Club Foot Exercises and Stretches

Greg Thurston - December 28, 2020 
clubfoot exercises and stretches
Below are my best club foot exercises. They are gentle, fast, bring  relief, and help to increase mobility and strength.

They were all recommended by my physiotherapists and doctors over the years.

But first, a quick note. Every club foot is different. These exercises may not be suitable for everyone, but hopefully they’ll be useful for some. Even if you can’t do them exactly the same as me, you might be able to do them to a lesser extent.

Just go within your comfortable range of movement and ALWAYS listen to your body!

Watch my YouTube video or read the instructions below.

P.S. There's a new "foot stretch and massage" at the bottom of this post – it’s not in the video.

Club Foot Exercise 1.
Ankle Stretch and Release

This is a gentle exercise to improve ankle movement.

For me, it gives a nice stretch, and brings relief when my ankle is feeling tight or tired.

I was told by my physio that this is a fantastic clubfoot strengthening exercise for all those small muscles. You can really feel it working the ankle, calf muscle, and hips.

All you need is a stretchy resistance band!


Clubfoot Exercise with resistance band
Tie the band in a loop, about a hip width diameter.

Sit on the floor and loop the band over your feet.

Gently point toes forward and hold for 10 seconds. Then pull them back towards your face. Hold for 10 seconds.

Repeat, flexing toes forward, then pulling toward you.
The resistance band is my favourite tool for stretching my clubfoot.

If you’re traveling, take it with you. It requires zero space and can be a huge relief at the end of a day sightseeing.

Club Foot Exercise 2.
Ankle Circles

Again, this is great for building strength and improving range of movement.

I do it straight after the first... as it's more or less an extension of the same exercise.


Club foot strengthening exercise
Slowly rotate your ankles to make small circles with your feet. Both feet are going in the same direction.

Even if you can’t rotate much, start small and see what you can do.

Do this for 10 seconds, then go the other way.
Here's a gem of wisdom that I've heard from multiple yoga teachers and a physio... 

Move within your range of comfort.

That's a really good rule for this exercise.

I was told to notice the point where pain and discomfort begins, and then pull back a little. That builds strength without causing tension and knots.

After years of doing it, I occasionally hang out in a stretched position, but generally it's all about gentle movement... and listening to your body.

A nice yoga adaptation is to lie on your back with your feet in the air and make ankle circles (without the band). Put a yoga block beneath your tailbone for support if that’s more comfortable.

Club Foot Exercise 3.
Heel lift calf stretches

This one works to stretch and strengthen the calf muscle, Achilles tendon, foot muscles, and toes.
Update: Checkout the new calf muscle massage I just learned. It's crazy, and helps everything (the calf, Achilles, under foot...)

Heel-lift calf stretch instructions

Clubfoot calf exercise
Stand with feet hip-width apart.

Go up onto the toes, then back to flat, then lift the toes.

Repeat for 20 seconds.

Optional extra: Stand on 1 leg, using a finger on the wall to maintain balance. This is more intense, but gets each leg and ankle working independently (good for balance problems).

You can also do this on a balance board, or standing on a pillow.

And if you feel pain, back off. 

I do this occasionally while standing and working at the computer. It's a great way to add movement throughout the day.

My Beloved Balance Board

club foot balance board
My physio made this for me when I was 15. 

I went overseas without it when I first wrote this post... but now I have it back! It's much more gentle than the heel lift exercise above, and just REALLY good.

I'll post instructions to make one soon, or email me and I'll send you pics, dimensions etc.

One more note...

Club foot and small calf muscle

Multiple people wrote about having a clubfoot and small calf muscle, and asking about the best exercises to fix it. 

Honestly, I’m not sure if any of these will ever make my calf as big as the other one. From everyone I've talked to and everything I've read, I don't believe it's likely that my right calf will get as big as my left (my left is massive due to overcompensation).

Personally, I’m not concerned that I have one smaller calf muscle, but I understand that some people do care. I'm just focusing on balance and strength... aiming for happy muscles and joints.

P.S. I recently started a new calf muscle release. At the time of writing I've only been doing it for a week, but it's crazy... and from my experience, big changes follow this sort of thing. Sign up to my email newsletter and I'll let you know when it's published.

Clubfoot Exercise 4. Gentle knee bends

I love this exercise because it’s a challenge for tight ankles, shins, knees, and hips.

Gentle knee bends instructions

Stand in the same position as the previous exercise, feet hip-width apart.

Slightly bend the knees, keeping feet flat on the floor, then straighten back up.

That’s it. Repeat for 20 seconds.

P.S. Since reading research about vibration plates, I've started doing this exercise at the gym on a vibration plate... and it's amazing! My body feels better, and I believe it's doing good in terms of stretching and strengthening my muscles.
You can also try this on one leg at a time.

If you’re like me (I have a club foot on my right foot only), you’ll notice a huge difference in flexibility between the right and left.

If you work at a standing desk, this is a fantastic occasional work-time strengthening exercise.

Update: Gentle Clubfoot Stretch and Massage with a Rexona can

This came from an amazing chiropractor who has changed my hip pain and is now working on my clubfoot.

It’s super simple...

And yes, he did specify that Rexona is the perfect size.

Rexona can foot massage instructions

Place the can on the ground.

Gently roll your foot over the can, massaging the bottom of your foot. Focus on gentle daily progress.

I was told 2 minutes each morning and night.

Do smaller sets if you like, but do it regularly.
This foot massage doesn’t feel like much, but it makes an impact!

Right now we’re doing a lot of work on my foot, and my chiropractor told me that this exercise will prepare my foot for the weekly treatments.

Plus, I've noticed that some nights my ankle was killing me, and then the pain more or less disappeared after doing this.

Tip: Do your clubfoot exercises as a ROUTINE!

After 34 years, I realized that my exercises are VITAL to my happiness. If I don't do them, the pain inevitably takes over.

And the only way for me to do my exercises MONTH after MONTH, is by adding it to a routine. Same time every morning, after drinking my lemon water.

When I do my exercises regularly, those pain flareups tend to occur less often. And over time, I feel that I’ve managed to greatly strengthen my leg and ankle, and increase my range of movement.

So don’t rely on motivation. Do your exercises on autopilot as part of a routine.

Here’s a rule that my brilliant new chiropractor told me…
Aim to do your exercises 5 days per week.

That way, you can take a day off without feeling guilty. It sets a high but achievable goal, without the pressure for perfection.
I love this. It switched the conversation in my head... from exercises being a chore, to something that I can skip some days without guilt.

And even if you can only do 1 or 2 times a week. Make it a habit. Write it down in your diary or stick a chart on the wall, and tick it off.

The point is, CONSISTENCY is key.

And it goes beyond clubfoot exercises. I use this principle for all my goals.

Final note

I still get pain. But I feel that on the whole, these exercises have helped me hugely… both in terms of reducing pain, strengthening my clubfoot, and improving movement.

To be honest, I just wish I hadn’t waited until I was an adult to start taking my clubfoot exercises so seriously.

Anyway, onward and upward!

To any parent reading this, encourage your kid to do their exercises regularly. And for anyone with clubfoot, make it a routine… the effort will pay off 1000 times over!

I hope these club foot exercises bring you some relief :-)

Cheers, be well.

More blog posts you might like...

8 Clubfoot Pain Relief Strategies
The strategies that help me when pain flares up.

Tips For Living With Clubfoot
A broader post. Everything that helps me prevent pain, improve mobility, and generally boost wellbeing.

My Hip Pain & Back Pain Strategies
I struggle with hip and back pain. Here's my best learnings.

Meditation and Pain - My Story
The meditation technique that has helped me massively.

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7 comments on “Club Foot Exercises and Stretches”

  1. Thanks.

    Our kid is four and you would not know he was born with club foot as it has been corrected with the Ponseti method. Sadly just a few weeks ago he was suggested to have a ANTERIOR TIBIALIS TENDON TRANSFER from one orthopedic surgeon for relapse. Two other Orthopedic Surgeons have told us to wait and see how he progresses and that he is still in an acceptable form.

    So we have been searching for stretching and strengthening exercises.

    It's inspiring that you are making with work with less than prefect and I hope our son will end up choosing the attitude if we are not able to get him to a pain free status as adult.

    Stay Strong.

    Grateful for finding your site. I foresee looking back at it over the years.

    1. Hi Ryan. Great to hear from you. Your son is fortunate to have parents researching stretching options... I really feel they can make a huge difference, and starting young will set him up well.

      Stay in contact if you have any questions or anything you'd like to discuss. All the best.

  2. Hi Greg,

    I’ve been working on mobility and balance most of my life and I am probably in shape due to issues with my left club foot. Tai Chi has been of great use to me and I still enjoy running and dancing at 39. Recent flare ups have brought my focus to strengthening and posture. Looking forward to learning more from your self-exploration!

  3. Would love to see your opinions on physiotherapy for relapsing, or obtaining greater range of motion.

  4. I too am an adult, and on the older side. I love that there is a person who has delved into a way to exercise their way into an active life. I want to play a decent game of golf and have not found any person who can help me compensate when it comes to teaching me how to swing the golf club. The club foot on my right can’t make the weight transfer… I will watch for any information you post on that subject.

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