You probably already know the importance of having a physically active and healthy body. However, if you eat right and exercise, you also need to make sure that your joints are in top condition to enjoy top performance. It’s very important for all of your joints to be functioning well, but your ankles enjoy a position of preeminence. This is compounded by the fact that ankles are very easy to injure.
Your ankles are comprised of a complicated system of tendons, ligaments, bone, sever’s disease, and muscle. If you want to do anything from walking to running to sports, your ankles are one of the primary parts of your body to focus on. Weak ankles can cause many injuries, pain, and may even require surgery to correct.
Any kind of physical activity like is going to put stress on your ankles. In addition to avoiding injuries, peroneal tendinitis and strong ankles can prevent chronic conditions like tendonitis and shin splints.
The Importance of Balance
It’s very important not to only focus on physically strengthening your ankle muscles and tendons. Balance is also necessary to ensure healthy ankles: if you lose your balance and fall, it’s likely that your ankles will take the brunt of the injury. There are many ways to improve your balance and spatial perception.
The first exercise we recommend for improving balance, if you are truly a beginner, is simply to stand on one leg. Focus on shifting your weight carefully on your standing foot. If this is difficult for you, make sure to stand next to a desk or table so that you can have something to grab on to if necessary. Stand on one foot for at least thirty seconds. Then repeat with the other foot.
Again, if this is difficult, you can do this multiple times a day until you improve. The great thing about this ankle rehab exercises is that it literally requires no equipment to perform. You can also do it anywhere. Once you get good at balancing without a support, you can do it in line at the grocery store or anywhere else if you have a few minutes.
Once you are good at standing on one leg, a good next step is to do a “balance and throw” exercise with a partner. Basically, both of you stand on one leg and you toss a ball back and forth. You may be surprised how difficult this can be if you’re not used to it! Again, only attempt after you are good at standing on one foot on its own.
For those who truly have balance down to a science, you can then practice doing squats on one leg. Squats are where you balance on both feet and then lower your body down into a seated position while not actually sitting. This exercise strengthens your glutes and quads.
Nevertheless, if you have tarsal tunnel syndrome and adapt the squat to be one-legged, you are also working on your balance. Even people who have quite good balance may be challenged by this one! The one-legged squat is performed the same way as the two-legged one, only you’re holding one leg out in front of you while you are doing the squat.
Having good balance is essential to maintaining healthy ankles, so no matter how much of a balance beginner you are, make sure to practice it daily.
Ankle Strengthening Exercises Using Resistance Bands
While you’re working on your balance, you also want to work on making sure that the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your ankles are strong enough to support your body weight and able to take the daily stresses they go through. Strong ankles are necessary, particularly if you are an active person (or wish to be).
The most common kinds of ankle exercises require resistance bands. Resistance bands are essentially oversized rubber bands that are used to provide resistance for a variety of exercises. They are used in many kinds of physical therapy and are very inexpensive to maintain. You can pick up resistance bands at any medical supply store. Many sports equipment stores also sell them. They are light and easy to store.
The best part about resistance band exercises is that you can do them anywhere. In fact, many of these ankle strengthening exercises can be completed while you are sitting on the couch watching television. There are many different strengths of resistance bands, and many come in a set. The sets are handy since you can start with bands that offer less resistance and then use stronger ones as your ankles strengthen. Always make sure to start with the band that has the least resistance.
While you are doing these exercises, you should wrap the resistance band around your foot and hold the ends of it in your hand. Make sure that you are flexing your toes with each movement so that all of the muscles in your foot and ankle are getting a workout.
The first is an inversion exercise. Basically, wrap the band around your foot and then carefully point your foot inward. Slowly return to the original position. Do this 20 times and then switch feet.
The second is an eversion exercise. This is the exact same thing as inversion, just opposite. Point your foot outward while wrapped in the resistance band. Do this for 20 reps and then switch feet.
Third, try dorsiflexion. For this exercise, you will need somebody else to hold the band. Wrap the band around the instep while the other person holds the band tight. Now flex your foot back toward your body. Again, do this 20 times and switch feet.
Last is plantar flexion. This is opposite of dorsiflexion. You hold the band yourself, wrap it around the ball of your foot, and then flex your foot forward. Do this 20 times and then switch feet.
Ankle Strengthening Exercises Without Resistance Bands
While we recommend that everybody who wants stronger ankles start off with resistance bands, you may not have any handy. Even if you don’t have a resistance band, you can still do several exercises to strengthen your ankles.
For instance, a good resistance band-free exercise is to do a calf raise. Essentially, just stand and then raise yourself up onto your toes. Repeat. If this is too easy, consider holding weights, or even putting your toes on a slightly raised platform (a round gym weight is good for this) and then doing the raise. This will extend your Achilles heel, as your heels will be lower than your toes on the downward flex. Try doing three sets of 10 to begin with, and as you get stronger, you can add more to your reps.
“Scissor Hops” are also popular exercises that will strengthen your ankles. To complete a scissor hop, start with one foot forward in a lunging position. Then jump in the air and switch your feet so that you land in a lunge position with the opposite foot forward. This forces you to flex your ankles quickly in the air and land on your feet. This one is also a good cardio workout if you do it quickly enough. Again, if it’s too easy for you, consider holding weights as you are doing it. Again, three sets of 10 is a good place to start.
You can also try squats combined with jumps. Start down in a squat position, and then launch yourself into the air. Land on your toes and gently roll back onto your heels. You will want to ensure that you land lightly on your feet; otherwise, you can cause injury. The flexing of your feet will help strengthen your ankles by virtue of supporting your own body weight. This one is actually a great all-body workout. Depending on your fitness level, squat jumps (sometimes called “burpees”) can be pretty exhausting, so start out with three sets of five.
“Bounding” is also a fantastic way to know about cuboid syndrome to get in shape and strengthen your ankles at the same time. Bounding is a type of running, only it’s more of a combination of jogging with leaping. You want to stretch out your legs as far as they will go as you gently run/jump. You want to land light on your toes as you are doing this. Just like the squat jumps, this will take advantage of your own body weight to strengthen your ankles. You want to try to bound for at least 50 feet for one repetition. Try for four repetitions. You can do bounding outside, or on a running track.
Keeping Your Ankles Strong
It’s important to know about supination and ensure that you have strong and solid ankles so that your fitness and mobility can be top-notch. Working ankle exercises into your daily routine is easy, painless, and ensures that your ankles remain injury-free.
Remember that you don’t necessarily need fancy equipment to have strong ankles. Resistance bands are very inexpensive and very effective. If you don’t have weights, you can consider holding cans or buckets of water as you do some of the non-resistance-band-related exercises.