight to shift forwards so that your knee travels over the toe, keeping the heel down.
  3. Place your hands on either side of the bench to increase the stretch.

Tips From A Trainer!

Always use a stable platform for this movement. It may seem obvious but you'd be shocked by how many times I've seen somebody lose balance during this stretch.  

9. Squat Hold With Barbell On Knees

Woman Doing Squat Hold With Barbell On Knees Exercise

The squat hold with a barbell on your knees is a great exercise to prime a deep squat position and one to do right before you squat.

Not only will it improve your ankle mobility, but it'll increase your hip flexibility too.  This is one of my favorite mobility stretches to warm up for squats and even Olympic lifts.


  • Improves ankle and hip mobility. 
  • Great to warm up for Olympic lifts or squatting.

how to do it:

  1. Get into a deep squat position.
  2. Place the barbell just above your knees.
  3. Hold the position for 10-20 seconds.
  4. Relax and rest.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you have trouble getting into a deep squat, then this may be something you need to work towards. If you need a lighter weight than a barbell, try the kneeling kettlebell stretch. 

10. Knee Extension With Dorsiflexion

Woman Doing Knee Extension With Dorsiflexion Exercise On A Mat

This is a challenging yet effective exercise that will help improve dorsiflexion through increased resistance to the joint.

I like this movement as it doesn't require much equipment and is suitable for all ability levels.


  • Suitable for all abilities.
  • You can do them anywhere.

how to do it:

  1. Sit on a chair and place a kettlebell around the top of one foot.
  2. Sit up straight and keep your ankle in a flexed position.
  3. Straighten out the leg, ensuring the kettlebell doesn't move, and lower back to the start position.
  4. Repeat for 10 reps, then switch to the other leg. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Use a suitable resistance band. You don't need a lot of resistance for this movement to be effective. 

11. Soft Tissue Stretching

Soft Tissue Stretching

After completing foam rolling, move on to addressing soft tissue restrictions with a stretch into the calf. This can also be used as a foam rolling substitute if you don't have one at home.

While you can do this movement by yourself, I recommend getting help from your partner.


  • Stretches the calf muscles.
  • Improves blood flow to the area.

How to do it:

  1. A simple way to do this is the heel drop stretch by standing on a raised surface and dropping the heel down to the floor.
  2. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Tips From A Trainer!

Before training, do some foam rolling and this stretch to give you relief from tightness and to improve your ankle mobility. 

12. Duck Walks

People Doing Duck Walks In Park

As funny as this move may look, duck walks are a great dynamic exercise to help move the ankle joint through a wide range of motion.

This is an effective and fun drill to do with your training partner. I used to do this with my bootcamp clients, it always made everybody laugh.


  • Uses a wide range of motion.
  • Fun to perform.
  • Great for partner work.

How to do it:

  1. Get down onto the floor, kneeling on one knee and placing the other foot out in front with your foot flat on the floor.
  2. You're going to start moving forwards by pushing your body weight into the front foot and driving the knee forward, and using that momentum to switch sides.
  3. Make sure you have enough space to take 10 steps forwards and repeat this 3-4 times.

Tips From A Trainer!

Always ensure you've got plenty of room to perform this movement.  

13. Goblet Squats

Woman Doing Goblet Squats

The goblet squat is a very underrated exercise.

It's excellent at improving hip mobility and ankles, this squat variation allows people with restrictions in the ankles to get their hips lower into a deeper squat.

I often teach this movement to beginners as it's easier to perform than the back squat.


  • It strengthens your entire lower body.
  • Opens your hips joints.

how to do it:

  1. Hold either a kettlebell or a dumbbell in front of your chest and close to your body and stand with your feet around shoulder width.
  2. Squat as far as you're able, keeping your hips and torso stable. You will find it easier to get lower than a barbell squat due to the position of the weight.
  3. Use a pause in the bottom position to improve the movement.

Tips From A Trainer!

No kettlebell? No problem. You can use a dumbbell or weighted plate instead.  

14. Kneeling Kettlebell Stretch

Man Doing Kneeling Kettlebell Stretches In The Gym

This exercise will help you achieve a deep squat as it will improve your ankle dorsiflexion and give your calf a good stretch all in one movement.

Best of all, you don't need a lot of weight for this movement. A light kettlebell will do the trick nicely. 

While it's suitable for all ability levels, I feel more advanced lifters will get the most from this movement.


  • Stretches your calf muscles.
  • Opens your hip joints.

how to do it:

  1. Kneel on one knee on the floor and bring one leg forwards, keeping the foot flat on the floor.
  2. Shift your weight forward and use a moderately heavy kettlebell to place on your knee and push the knee forward as far as possible while keeping the heel flat.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs. Make sure to keep your heels planted on the side you are stretching.

Tips From A Trainer!

Allow the stretch to progress naturally. Don't force yourself to go deeper than your body can, you'll injure yourself.  

15. Hold A Deep Squat

People Doing Deep Squat Holds

If hip and ankle mobility are holding you back from squatting the weight you want, then simply sitting into deeper squats will help improve mobility in both areas.

You can also use the goblet squat stretch to feel more of a stretch in the ankles by holding a weight plate and using the weight to drive the knee over the toes.

Try holding a deep squat every day for 1-2 minutes.


  • Improves squat depth.
  • Opens your hip joints.
  • Increases ankle mobility.

how to do it:

  1. Place you feet hip width apart. 
  2. Squat down as deep as you can by bending your knees (maintain a neutral spine). 
  3. Hold the squat position for 1-2 minutes. 
  4. Rest and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you struggle to hold this position, then you can hold on to a surface to enable correct weight distribution, keeping your weight forwards, and as your mobility improves, you do this without assistance.


16. Heel walks

Man Doing Heel Walks Exercise

Heel walks are an excellent exercise for increasing your ankle strength and mobility. I've always been a big believer in looking after your feet as much as you can. If you look after your feet, they'll look after you. 

I've found heel walks to be a simple yet effective movement to add to your mobility program. 


  • Doesn't need any equipment.
  • Simple to perform.
  • Suitable for all abilities.

How to do it:

  1. Stand up tall. 
  2. Lift your toes from the floor so that your weight is on your heels.
  3. Slowly walk without placing your toes on the floor. 
  4. Walk for a set number of steps.
  5. Place your toes back down and relax. 
  6. Repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

If you're losing balance, you can use a wall for some added support. 

17. Single leg balance

Woman Doing Single-Leg Balance Exercise

The single leg balance is a basic yet effective way to improve your ankle mobility and stabilization. It works all of the small muscles and tendons in (and around) your ankle. 

I find this movement is brilliant for athletes or anybody playing sports as it improves ankle strength and lowers the chance of you "rolling" your ankle. 


  • Simple yet effective.
  • You can do it anywhere. 
  • Doesn't require equipment.

how to do it:

  1. Stand with both feet hip width apart. 
  2. Remove one foot from the floor and balance. 
  3. Hold for a set amount of time. 
  4. Relax and swap sides. 
  5. Repeat. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Put a song on and try to balance for as long as you can. Make a note of how far into the song you've gotten and try to beat it next time.  

Common Questions About Ankle Mobility For Squats

How long does it take to improve squat mobility?

Because the ankle joint is a stubborn area to increase joint mobility, you will see the most improvement if you do mobility work every day, and if you stick to it, you will see improvements to your squat in one to two months. 

What is considered good ankle mobility?

The angle of your shins when you are in a squat dictates how good ankle mobility is. The degree to which your knee travels forward over your toes, such as the knee-to-wall test, also gives you a good indication of how mobile your ankles are.

Do deep squats improve ankle mobility?

Yes, absolutely. Your ankle dorsiflexion will improve over time as your squat deeper and allow the knees to move forwards. Still, the more you can sit into a deep squat, this alone is going to improve your range of motion.

What are the long-term consequences of poor ankle flexibility?

If the ankle joint does not move through a good range of motion, then you are likely to develop weak ankles, and this provides negative effects in and outside of the gym. Poor ankle mobility will not only affect squatting technique and performance, but it can also lead to a host of lower body injuries and not to mention can affect everyday movement such as walking.

Is foam rolling beneficial for improving ankle flexibility?

Foam rolling is very effective at releasing tight tissues. Your ankle mobility is affected by the surrounding muscles, so if they are tight, your ankles will suffer. Make sure you foam roll before lifting to provide relief and increase joint mobility before you train.


You can do plenty of drills and exercises at home and in the gym to help improve stiff ankles.

Please don't neglect your ankles when it comes to improving your squat technique.

Better technique means you can lift more weight. Better ankle dorsiflexion will not only improve performance in the gym but having strong and mobile ankles is going to decrease the chance of injuries.


Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.