Ankles that feel wobbly and weak are vulnerable to injury. If you play sports, run, jump, or just walk often, you need strong ankles to support your entire kinetic chain. You may find weak ankles roll often or are subject to sprains.
Even if your ankles feel pretty stable, it’s important to keep them feeling that way. Strengthening exercises decrease incidences of ankle injuries during sports and chronic conditions such as shin splints and Achilles tendinitis.
At Arizona Foot Health, we recommend ankle exercises that challenge your balance — this builds proprioception, or your ability to know where your body is in space and time. You want exercises to encourage strength, full range of motion, and flexibility in your ankle joints. You can do these exercises daily or every other day.
1. One-leg stand
Simply practice standing on one leg for 30 seconds at a time. You can do this while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. As you master your balance, you can practice the one-leg stand on a firm pillow to challenge ankle stability.
2. One-leg mini squats
Stand on one leg and extend the other out in front of you, hovering your foot off the floor. Squat down by bending your hip and knee joint — try to go into a half squat. Do 10 reps on one foot, and then switch. Repeat two to three times.
3. Heel walks
Stand on one side of a long room or hallway. Lift your toes and ball of foot off the floor and walk across the space on your heels. Make three to five passes.
4. Lateral leaps
As you build strength, add plyometrics — or jumping movements — to help make your ankles strong. Stand on your right leg and propel yourself 3-5 feet to your left, landing on your left leg with your knee and hip softly bent. Immediately bound back to the right foot. Do this for 30-60 seconds.
5. Hand and foot resistance
Sit in a chair and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Take your left hand and place it outside your right foot. Push your foot into your hand and resist this pressure with your hand. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Place your hand on the inside of the foot and repeat the competing pressure exercise. Do three to four rounds for each foot.
6. Theraband exercises
A theraband is a strip of resistant latex that you can easily acquire at a medical supply store. Place the band around the top of your foot to do inversion, eversion, and flexion exercises. Sit in a chair to complete these exercises.
For inversion, loop the band around the bottom of your foot and stretch your leg out in front of you. Hold the band to offer some resistance, and then curl your ankle toward your body’s inner line. For eversion, move your ankle out from the centerline of your body. Repeat about 20 sets in each direction
For flexion, wear the band on an outstretched leg and hold it to offer appropriate resistance. Pull your toes toward your shin and then point them away from the shin. Repeat approximately 20 times.
If you do suffer an ankle injury or experience pain and frequent instability, come see us at Arizona Foot Health. We can walk you through these exercises and offer other treatments to help you optimize ankle health. Call our office to schedule an appointment today.