Body balancing with heel/toe raises

The heel/toe raise is a great functional exercise for ankle mobility, strength and stability. 

Strong ankles and shins help with balance, making you feel more stable as you do everyday activities, such as standing, walking, running or jumping. 

This exercise challenges balance by requiring the activation of leg stabilising connective tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments) and the core – that can otherwise remain relatively dormant – as you alternate between the heel and toe lift. 

An opportunity to recalibrate your brain, forming new connections and strengthening your inter- and intramuscular co-ordination. 

The "heel raise" component of the movement strengthens and tones the calf muscles, which can be further enhanced by adding extra resistance in the form of hand-held dumbbells. This movement also strengthens the largest tendon of the body – the Achilles tendon – which is so vital for everyday movement.  

The "toe raise" component of the movement strengthens the tibialis anterior (located on the shin) and can help treat plantar fasciitis (pain in the heal). 

This exercise can help make injuries such as shin splints (a common concern among runners) and stress fractures, less likely. 

How to do? 

1. Position yourself in front of a wall or bench if required for balance. Begin with two hands holding the bench. Progress to one hand holding on and then to no stability assistance.  

2. Keeping the body straight and aligned (back straight with shoulder blades back and ears aligned with shoulders) slowly lift the heels so the weight is completely on the balls of the feet, while contracting the abdomen muscles to engage the core. 

3. Slowly lower and transfer the weight to the heels, lifting the toes skyward. 

4. Move slowly to distribute the weight through the foot between each movement. 


 - Do not use momentum to rock through the movement 

 - Focus on concentrating the weight onto the big toe to ensure the ankle does not roll out at the top of the heel raise. 

How much to do? 

This exercise is both scalable and approachable. 

1. Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions three times per week. 

2. Progress to 3 sets of 10 repetitions daily. 

3. Further scale the exercise by adding hand-held resistance. 

Extended Reading: 

Three ways you can advance this exercise. 

1. Straighten the arms out above the head to remove a layer of stability. 

2. Hold for 5 seconds at the top of the heel raise and at the top of the toe raise. 

3. Increase the number of sets and repetitions. 

Maintaining good balance is essential for everything from playing sport to everyday walking. The body’s balance system is sensitive and with age comes the higher likelihood of a balance disorder. 

When we are standing and start to lean forward slightly, sensors in our ankles notice the small movement. They quickly correct the tilt by firing our calf muscle to pull us back into an upright position. 

The same happens on the front of our shin if we tip backwards. 

The built-in sensors around the ankles can’t work properly if the ankle is really rigid or if the muscles are too weak to react to balance changes. 

Practising going up on the toes and moving back onto the heels improves the movement in the ankles while strengthening the muscles.