Heel slides are simple leg exercises that involve extending your leg away from your body, and bending your knee and sliding your heel toward your buttocks. You can do heel slides using a bed, floor, or wall. They’re often recommended after having a knee injury or knee or hip surgery. You can also use heel slides to prevent and treat low back pain.

The purpose of heel slides is to increase the range of motion of your knee. They also help to strengthen and stretch the tissues around the knee and leg muscles. This is an important part of the recovery process and helps to prevent further injuries.

Read on to take a closer look at how to do heel slides, their benefits, and safety precautions to keep in mind.

There are several heel slide exercises to try. You can do one or more depending on your needs. Each variation will target slightly different muscles.

You’ll want to keep a few things in mind when doing this exercise:

  • Slide your heel as close to your buttocks as you can.
  • Only bend your knee to a place that is comfortable.
  • You may feel slight pressure or a sensation in or around your knee, but it shouldn’t be painful.
  • For each exercise, do 1 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Rest for up to 1 minute between sets. Do these exercises at least two times per day.

Heel slides

You can experiment with your toe placement. Point your toe or draw your toes back toward your shin. Or turn your toes to either side.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended and your feet slightly apart.
  2. Slide your affected leg as close to your buttocks as you can.
  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  4. Slide your heel back to the starting position.

Abduction and adduction heel slides

For this exercise, maintain alignment in your hip and leg by keeping your knee and foot pointing toward the ceiling.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended and your feet slightly apart.
  2. Point your toes or draw them back toward your shin.
  3. Slowly slide your affected leg out to the side.
  4. Slide your leg back to the starting position without bringing it past the midline of your body.

Seated heel slides

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Keep your foot flexed as you slide your affected heel along the floor toward your buttocks.
  3. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
  4. Slide your heel back to the starting position.

Chair heel slides

If possible, use a chair with armrests. Press your thighs firmly into the chair throughout the exercise.

  1. Sit on a chair with your leg extended.
  2. Slide your heel back as close to the chair as possible.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Slide your foot back to the starting position.

Wall heel slides

If you need additional support for this exercise, you can also hook your unaffected foot under your opposite foot as you slide your heel down the wall.

  1. Lie on your back with your hips a few inches away from the wall.
  2. Bend your unaffected leg and place the sole of your foot against the wall.
  3. Extend your affected leg with your heel against the wall.
  4. Slowly bend your knee and slide your heel down as far as possible.
  5. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  6. Then place your unaffected foot under your opposite foot to assist in lifting your foot back to the starting position.
  7. Lower your unaffected foot back to its starting position.
  • Before doing these exercises, warm up for at least 5 minutes. If you’re not able to get up and walk or move around, use a heating pad on your knee for a few minutes. Remember that your body may feel less flexible early in the day.
  • Massage your knee before and after doing heel slides. For best results, use essential oils mixed with a carrier oil, a CBD topical, or a muscle rub.
  • Use a plastic bag under your heel to allow it to slide more easily across carpet or a bed. Wear socks or place a towel under your heel if you’re using a hard floor.
  • Use slow, controlled movements. Avoid fast, jerky movements.
  • Press your low back into the floor or place a folded towel under your low back for support.
  • Engage your core muscles and avoid arching your neck.
  • Use a strap or towel around your foot to assist with the movement.

Heel slides build strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. They also work the muscles and tissues around the knee. Heel slides strengthen the core muscles, which helps to prevent and treat low back pain. Strong abdominal muscles also help to improve overall stability in your body, which helps with all movements.

Heel slides are usually used to rehabilitate the body following surgery or injury. They are a simple way to keep your body active, especially if you are not fully mobile. Heel slides increase the range of motion to your knee, which helps to improve mobility, flexion, and flexibility.

They also help to strengthen your hip and leg muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Plus, keeping your leg active with heel slides relieves pain and boosts circulation, which allows you to feel better overall.

They may also be useful for managing a Baker’s cyst as well as fibromyalgia flare-ups and symptoms.

While you may feel some sensation or discomfort during these exercises, it’s important to stop if you feel any pain. Go slowly and be gentle with your movements, especially when you first begin.

Make sure you feel comfortable the entire time. Don’t force your way into any position because this can put your knee under stress. It’s OK if you’re only able to bend your knee a little bit. Gradually, you’ll be able to bend your knee all the way.

If you feel sore after the exercises or during the day, ice your knee for 20 minutes. This can help to relieve pain and swelling. You can ice your knee several times daily. For best results, rest and elevate your leg as much as possible.

It’s always a good idea to touch base with a fitness pro about your exercise goals, especially when you’re starting a new routine or healing from an injury or surgery.

A trainer can help you to set goals and design a personalized routine that will help you to meet them. As you progress, they’ll continue to give you motivation and new ideas. A trainer can make sure you’re using proper form and technique while working within your current fitness level.

You can do heel slides on their own or incorporated into a longer exercise routine. Focus on building strength and stability as well as improving mobility and range of motion. Experiment and choose the variations that bring you the most benefit, which includes relieving pain.

If you’re unsure of the best exercises for your needs, seek advice from a fitness or healthcare professional. Listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard or fast, especially if you’re healing from a surgery or injury. As you recover and progress, continue to practice these exercises regularly to maintain your results.