How to Do a Towel Curl

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

person doing to curl with towel

OlgaMiltsova / Getty Images

Also Known As: Toe curl

Targets: Foot, ankle

Equipment Needed: Towel, exercise band (optional), chair or place to sit (optional)

Level: Beginner

The towel curl (also called the toe curl) is an excellent foot strengthening exercise. It is great for people looking to improve balance and increase foot flexibility.

Towel curls can be performed anywhere at any time, so long as you have a towel or other material to scrunch. This exercise works well standing up or sitting down. You can try incorporating into a warm-up, cool down, or as part of a lower body workout,


The towel curl exercise stretches and flexes the foot to improve balance, support the arches of your feet, and increase overall foot strength. The curl can also help improve toe strength, which is beneficial for balancing.

Physical therapists often recommend this exercise for people with plantar fasciitis, because increasing the foot's flexibility helps with heel pain and stiffness.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You will need a small towel or an exercise band and a chair or bench to sit on if you prefer. You can do this exercise anywhere that you can sit or stand with your feet flat on the floor. It's easier to do on a hard surface, such as wood or tile, rather than carpeting.

  1. Smooth the towel or band out and place one foot on it, flat. You are going to be moving the towel toward yourself, so have extra fabric in front of your foot. (If using a band, stretch it out long in front of you so your toes have something to grab onto.)
  2. Sit on a chair (standing works too) with your heels under your knees. Make sure your legs and feet are parallel to each other with the toes pointing forward. Keeping your heel down, lift your toes and flex your foot back.
  3. Leave your heel in place on the towel as you reach out evenly along both sides and the middle of your foot to get your foot to land on the towel, as far out as you can.
  4. Keeping the heel still, pull the towel toward you by scooping it in with your arch and toes.
  5. Use both sides of your foot (all five toes) and try to create a deep dome under the arch area. You will only get a little bit of the towel to move each time you extend and pull back. You might have to take a break to smooth the towel or band after a few reps.
  6. Repeat the move at least five times, and then do it with the other foot. You can do this exercise daily or even several times a day.

Common Mistakes

Though the exercise seems simple, there are still some mistakes to look out for.

Not Firmly Planting Your Heel

Keeping your heel still and firmly on the ground is imperative for getting the most out of this exercise. If your heel is up or moving along with your toes, you will miss out on the many foot strengthening benefits toe curls have to offer.

Improper Posture

Whether you sit or stand to do the toe curl exercise, it's important to have proper posture. Keep your core tight, shoulders back, and arms relaxed by your sides. If you are sitting, make sure your legs are at a 90-degree angle with your toes still visible. If you are standing, keep a soft bend in your knees.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

When performing the toe curl, you can choose to sit or stand, use a towel or other cloth material (even a facial tissue), and perform the exercise as often or little as you need, depending on your level. Try decreasing or increasing your reps per foot.

Up for a Challenge?

Here are some ways you can take the towel curl to the next level.

Add a weight: Once you have mastered the toe curl, you can increase the challenge of the exercise by adding a small weighted object to the far end of the towel.

Start with a lighter weight, such as four to six ounces. You can use any of ​the cosmetics that you have handy. To increase the weight, try a small can of soup. Once you have mastered that weight, go for a larger can.

Towel push: In the opposite motion of the towel curl, push the towel forward by curling and uncurling your toes. Again, keep your heels on the floor so it isn't your ankle or heel doing any of the work.

Safety and Precautions

If you have a foot or ankle injury, consult with your doctor or physical therapist before trying the towel curl.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.