Ankle strengthening is no joke. Not only does it enhance athletic performance, but a keen focus on ankle strength can benefit people from all walks of life, especially those with conditions that cause ankle instability. After all, your ankles regularly hold up the entirety of your weight, so a weak ankle can cause a domino effect that keeps you from feeling your best.
If you have weak ankles, rest assured there are ways you can build strength and establish a more solid foundation for the rest of your body! All it takes is a combination of vigilance, lifestyle changes, and occasional assistance from a chiropodist.
To get you on your way toward achieving your goal, we’re going to talk about the following:
- Why strong ankles are important
- Ankle strengthening exercises
- Additional ways to strengthen your ankles
- Additional exercises and stretches that enhance your overall routine
Why Strong Ankles Are Important
Ankle strengthening is all about being proactive instead of reactive.
Your ankles bear the brunt of your everyday activities. The impact of running, lightly jogging, and even simple walking make your ankles one of the most vulnerable parts of your body. For that reason, ankle weakness combined with just the slightest misstep can leave you bedridden for a lengthy period.
Strong ankles are key for maintaining overall muscle function and preventing mild injuries like shin splits. Strong ankles can withstand more force, whereas chronic ankle instability can cause muscle strain, which leads to regular aches and pains in the feet, lower legs, ankles, back, hips and knees. Building ankle resiliency can help prevent serious injuries like sprains — or at least reduce their severity! Lastly, paying attention to your ankle strength can improve your stride and overall performance if you’re passionate about your athletic performance.
Ankle Strengthening Exercises
If you’re wondering how to improve ankle stability and strengthen your ankles, look no further than a solid exercise routine. The following exercises are great for strengthening weak ankles and preventing ankle injuries. A study from the National Library of Medicine also recommends them as part of an ankle rehab program for injuries like ankle sprains and fractures.
The following exercises are relatively easy to perform, and you can do them in the comfort of your own home or at the gym:
Towel Tug / Towel Stretch
- Sit on the floor (or even your bed!)
- Keep your leg and knee straight as you loop a towel around your foot.
- Pull the towel towards yourself, holding for 30 seconds. Repeat with your other foot!
Golf Ball Stretch
- Get a golf ball, tennis ball, frozen water bottle or therapeutic massage ball.
- Roll each foot over the item for 10 minutes each day(or less depending on how much time you have), three times per day.
Bonus tip: The golf ball roll strengthen weak ankles, but it also targets the tired muscles on the bottom of the feet.
- Stand up with your hands on your hips.
- Raise your leg, keeping your knee bent.
- Move your ankle in a circular motion around 10 times and repeat with the other foot.
- To takes things up a notch, try writing the full alphabet after you master the circles!
Bonus tip: Ankle circles can also reduce the frequency of cracking and clicking and improve your range of motion!
Additional Ankle Strengthening Exercises
Is There Anything Else I Can do to Strengthen My Ankles?
Exercises are crucial for strengthening, but strong ankles also depend on other lifestyle factors.
- Maintain a healthy weight: When your ankles have to bear more weight than they can stand, they can quickly weaken. Your other lower extremities, like your knees and feet, can also feel the burden. Maintaining a healthy weight with regular exercise and good eating habits can make a major difference!
- Attend a shoe fitting: Wearing the wrong shoes can do more damage than you realize! Supportive, high-quality footwear can prevent the injuries that weaken your ankles in the first place by protecting your feet and helping with balance and stability. There are also stability shoes that accommodate people with weaker, unstable ankles.
- Stretch before and after cardiovascular activity and weight training: The stretches we talked about are helpful as standalone physical activity, but they’re also great ways to prep for a session at the gym. Warming up and cooling down with stretches can regulate blood flow to the ankles and make them feel less stiff.
- Get a foot assessment from a chiropodist: If your ankles are weak, impacting your mobility and causing pain, a foot assessment from a chiropodist can help point you in the right direction. They can pinpoint underlying biomechanical issues and recommend medical devices like an ankle bracing compression sleeve or custom orthotics.
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