Ankle Strengthening Exercises to Avoid Injury

ankle strengthening exercises
Table of Contents

Ankle Exercises and Physical Therapy for Ankle Injuries

Countless athletes and hobbyists suffer from ankle sprains and strains each year. While foot and ankle pain are very common in athletes due to the nature of their everyday activities, anyone can suffer from an ankle injury. Even just stepping awkwardly or tripping on an uneven sidewalk can result in ankle joint pain. Luckily, with the help of a trained physical therapist and a few ankle strengthening exercises, you can strengthen your weak ankles in no time.

When your ankle strength is low, and your range of motion is poor, you could experience chronic ankle instability. However, SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy offers a personalized ankle conditioning program for those looking to strengthen their weak ankles. If you have a previous ankle injury, or if you’re looking to prevent further injury to your ankle, we’re here for you. Our Dallas physical therapists will evaluate each ankle joint carefully, then develop a plan that works for you. To schedule an appointment with us, please call 469-200-2832 today. You can also schedule your appointment online.

What Are the Risks of Weak or Tight Ankles?

Having even one weak or tight joint can greatly affect your daily life. This is especially true when that weak joint is located in your legs or ankles. Our legs and ankles carry us through life. So, when those are weak, we become more prone to certain strains, sprains, and other injuries. Below, we outline a few ways in which weak or tight ankles can impact your life.

  • Poor ankle range of motion: Certain workouts and motions require an adequate range of motion in your ankles to perform properly. For example, squats require you to have some kind of flexibility in your ankle joints. Otherwise, you risk hurting yourself with improper technique.
  • Ankles that wobble when you walk or run: Wobbly, unstable ankles are a recipe for disaster, even for those who don’t go for runs or jogs. Ankle strength and stability are important to keep yourself fully upright and avoid a sprain or strain. Without this strength and stability, the body’s risk of injury is higher.
  • Poor balance: Lastly, your ankles are responsible, in large part, for your balance. They are, after all, in your lower legs. Poor ankle strength can lead to poor balance, which can lead to an increased risk of trips, falls, sprains, and strains.

How Can I Measure My Ankle Strength?

Now you may be thinking, “How strong are my ankles?” Luckily, there are two ways to test the strength, balance, and mobility of your foot and ankle. The first test will measure your balance and strength.

First, stand near a stable object, such as a wall or railing. This will prevent you from falling if you lose your balance. Plant one foot firmly on the ground, then raise your other foot a few inches off the ground with your knee slightly bent. Keep track of how long you can keep your balance on one foot without reaching for the wall or putting your other foot on the ground. Try this both with your eyes closed and open. The longer you can hold this position, the higher your level of strength and balance.

The second test will measure your mobility. You will need a short strip of tape and a tape measure. Place the strip of tape 4 inches away from the wall, parallel to the wall. Place the toes of your left foot on the tape, pointing toward the wall. Situate the right foot slightly behind you and lean against the wall with your palms. Slowly bend your left knee toward the wall until it touches the wall. If you cannot touch the wall, slowly scoot your left toes forward until your knee touches the wall. Measure the distance between your toes and the wall. The greater the distance, the greater your mobility. Repeat these steps with the opposite foot.

How Do You Strengthen Weak Ankles?

ankle exercises

Whether you’re an athlete or otherwise, it’s important to strengthen your joints and practice mobility exercises on a regular basis. Maybe you’re seeking to strengthen your ankles after an injury, or maybe you’re prone to strains and sprains. Either way, working to strengthen any part of your body is an admirable goal.

There are many ways to begin strengthening your ankles. At SPORT, we recommend seeking professional medical advice from our licensed physical therapists. Our physical health and wellness professionals have extensive experience helping injured patients slowly return to their regular activities. Exercise, stretching, strength training, and mobility exercises are just a few of the ways in which we work to strengthen your ankles and avoid future injuries.

Read on to explore the various types of exercise we may recommend in your personalized treatment plan.

How Do You Strengthen Ankle Ligaments?

With the exercises we list below, you can strengthen not only your ankles but also your calf muscles and the ligaments in your ankle. In other words, many of the exercises that we recommend for our patients often target multiple areas of the lower legs. This ensures that there are no weak points in your legs that could lead to injuries.

Does Walking Help Strengthen Your Ankles?

best ankle strengthening exercises

Regular walks are a great, low-impact way to improve your legs and ankles. However, pairing a low-impact exercise with strength and mobility exercises is ideal for preventing injuries. In the next section, we review our personal favorite exercises for ankle strengthening.

Best Ankle Strengthening Exercises to Avoid or Recover From Injury

Below, our SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy team experts outline some of the most effective ankle strengthening exercises.

Weight-Bearing Ankle Exercises

Weight-bearing exercises are particularly effective for building strength.

Working with Resistance Bands

ankle strengthening

Using a resistance band is a great way to slowly and easily build your strength. Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs stretched straight in front of you. Wrap the resistance band around the ball of your left foot. Your starting position should be with your toes pointed upward. Point your toes away from you, as if you’re pressing a gas pedal in a car. Then pull your toes back toward you. Repeat these motions 20 times, then repeat the process with your other leg.

Below, we list other effective ankle strengthening exercises while using resistance bands.

  • Dorsiflexion: With your legs extended, you will draw your toes back toward your shin. Repeat this with both feet. The resistance band will be placed along the ball of your foot.
  • Plantar flexion: This is the opposite of dorsiflexion. With your legs straight, you will point your toes down and away from your lower leg. Again, the resistance band will be placed along the ball of your foot.
  • Inversion and eversion: During inversion, you turn the sole of your foot toward the middle of your body. During eversion, you turn the sole of your foot away from your body. You will place the resistance band along the ball of your foot.
  • Calf raises: Otherwise known as banded calf raises when using resistance bands, you will begin this exercise by standing upright with your feet flat on the ground. Place the middle of the resistance band under the balls of your feet. Raise yourself up on your toes while holding each end of the resistance band in your hands. Slowly lower your heels back onto the ground. Repeat this the same number of times for both legs.

Non-Weight-Bearing Ankle Exercises

Non-weight-bearing exercises are effective for mobility, balance, and flexibility.

Ankle Alphabet

One of the most effective exercises for the ankles is called the “ankle alphabet.” It helps people achieve a greater level of mobility in all possible directions that the ankle can move in. Start by sitting in a chair. Pretend that your big toe is the tip of a pen, then “write” each letter of the alphabet. Do this first with one leg, then with the other.

Below, we list other exercises that are low-impact and non-weight-bearing. Beginning with non-weight-bearing exercises is essential to restoring functionality to your affected leg if you have suffered an injury. Each exercise will involve your body weight rather than more weight.

  • Dorsiflexion: Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Point your toes upward toward your shins.
  • Plantar flexion: Still sitting on the floor, point your toes forward, away from your shins.
  • Towel stretch: While still sitting, wrap a towel around the balls of both feet. Gently pull back on the towel until you feel a stretch in your calves and the bottoms of your feet.
  • Calf raises: Stand straight up with your weight evenly distributed between both feet. Raise your heels off the ground, then slowly lower yourself back down.
  • Inversion and eversion: Sit on your bed with your legs hanging over the side. Roll your ankle inward for inversion, then outward for eversion.

What Are the Benefits of Ankle Strengthening Exercises?

ankle stretching

Ankle strengthening exercises have multiple benefits for both recoveries after an injury and for preventing injuries. We list some of these benefits below.

  • Helping to prevent injuries: When you strengthen the structures of the legs and ankles, you reduce the overall pressure on the joint of the ankle. This reduces the risk of injuries.
  • Improving your balance: Strong muscles in the ankle also contribute to better balance. Many sports and exercises require good balance. Having good balance can also reduce your risk of falling and sustaining injuries.
  • Improving your bone density: By engaging in strengthening exercises, you increase your bone density. This helps to reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions, such as osteoarthritis.

Contact a Foot & Ankle Specialist at SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy

At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, our goal is to not only treat your injuries but also to give you the tools necessary to prevent injuries in the future. Once we identify and treat the source of your pain, we will provide an educational service geared towards teaching you about proper posture, proper form, and injury prevention. Especially for athletes, this is crucial. If you sustained an ankle injury and you’re having trouble getting back in the game, contact SPORT today and schedule an appointment with us. You can call our Dallas or Frisco office at 469-200-2832, or schedule your appointment online.