Do you have poor balance? Do you find yourself dealing with ankle sprains on a regular basis?
If you answered "yes" to either of these questions, you may be dealing with weak or unstable ankles.
Weak or unstable ankles can lead to a variety of problems, including increased risk of ankle fractures, increased risk of injury to other joints, and poor sports/exercise performance.
The good news, though, is that there are many things you can do to correct this issue and strengthen your ankles.
Listed below are ten great ankle strengthening exercises that will help you to improve your stability and avoid injuries.
Symptoms of Weak Ankles
How can you tell if weak or unstable ankles are the source of your problems? Here are a few symptoms you should watch out for:
- Repeatedly injuring the ankle, especially while walking, running, or playing sports
- Chronic pain or swelling in the ankle
- Feeling wobbly or unstable while moving around or trying to balance on one foot
- Feeling Fatigued quickly while standing, walking, running, or playing sports
- Feeling like your ankle is “too loose”
If you notice any of these symptoms, there's a good chance you could benefit from adding ankle strengthening exercises into your routine.
Top Ten Ankle Strengthening Exercises
Here are ten great ankle strengthening exercises that will improve your balance and stability and reduce your injury risk:
1. 4-Way Stretch with Band
For this exercise, you will need a wide resistance band, often referred to as a Theraband. Sit in a chair, or on the floor, and wrap this band around the toes. Then loop it around a sturdy object like a table leg.
Once the band is in place, practice the following movements:
- Dorsiflexion (pulling your toes back toward you)
- Plantar flexion (pointing your toes away from you)
- Inversion (rotating your ankle inward)
- Eversion (rotating your ankle out and away from the body)
Hold your ankle in each position for a couple of seconds, the release and repeat.
2. Calf Raises
Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, with toes pointing forward. You may want to hold onto a chair or table for balance.
Slowly rise up onto your toes, holding the top part of the exercise for a few seconds before lowering yourself back down.
When this is easy and you can maintain your balance while performing the exercise, you can progress to single-leg calf raises or add a backpack to add some weight.
3. Toe/Heel Walks
Walk for 10-15 yards on your toes, then walk backwards on your heels, with your toes lifted.
Do this a few times, then combine the two movements. Step down onto the heel and roll your weight slowly through your toes so that you land in a calf raise position.
4. Single-Leg Balance
Stand up straight and hold onto a table or chair for balance. Raise one leg off the floor and try to maintain your balance for 10 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
Gradually try to increase the amount of time you spend balancing on each leg. Then, you can progress further by standing on an unstable surface like a foam pad or balance disc.
5. Lateral Stepping
Place an object on the floor, such as a rolled up towel. Stand on one side of the object with the feet together, toes pointing forward.
Take a lateral (sideways) step over the towel. Take another step back to return to the original position.
When this is easy, you can make it more challenging by hopping over the towel.
6. Alphabet Exercise
To do this exercise, sit on a chair, or on the floor, with your legs extended in front of you.
Lift the right leg and write the alphabet in the air with your toes. Repeat with the left leg. To make it more challenging, reverse the exercise and write the alphabet backward.
7. Lunges with BOSU Ball
Place one foot on the center of the ball, the round side facing up. Your back foot should be in a basic lunge position. Perform 10-15 lunges with the front foot elevated, then switch feet and perform 10-15 more.
To make this more challenging, place the back foot in the center of the ball and keep the front foot flat on the floor.
8. Squat Progressions
Start by performing squats with your feet shoulder width apart.
When this is easy, and you can perform 10-15 repetitions with good form (knees stay in line with toes, torso doesn't fall forward, etc.), you can progress to squats with a more narrow stance.
Later, you can progress to squats on an unstable surface like a foam pad or balance disc.
9. Balance Board Exercises
A balance board or wobble board is a great tool for working on ankle strength and stability. Start by simply standing on the board and doing your best to keep it from tilting to one side.
Next, you can work on using your lower body muscles, as well as your core and lower back muscles, to move the balance board in different directions.
10. 4 Square Jumps
Lay two strips of tape of the floor so they create a cross.
Stand in one of the "boxes" created by the cross and balance on one foot. Hop from one box to the next, moving in the following patterns:
- Front to back
- Side to side
This is an advanced ankle strengthening exercise, but it can be very beneficial to athletic individuals looking to prevent injuries while also improving their reaction times and dexterity.
Start Strengthening Your Ankles Today
As you can see, there are many different ankle strengthening exercises you can utilize if you struggle with weakness, pain, or instability.
Try implementing these exercises into your routine to see if your ankle pain and other issues start to subside. However, what should you do if they don't?
If you continue to struggle with lingering ankle pain or instability, you may be dealing with a more serious problem.
Contact us as soon as you can to schedule a consultation and gain a deeper understanding of what's going on with your ankle.