Spraining your ankle means your ankle has been through severe stress, stretching the ligaments beyond their normal range, often to the point where they tear. This means you need to be mindful about returning to exercise to encourage healing, mobility, and strength to prevent reoccurrence.
How long should I wait to exercise after a sprained ankle?
For most sprains, 3-5 days of rest will be sufficient, but for more severe sprains you’ll need to give it longer. If you’re not walking easily, without pain, don’t think about exercising yet. When your ankle feels ready, start building up how long you walk for and start introducing exercises like those listed below that are designed for building ankle strength and stability after injury.
6 Best Exercises to Recover From Ankle Sprain
Ankle A B Cs
This is a great exercise to start with because it puts very little strain on your ankle, so you can gauge whether you’re ready to do more strenuous exercises. Sit with your legs out in front of you, either on the floor, the sofa, or on your bed, and simply draw out the letters of the alphabet with your foot, as if you have a pen or paintbrush held between your toes. Pay attention to what hurts or feels stiff and what doesn’t.
Sat in a chair with your foot flat on the floor (a dining chair works well), gently sway your knee from side to side for 1-3 minutes. This will help gradually loosen the tendons and ligaments around the ankle, working away any tightness.
Sitting with your legs out in front of you, carefully wave the foot on your injured ankle from side to side, as if you’re waving to someone. Start with some rotation from the hip, and then work down until you’re only waving your foot. You can also do this by sitting on a chair on a hardwood or tile floor by putting a small towel or cloth beneath your foot.
When you feel fully stable walking around, you can start introducing heel raises. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and slowly raise up onto your toes, hold, and lower slowly. Make sure you don’t go beyond what feels comfortable. When that feels easy, move the exercise onto the edge of a step and repeat, sinking your heels down as low as you can at the bottom of the raise.
Resistance Band Pushes
Sit on the floor with a rolled towel beneath your ankle so your heel is just above the floor. Loop a resistance band around the ball or arch of your foot and hold the other end of it so it's taut. Carefully, push forward with your foot to point your toe, and then slowly release. You can also do this exercise with a long towel if you don’t have a resistance band.
Standing on one leg, raise your other leg so your toes touch the inside of your knee, or if you’re not currently flexible enough for that, raise your foot out in front of you or behind. Hold that position for 10-30 seconds, and then slowly release. To increase the difficulty, stand on a folded towel, pillow, or balance board.
Should I use a brace or tape?
If you’ve experienced a severe strain, using supportive tape may be recommended by your doctor. However, for everyone else, try to avoid using external support (besides that of your footwear) and focus on building strength. If you do choose to use a support of some kind, try to use it during more strenuous exercise or during competition, rather than everyday training. While they can help support your joint, they may cause you to rely on them rather than improving the strength of your ankles which is essential for preventing future injury.
How can I prevent another ankle sprain?
If you want to prevent another sprain, you should invest in quality footwear and spend time strengthening your ankles and other essential joints and muscles in the body. If you’re not sure where to start, our eBook Joint Health 101 contains everything you need to know to improve your ankle strength and mobility so you can avoid another sprain and rehabilitate an ankle that has recently experienced a sprain. Joint Health 101 not only discusses exercises and stretches but also diet and other factors that affect your joint health. To get your hands on it, click here.