Our ankles have to put up with a lot of wear and tear, and while they can usually manage this without a problem, people with weak ankles or those recovering are much more likely to experience sprains and other ankle injuries.
Fortunately, with just a few minutes each day, anyone recovering from injury or with weak ankles can work to strengthen them with some easy-to-do-anywhere exercises. Whether you’re resting at home or heading to the gym, you’ll be able to use these 5 best ankle strengthening exercises:
5 Best Ankle Strengthening Exercises
1. Calf Raises
Calf raises is a tried-and-true exercise that is excellent for strengthening the muscles and tendons around your ankle joint. Simply stand with your feet about hip-width apart and slowly raise up onto your toes, and then back down. Repeat this for 10-15 reps for 3 sets.
To increase the difficulty, stand on the edge of the lowest step and sink your heels down to the fullest extent you can before raising back up. You can also add weight to either version of this exercise to increase the difficulty further.
2. Banded Pushes
For this exercise, you’ll need a resistance band. Simply sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you and loop the resistance band around the ball of your foot. Slowly, push down with your foot against the resistance as far as you can, and then release. Tighten your grip on the resistance band or use a band with more resistance to make it harder.
To build strength in the opposite direction, ask a friend to hold the band for you, or tie it to an immobile object opposite you and repeat the above exercise in reverse. Try to hold at the ‘top’ of the stretch for three seconds before releasing.
3. Lateral Jumps
Lay a long, flat object on the ground in a straight line. This can be a towel, jump rope, or even a line of salt if you don’t mind a little vacuuming! Stand on one side of the line and hop to the other side, and then back, landing on the balls of your feet. Lower fully to the ground before you hop back.
If that feels easy, try doing the same exercise with just one foot, or speed up. Just make sure you don’t increase the difficulty too soon and stay in control to avoid injury.
4. Single-Leg Balance
This is another exercise you can make as difficult or easy as you need. For the easiest version, simply stand on one leg, raising your other foot to your knee or out in front of you, and holding your balance for up to a minute (start with 10 seconds and build up until it becomes difficult).
To increase the difficulty, fold a towel into a rectangle about the size of your foot and stand on it instead of flat on the floor. You can also use a balance board, just ask a friend to stand nearby for support in the beginning.
5. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
For this exercise, you’ll need a pair of light weights, though feel free to do it unweighted until you’re comfortable with the motion. Hold a weight in each hand and stand straight, with your feet a little narrower than hip-width apart. Slowly, lift one leg behind you and balance on the other leg, pushing your hips back and bending at the hips over the standing leg. Bend the knee of the supporting leg. When you’re back is parallel to the floor, stand back up straight, making sure to drive the motion with the hips more so than your back. Return your foot to the floor or tap your toe before moving on to the next rep.
This exercise can be difficult, so keep the weight light when you start and start with just a few reps per set, 4-6 if necessary. Make sure you repeat this exercise on your other leg.
Increasing ankle strength is important for everyone, but even more so for anyone prone to turning their ankle, sprains, and other ankle injuries. To build long-lasting strength, you need to improve the strength of the surrounding muscles and joints that support your ankles, such as your calves, knees, hamstrings and quadriceps, and hips.
Our eBook Joint Health 101 contains everything you need to know to improve your joint strength not just for your ankle but every area of your body. If you’re ready to perform at your best or simply feel your best, get it here.