How To Touch Your Toes: 5 Stretches To Touch Your Toes Instantly

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There are several basic milestones or benchmarks that can quickly demonstrate aspects of your fitness, such as your strength, cardiovascular endurance, or muscular endurance.

For example, if you can bench press or squat a certain percentage of your body weight, run a mile in a certain time based on your age or sex, or bang out a set of 20 or 30 full push-ups on command, you can feel confident that you’re at least relatively fit in different key aspects of health-related physical fitness.

Another important but often overlooked aspect of health-related physical fitness is flexibility, and touching your toes is one of the classic assessments of flexibility.

But, if your flexibility is poor, are there helpful stretches for how to touch your toes? What are the best tips to be able to touch your toes? 

In this article, we will discuss how to touch your toes and provide step-by-step instructions for stretches to touch your toes.

We will cover the following: 

  • How to Touch Your Toes
  • Why Can’t I Touch My Toes?
  • The Best Stretches to Do To Be Able to Touch Your Toes

Let’s dive in! 

A person touching their toes.

How to Touch Your Toes

Being able to touch your toes is frequently used as a demonstration of the flexibility in your posterior chain muscles and tissues, namely the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and lower back extensors, along with the ankles and Achilles.

However, because many people place significantly more emphasis on strength and aerobic fitness, flexibility training often goes by the wayside.

As such, it’s not uncommon to discover that you’re nowhere near able to touch your toes, which may prompt you to look into how to touch your toes.

The “sit and reach” test is a classic test of flexibility for both athletic and general fitness populations.

This test can assess hamstring and lower back flexibility and can serve as a benchmark of your passive tissue extensibility. 

Someone trying to touch their toes.

Why Can’t I Touch My Toes?

If you can’t currently touch your toes, it is likely indicative of tight hamstrings, lower back muscles, calves, and/or ankles.

There are several potential reasons for poor flexibility.

In most cases, poor flexibility is a result of sitting, standing, or lying down for long periods of time in the same static position.

Sitting, in particular, can cause your hamstrings, lower back muscles, and even calves to get tight.

Wearing high heels and performing repetitive exercises like running, walking, and cycling can also lead to chronic tightness in your lower back and leg muscles, restricting your ability to touch your toes.

Studies have found that it is indeed possible to improve your flexibility by using methods such as static stretching, dynamic stretching, partner-assisted stretching, and self-myofascial release from foam rolling

Moreover, there is some evidence to suggest that combining your stretching routine with resistance training exercises such as squats and deadlifts may be more effective at improving your flexibility—and thus your ability to touch your toes—than stretching in isolation.

Downward dog.

The Best Stretches to Do To Be Able to Touch Your Toes

The good news is that there are some effective stretches to touch toes and improve hamstring flexibility over time.

However, as with improving any aspect of fitness, increasing flexibility to touch your toes usually requires consistency with performing a stretching routine.

The best stretching routine for how to touch your toes involves focusing on stretching your hamstrings—which are usually the most likely culprit for poor “sit-and-reach” test results or being unable to touch your toes.

However, it also is important to include stretches for each major muscle group and elastic tissue in the posterior chain to unlock tight muscles and tendons so that you can gain the flexibility to touch your toes.

Thus, the best stretching routine to touch your toes includes stretches for the erector spinae in the lower back, hamstrings in the back of the thighs, glutes in the butt, calves in the back of the legs, and the Achilles’ tendon in the back of the ankle.

Below are some of the best stretches for toe touches: 

#1: Downward Dog 

Downward dog is a yoga pose that stretches the entire posterior chain of your body, so it’s one of the best stretches for toe touches or to improve your sit-and-reach test.

Here are the steps:

  1. Kneel on your hands and knees with your hands and elbows slightly in front of your shoulders, fingers spread wide, and your knees stacked underneath your hips. 
  2. Lift your knees off the floor and raise your hips all the way up toward the ceiling. 
  3. Straighten your legs and press your heels down into the floor, and straighten your arms without fully locking your elbows. Your body should be hinged at the hips in a “V” shape so that your chest is facing the front of your thighs.
  4. Keep your core tight and your spine neutral.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds, and then relax.
  6. Rest for 15 seconds.
  7. Repeat again, trying to press even deeper with a more upright V.

#2: Supine Hamstring Stretch

Supine hamstring stretch.

This hamstring stretch can be done on your bed or on a mat on the floor.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
  2. Straighten one leg up towards the ceiling. 
  3. Loop a belt or stretching rope over the sole of your foot.
  4. Hold the ends of the belt in each hand and apply a gentle pull to deepen the stretch. 
  5. Hold for 30-60 seconds, and then switch legs. 
  6. Repeat again on the first side, trying to deepen the stretch.
  7. Perform a second rep on the other leg.

#3: Seated Stretch for Toe Touches

Toe touch stretch.

If you can’t yet touch your toes, use this stretch to improve your flexibility in the posterior chain muscles.

Here are the steps:

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
  2. Loop a belt, stretching rope, or resistance band around the bottom of your feet near the ball of your foot and hold one end of the resistance band or rope in each hand.
  3. Gently pull the rope towards your body, keeping your torso upright and your core engaged.
  4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. 
  5. Then, remove the rope and lean your torso forward, reaching your hands towards your toes.
  6. Grab however far down your leg you can reach.
  7. Hold for 30 seconds.

#4: Wall Calf Stretch 

Calf stretch.

This easy stretch can be done throughout the day when your calves feel tight after sitting or working out.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand facing a wall that has plenty of room behind you. Place your palms flat against the wall, shoulder-width apart, between chest and shoulder level. Your feet should be about one foot away from the wall.
  2. Step one leg backward, leaning into your front leg like a mini lunge and pressing your weight into the wall through the palms of your hands. Keep the knee on your back leg straight. 
  3. Try to press your entire rear foot flat into the floor, pressing your heel down. You should feel a good stretch in your calf muscle.
  4. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  5. Then, bend your knee about 30 degrees to target the soleus muscle and Achilles tendon.
  6. Hold for 30 seconds.
  7. Switch sides.
  8. Repeat the entire sequence for 2-3 sets.

#5: Standing Hamstring Stretch

When you are sitting at your desk all day or get out of the car after a long drive, this is a helpful hamstring stretch to do to lengthen and unlock your hamstrings.

  1. Stand up tall with good, upright posture.
  2. Hinge at your hips to fold your body as you reach your hands down towards your toes. Keep your knees straight. Feel your spine lengthen, along with your glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
  3. You can grab onto your feet or ankles to deepen the stretch, depending on your flexibility.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Slowly come back up to standing.
  6. Rest for 15 seconds.
  7. Repeat again, trying to reach down further.
  8. Hold for 30 seconds.
  9. Come back up.
  10. Rest and repeat one more time, again, aiming to deepen the stretch. 

Unless you clearly have one particular muscle that is tight and making it so you can’t touch your toes, try to perform the entire posterior chain stretching routine or pick at least one touch-toe stretch that targets each muscle group in the posterior chain.

You can also foam roll your hamstrings, glutes, calves, low back, and Achilles. For step-by-step instructions for foam rolling your legs, check out our guide here.

For more ideas for improving mobility, check out our guide to the best mobility stretches here.

How To Touch Your Toes: 5 Stretches To Touch Your Toes Instantly 1
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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