It doesn't matter what kind of fitness you put your body through. Dance, gymnastics, weightlifting, running, your ankles are bound to feel pressure and strain. Neglecting your ankles and the muscles around them can lead to painful injuries.
Strength and stability are key to avoiding ankle injuries. You don't have to hit the gym to build that up in your ankles. You can strengthen through simple exercises you can practice at home.
- Ankles Alphabet
This is a great warm-up for your at-home ankle exercises. Sit in a chair and lift your foot slightly off the ground. Using your big toe, trace the letters of the alphabet in the air.
As you trace the letters, exaggerate the lines in slow motions. Don't just use your toes to control the motion. Focus on your ankle. When you get to "Z," repeat with your other foot.
- Unilateral Stance
This can be a deceptively difficult exercise if you're not used to stabilizing the right muscles in your feet.
The exercise is simple enough: stand on one foot, keep your trunk upright, keep your hips level. Your toes should be splayed out and your knee in line with your second toe.
Try holding this position for 30 seconds on each leg, without putting your foot down for balance. As your balance improves, increase the time.
If this exercise gets too easy for you, you can try increasing the difficulty by closing your eyes or standing on a pillow. Stand near a counter or something to hold on to while closing your eyes in case you feel yourself lose balance.
- Toe and Heel Walks
This is a very simple exercise you can even do as you run errands. Walk about 30 feet on your tiptoes. Then, switch it up and walk another 30 feet on your heels.
- Standing Calf Raises
For this exercise, stand upright and lift yourself up on your toes 15-20 times. Start with your toes in front of you. The second time point your toes outward. Then, on the third set, point your toes inward.
Each time, you should keep your back straight as you lift your toes up.
To increase the difficulty, you can add weights in your hands or try calf raises on the stairs.
- Hand and Foot War
This one is just as the name suggests. Your hand will work to fight against your foot to strengthen your ankles.
Put your hand against the outside of your foot (right hand/right foot). Push your hand against your foot. Allow your foot to push against your hand.
Next, switch your hand's position to the inside of your foot. Push your hand and foot against each other. Then, repeat for your other hand and foot.
- Towel Pulls
You'll need to do this exercise barefoot. Place a towel in front of you with your bare foot on top. Spread your toes out and grab the towel with them. Lift your heel up and pull the towel taught. Repeat.
Each time you grab the towel, it will move slightly. Keep pulling the towel in this way until you've pulled the length of the towel. Switch to the other foot.
- Point and Flex with a Theraband
A Theraband is like a big rubber band you can use for resistance training. You can find them in different strength levels (extra light-maximum heavy). It's best to choose the right resistance for you.
Hook your Theraband under the ball of your foot and toes. Make sure you flex your foot when you start. Slowly pull back on the band and move your foot into a pointed position. Keep your focus on your ankle. Make sure it is straight and stable.
Your ankle joint may move side to side when you first try this exercise. As you practice, your ankle's stability will improve.
- Controlled Lunges
Start by placing one foot in front of the other, a good distance apart. Place your hands on your hips. Bend both knees into a deep lunge, slowly. As you lunge, make sure you keep your back straight and your core muscles engaged.
Your ankles may wobble a little as you lunge. That's normal at first. Focus on your front foot's stability. It will grow stronger over time.
Try holding your lunge for 5 seconds or longer, then switch and do the same on the other side.
- Unilateral Hopping
Use some tape to mark an X on the floor. Stand on one foot in one of the 4 quadrants the X made. Then, hop to different parts of the X.
Use your balance and control to hop side to side, front to back, and diagonally. Between each hop, stop for a moment and regain your balance.
This exercise strengthens the muscles in your feet and lower leg. It also improves your neurological coordination of movement.
A Few Extra Tips
Your feet and ankles work together during movement and exercise. When your surrounding muscles are weak, your feet and ankles don't work properly. You get imbalanced and uncoordinated.
The more you work on your lower body and core muscles, the more support you'll provide for your ankles. Don't neglect these muscles too. In addition to the above exercises, continue to work on:
Pretty soon, you'll feel your ankles become more stable, allowing you to do more in your fitness routine. If you feel pain with any of these exercises, you should stop and contact your doctor.
Contact us today for more information on treatment options and to discover the best fit for you.