Intrinsic Foot muscle exercises

Intrinsic Muscles and Preventing Repeated Ankle Sprains

Intrinsic Muscle Strength

Back in September of 2019 – which seems like an age ago as it was “pre-covid,” I wrote an article entitled “Why Do we need the intrinsic muscles of our foot?”  Click here to recap.

Since then many more studies have been performed and many peer reviewed scientific articles have been written about these little muscles and how they can be used to improve our lives through better balance, prevention of injuries etc.

Scroll down to go straight to the exercise videos.

Recap: in case you missed it.

Just to recap on the main points of the article I wrote:

  • The Intrinsic muscles are the small muscles which are solely contained within our feet. As opposed to the extrinsic muscles which connect parts of our feet to parts of our legs,
  • Due to modern testing methods, recent evidence has shown that these muscles are much stronger and do much more work than we knew before,
  • They significantly improve our ability to balance,
  • They prevent the medial arches (MLA) of our feet from collapsing,
  • When barefoot, rather than activating, then tend to go slack to help absorb shock,
  • These muscles can be strengthened and better activated (enervated) by doing targeted exercises.
The previous article includes pictures of the muscles and then names of all the intrinsic an extrinsic muscles in our feet.

Exciting New Evidence! Great News for patients with Chronic Ankle Instablility.


Performing targeted intrinsic muscle exercises for as little as 6 weeks can significantly improve the activation of these muscles in patients with chronic ankle instability.


In the “Journal of  Exercise Rehabilitation,” authors Dong-Rour Lee and Young-Eun Choi found:

After 6 weeks of intervention, the abductor hallucis, flexor digitorum brevis, flexor hallucis brevis, and quadratus plantae all showed increased activation.


Our study results suggest that an IFM exercise program using toe posture provides foot stability in patients with CAI by improving the functions and dynamic balance of IFM

Note: IFM = Intrinsic Foot Muscles and CAI = Chronic Ankle Instability.

To determine their findings the examiners found 30 people with chronic ankle instability and had them perform a star excursion test, which is an established accurate test of CAI.

Watch the Star Excursion Test in action: click here.

Dynamic Podiatry is on the Case!

This means that we now have a great new tool to help us in the rehabilitation of people who have chronic ankle instability, whether it’s caused by playing sport, having hypermobile joints, or being of a certain age.

At Dynamic podiatry we are taking this new evidence and implementing it straight into our daily practice.

If you present with a case of chronic ankle instability, or are just concerned about your increased risk of falling, we will assess which intrinsic foot muscle exercises will be best for you.

What were the Intrincis Muscle Exercises they used in the study?

The three exercises that were used in the abovementioned study are very easy to do, as long as you know what you’re doing of course.

Below we list the three simple exercises and have a link to videos demonstrating the exercises on our Youtube channel.

1. Splaying out the toes in your feet.

Spread out the toes of your foot.

Push your little toe (5th) outwards and downwards

Push your big toe (Hallux) Downwards and out towards your other foot.

2. Big Toe Extensions

The second exercise is very easy and involves simply lifting the big toe up from the floor whilst keeping the lesser toes on the floor.

3. Pinkie Toe Extensions

Also an easy one, the third exercise involves simply raising the fifth or pinkie toe up from the floor whilst keeping the big toe on the floor.

Click here to go to our Youtube channel and see our other exercise videos.

Important information for the Intrinsic Muscle Exercise Program

Now the study asked their patients to do 104 of these repetitions daily, sounds like a lot, but the exercises are so simple that it only takes a few minutes each day to get them all done.

The following protocol was observed:

  • For the first two weeks all exercises were performed whilst sitting down,
  • For the 3rd and 4th weeks all exercises were performed with both feet on the floor,
  • For the 5th and 6th weeks (final) all exercises were performed with only the affected foot on the floor.

Please ensure that you feel safe and secure whilst doing these exercises and that you are not at a risk of falling.

To see Advanced Podiatry’s infographic on the 6 ways to prevent an ankle injury click here.

Get Some Guidance From the Experts

Podiatrists are the primary health professionals of the lower limb and are very good at analysing your situation and goals, and know which pathways to put you on to get there.

If you need some help with your intrinsic muscle strength programme, whether it’s for chronic ankle instability, falls risk or getting better performance out of yourself, the podiatrists at Dynamic Podiatry have the experience and the expertise to guide you in the right direction.

If you’d like to make an appointment, you can either call Ph: 3351 8878 or you can book online by clicking here.

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