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Toe raises focus on lifting your toes off the ground. They’re not to be confused with calf raises, which is when you lift and lower your heel off the ground. This exercise doesn’t require any equipment and can help strengthen and stabilize the ankle.

This article will explore what toe raises are, benefits from doing them, as well as how to do them properly.

Toe raises mainly work muscles in the lower leg, especially the tibialis anterior, which is located in the outer surface of the tibia, or shin. This muscle is responsible for flexing the foot upward, as well as extending the toes.

They strengthen the ankle

Keeping your ankles strong and healthy helps you in the long run.

Both the leg and foot are made up of tendons, muscles, and ligaments that withstand the stress of movement every day.

The largest tendon in the body, for example, is the Achilles tendon, which attaches the calf muscle to the heel bone. Without it, doing things like walking would be very difficult.

Other tendons in the ankle include the flexor hallucis longus muscle (connects inside of the ankle to the big toe) and the flexor digitorum muscle (connects inside of the ankle to other toes).

By using these tendons, nearby muscles, and ligaments for toe raises, you work on range of motion and improve your overall foot health. In some cases, you can even relieve foot and ankle pain.

This makes injuries such as shin splints, a common concern for runners, and stress fractures less likely.

They help with balance

Strong ankles and shins help with balance, making you feel more stabilized as you do everyday things, such as stand, walk, run, or jump.

One 2015 study involving 25 dancers and 25 non-dancers looked at the effects of toe raises as they relate to balance and improving the flexor hallucis longus muscle. Dancers use this muscle frequently to flex and point their feet. Tendinopathy of this muscle, also known as dancer’s tendinitis, is a common condition among dancers.

Researchers had the participants complete several activities, including modified heel raises without the use of the toes and a single-leg stance on the toes. In the end, it was found that the dancers rely on their use of toe flexors for balance more than non-dancers.

Researchers recommended that using modified heel raises with toes off the edge of a block to train muscles that control plantar flexion should be studied further as a nonsurgical treatment option for dancer’s tendinitis.

They help with plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is when you experience pain in the heel or mid-foot area, caused by your plantar fascia ligament. This is the thick ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot.

There are many treatment options for plantar fasciitis, including over-the-counter medications, orthopedic shoes, and icing the affected area. Toe raises are also an excellent option.

Heel raises are a common therapeutic exercise for treating plantar fasciitis. A 2014 study found that engaging the toes by lifting them, as part of strength exercises for this condition, can improve outcomes. Toe raises are also gentle and considered low impact.

Toe raises can be done every day, at least one to two times per day.

You can do them at any time, including when you’re sitting down, standing in line, working, or watching TV.

How to do seated toe raises

  1. Start seated with your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands on your lap or the sides of your chair.
  2. Lift your toes on your right foot, keeping the left foot planted firmly on the ground.
  3. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds.
  4. Lower your toes.
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times on each foot for a total of 3 sets.

To ease into this exercise, you can start by lifting only your toes, flexing at the ball of your foot. Once you feel comfortable, you can try a full toe raise, which involves lifting your foot so that only your heel stays on the ground.

How to do standing toe raises

For standing toe raises, find a space that you can stand on securely. That can be:

  • on the floor
  • on a step with your toes hanging out over the edge
  • on an incline with your toes lower than your heels

From there, lift and lower, following the same steps from the seated toe raise.

Active posture

Whether seated or standing, try to maintain an active upright posture, with your back mostly straight and your shoulders back, throughout the exercise.

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Doing toe raises on a regular basis is a great way to take care of your feet. This exercise only takes a few minutes a day and you can even do it while watching TV.

If you have any issues with pain or discomfort in your feet or ankles, you may want to speak with a doctor or physical therapist before doing toe raises.