Heel Raise: A Super Exercise

The heel raise is a lower body movement that primarily targets muscles of the calf, including the gastrocnemius and soleus. This movement is highly functional and develops lower body strength and endurance. The heel raise is a great exercise to include in achilles tendon or lower body rehab, and can be easily adapted to suit a variety of levels.  

Due to the variability in anatomical differences, mobility restrictions, and muscle flexibility, this exercise may look different from person to person. This is why it is important to use this resource as a general guide. However, a physiotherapist will be able to ensure the exercise is properly and safely executed.  

 

Starting Position: 

This exercise can be performed in different positions: sitting, standing on the floor, or standing on a step.

  • Sitting: Bend your knees to 90°, with the feet placed firmly on the ground.
  • Standing on the floor: Position yourself close to a wall or solid furniture for balance (as needed). 
  • Standing on a step: Place the front halves of your feet on a stair or step.

Position your feet about hip width apart and pointing straight forward. 

 

Action:

Initiate the movement by pressing the toes down into the ground, contracting your calf muscles, and lifting your heels upwards. Ensure there is consistent pressure through your big toe. Once you reach the top of your movement, slowly lower the heels back towards the ground. If performing this on a step, lower the heels past the level of the step to allow greater range of motion, based on what you are able to tolerate. 

 

Common Mistakes to Avoid: 

  • Pushing the ankles outwards when reaching the top of the movement.
  • Letting your heels collapse or rotate towards the middle while lowering back down.

 

Repetitions: 

Based on your individual goals, the parameters for this exercise can vary significantly. The number of sets, repetitions, and tempo are among a number of variables that can be modified in order to optimize your programming. Whether you are returning from injury, looking to get stronger, or improving your sport performance, speak to your physiotherapist to establish your training goals. 

 

Fig 1. Start position 

 

Fig 2. End position 

 

Modifications and Progressions: 

  • Please refer to your physiotherapist if you are unsure of any aspect of the exercise or are unable to successfully perform the exercise.
  • Movement can be performed at different feet spacing.
  • Before progressing to a single leg, you may transition to the eccentric single-leg version 
    • While on 2 feet, raise your heels to the top position.
    • Once at the top, lift 1 leg off the stair or ground and maintain it in a suspended position. 
    • Now, on a single leg, lower back down.
    • At the bottom, place your suspended foot back onto the stair to restart the movement. 
  • Options to increase difficulty of the exercise: 
    • Perform on a single leg.
    • Perform with feet on an unstable surface (bosu ball, pillow, etc). 
    • Hold on to a weight when performing the exercise.
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