Do you frequently twist your ankle or have a hard time with balance? The solution may be as simple as increasing your ankle strength. Having strong ankles can lead to better balance, a deeper range of motion, enhanced speed and agility, and greater power in your workouts and physical activities. It can also help you avoid injury.
Point and Flex
This exercise is the best place to start if you want to strengthen your ankles. Pointing and flexing develops and lengthens the muscles of the calves and the shins, which help to increase speed and balance in both forward and lateral motion. It will also work to improve ankle mobility.
How to Do It
- Sit on a raised surface like a chair or a bench and raise one foot a few inches off the floor.
- Draw your toes toward you and your heel away, flexing your foot.
- Reverse the motion by pressing your toes away from you and drawing your heel back. This is pointing your toes.
With pointing and flexing, flexibility can vary from person to person. You may find your range of motion is limited at first. However, with practice, it will increase. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions on one side. Then, repeat on the other side.
Internal & External Rotation
Lateral rotation strengthens the small muscles on the side of the ankle, as well as the calves and the shins. Stronger muscles in this area means a reduced chance of shin splints for runners and others who play high impact sports. It can also increase mobility in the knee, which will help reduce discomfort for those who experience pain.
How to Do It
- Sit on a raised surface and lift your foot a few inches off the floor. Start with your foot flexed so that your toes are aimed toward the ceiling.
- Keeping your leg stable, draw the inner edge of your foot toward the inside of your ankle, sickling your foot.
- Make the opposite motion by drawing the outer edge of your foot toward the outside of your ankle.
Don't be surprised if your foot doesn't turn too far in one direction or in both. Many people have limited ankle flexibility. With repetition, it will increase. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions on each side before moving on to the next exercises.
Many people have a tendency to roll onto the inner or outer edges of their feet while standing, walking, or running. Fanning or spreading your toes gives you a wider base of support, which allows you to plant your feet firmly to stabilize the ankle. It also increases flexibility along the front and sides of the foot, resulting in better balance and a decreased chance of rolling or twisting the ankle.
How to Do It
- Flex your foot so your toes are aimed up toward the ceiling.
- Spread your toes, so that they move away from each other, leaving gaps in between them.
- Release the muscles so they come back together.
This is a difficult exercise. There are many individuals who can't fan their feet. This is from wearing shoes so narrow they compress the toes or so padded the muscles in your toes never have to work. As a result, the muscles become tight and under-used so it takes real effort to get them working again. If you have a hard time with this one, check out the video below. It has a great alternative for beginners. If you've got it, complete 10 to 15 reps on each side.
The calf raise not only strengthens the ankles, but it is a great move for developing larger calf muscles. This is perfect for anyone who wants to increase their vertical leap, reach higher shelves in their kitchen cabinets, or just make sure their legs look sexy in heels.
How to Do Them
- Stand with your feet about hip width apart. Think knees under hips, ankles under knees.
- Parallel the outer edges of your feet and spread your toes to create a strong base of support.
- Carefully lift your heels off the floor so you are standing on the balls of your feet. Just make sure your ankles point forward, and your feet don't sickle. That's an easy way to cause injury.
Start with just an inch or two in the beginning. You can work your way up to standing completely on your toes. If you have a hard time maintaining your balance, try placing your hands on a steady surface like a table, the wall, or the back of a chair. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions before moving on to the next exercise.
This move is more advanced so if you're a beginner, be sure to work up to it by mastering the other exercises first. The ballet walk takes ankle strengthening to the next level to help improve your agility. Like calf raises, it is highly recommended for those who want to up their heel game, as well as those who play fast-paced sports likes basketball or volleyball and need to move quickly from one side of the court to another.
How to Do It
- Stand with your feet hip distance, feet parallel, toes spread.
- Lift your heels like you did in the calf raise.
- Once you are stable, keeping your weight on the balls of your feet, walk forward slowly. Like with the calf raise, make sure your ankles point forward and your feet don't sickle as you walk.
Take your time. It's more important to maintain proper form so you build strength in the right areas and avoid injury. Once you've mastered walking forward, feel free to experiment with walking backward and laterally (side to side).
Check out this video for a demonstration of how to perform the ankle strengthening exercises in real time. It includes the steps listed, along with a few additional tips for mastering the moves.
Improved Ankle Strength and Mobility
Try out these five exercises to start strengthening your ankles today. Together, they only take about five to ten minutes to complete. Stay consistent, and you'll see improvement in your ankle strength before you know it!