If you’re hiking, running, hiking, or walking longer with the summer weather, do you feel that your ankles are sore? Have you ever had an ankle sprain, or find your ankle still turns easily? It may be a sign that your ankles need a bit of strengthening.
Ankle injuries are very common and custom orthotics are often used to improve & stabilize lower body biomechanics. However, it is recommended to strengthen the ankle in conjunction with prescription orthotics to achieve both injury prevention and injury recovery.
These 5 easy ankle exercises that can be done to strengthen the muscles in your ankles:
1. On tiptoe
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then rise on your tiptoes, lifting your heels. Stay on your toes for 10 seconds. Place your heels on the ground, then repeat this movement fifteen times. You can also position yourself on the end of a step and leave your heels in the void. You will feel your calves working.
If this move is too easy for you, you can add a weight in your hands to increase the difficulty. You can also perform the exercise on one foot to work on your stability. Remember to do the same number of reps on both sides.
2. Resistance against elastic
The elastic is used to create resistance against the ankles which will allow muscle strengthening. To do this, attach the rubber band to a stable object. Thread the other end of the elastic around your forefoot. Keeping your knee and heel stationary, turn your forefoot outward; the resistance in the elastic should be felt. Perform this movement fifteen times and repeat with the other foot. This movement can be done sitting on a chair with the leg at 90 degrees or sitting on the floor with the right leg. The important thing is not to move the heel during the movement.
Perform this same exercise, this time turning your forefoot inward. Orient yourself correctly so that the elastic band provides resistance during movement. Perform about 15 repetitions on each foot.
3. Circular ankle movement
This third exercise can be done standing, sitting or lying down. Just draw circles from the tips of your toes. Do 15 rounds counterclockwise first, then change to clockwise for another 15 reps. Perform the same movement with the other foot. This movement improves stability since it targets the muscles all around the ankle.
4. Ankle flexibility
The fourth exercise is done sitting on a chair. Place both feet in front of you. Step back as far as possible with your first foot without your heel ever lifting off the ground. When the heel seems to want to lift off the ground, stop and hold this position for 3 seconds. If the heel lifts, bring your foot closer to your starting position. You should feel your ankle working on its flexibility. Bring the foot forward and do the same movement for the second foot. Perform 5 repetitions on each side.
5. Balance Challenge
This exercise allows you to develop your proprioception while improving your stability. Attempt to hold the exercises below on each foot for 1 minute. When you manage to hold the whole minute, go to the next level.
Level 1: Stand on one leg holding a stable object.
Level 2: Stand on one leg unaided.
Level 3: Stand on one leg moving both arms from the side of the thighs up over your head.
Level 4: Stand on one leg turning your upper body from side to side. You can hold your hands together and rotate your shoulders as far as you can.
Level 5: Stand on one leg with the knee slightly bent. Imagine a clock around your foot. With your foot in the air, touch the ground with your toes in front of you (at 12 o’clock). Do this same movement around 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 3 o’clock again, then back forward for 12 o’clock.
Level 6: Stand on one leg with your eyes closed.
This challenge will allow you to see your improvement and motivate you to develop strong and stable ankles.
To maximize muscle building, please perform these 5 exercises for 2 sets approximately 3-4 times per week for a month. You can increase to 3 sets following the first month. Try to incorporate these exercises into your daily routine so that it seems to take less time. For example, you could do Exercise 1 while brushing your teeth or Exercise 3 while watching TV. This will help you make exercise a habit.