How to Strengthen Your Ankles
Strong ankles can improve your balance and also strengthen your legs. There are a lot of different ways that you can strengthen your ankles, depending on your comfort level and what equipment you do or do not have available. Exercises that you can perform while sitting down can be done while you’re at work or just watching TV. You can also exercise your ankles while standing, adding weights for a bigger challenge. Working on your balance can also strengthen your ankles while stretching will reduce your risk of injury and improve flexibility.
Exercising While Sitting Down
Perform ankle turns.Ankle turns are one of the easiest exercises you can do to strengthen your ankles. While sitting on a chair, slide a jump rope or exercise band under one foot. Pull on the left side of the band or rope so that your ankle is pulled left. Then push against the force of the band and turn your ankle slightly to the right. Then reverse the motion so that you pull on the right side, pulling your ankle to the right as you push left.
- You can repeat this multiple times for each foot.
- Be careful not to pull too hard on the rope or band – if you do, you run the risk of pulling a muscle in your calf.
- If you don’t have a jump rope or exercise band, you can use an old T-shirt.
Perform an alphabet range of motion.Using your ankle, “write” the letters of the alphabet. While sitting down, cross your left leg over your right leg, resting the middle of your left calf on your right thigh. Using your big toe as a writing instrument and moving your foot from the ankle, trace the letters of the alphabet from A-Z.
- Cross your right leg over your left and repeat “writing” the alphabet with your right ankle/big toe.
Tap your toes.Sit in a chair with your back straight and your heels on the floor. Keeping your heels on the floor, tap your toes up and down. You can exercise one ankle and then move to the other, or you can alternate feet with each tap.
Roll your ankles.Rolling your ankles is another exercise you can perform easily anywhere you're sitting. Cross your right leg over your left, resting your right calf on your left thigh. Slowly rotate your right ankle clockwise in big circles. Then rotate the same ankle again, this time counterclockwise. Switch your legs, resting your left calf on your right thigh, and repeat the exercise for your left ankle.
Use a resistance band.Loop the resistance band around a table leg or another fixed surface. Loop the other end around your foot. Point the foot down to begin and slowly point it up. Repeat ten times. Next, try moving your foot from side to side ten times.
Try weighted ankle lifts.Sit on a chair with your leg extended out straight in front you. Balance a bean bag or towel on the top of your foot. Lower the object by pointing your feet slowly downward. Then using your ankles, lift the object back up.
Performing Exercises While Standing
Try toe raises.Stand with your feet parallel to one another, about shoulder-width apart. Raise your heels off the ground so that you are standing on the balls of your feet, and then slowly lower yourself back down.
- If your ankles feel particularly weak, or if you have balance issues, you can perform this exercise with your back against a wall.
- For a bit more resistance and a slightly more difficult work exercise, hold free weights in your hands as you perform the exercise. Don't use anything overly heavy, particularly if you are just beginning to work on strengthening your ankles.
- This will also strengthen your calf muscles.
Perform heel drops using your body weight.Stand at the edge of an exercise step deck or a large book, with your heels over the edge and the balls of your feet on the step. Slowly lower your body so that the balls of your feet stay on the book but your heels touch the ground. Raise your body back up and hold the position for a few seconds before you lower yourself back down again.
- Your heels might touch the ground depending on the height of your step, but be sure to control the lowering of your body and avoid smacking your heels when you reach the bottom of the stretch.
Squat on your tip toes.To begin, stand straight with your feet flat on the ground. Drop into a normal squat with your feet pressed against the ground first. As you rise, come up on your tip toes. Continue to do squats while standing on your tip toes.
- When you first start this exercise, use the wall or a chair for support. As you get better, you can do it without the wall.
- If you widen your stance, you can do this same exercise with sumo squats instead.
Practicing Your Balance
Stand on one foot.Raise your left leg, bending it at the knee, and stand only on your right foot. Hold this position for as long as you can and then switch legs. Since you don’t usually stand on one leg, forcing your body to do so will strengthen your ankles (and your calves).
- To add difficulty, close your eyes. This makes balancing harder and will force you to more thoroughly engage the muscles around your ankles and in your calves to stay upright.
Squat on a wobble board.Stand on a wobble board – or a pillow if you don’t have a wobble board – with your legs slightly closer together than shoulder width. Then slowly squat down, controlling the speed of your squat. Then slowly return to a standing position.
- You should perform about 10 squats per set. Repeat the set up to the three times, depending on the strength of your ankles.
Bend and reach.Stand on your right leg and slowly reach toward the floor, bringing your left leg up and out behind you, making sure to bend at your hips.
- You might not have enough flexibility in your hamstrings to do this with your legs straight, so it's okay to bend at the knees if you have to.
- You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by placing objects in front and to the side of you. As you bend forward, reach out to touch each of these objects before coming back to standing.
Stretching Your Ankles
Point your toes.Lie on your back with your arms relaxed and next to your sides and your legs evenly spaced apart. Point your toes away from your face. You’ll feel a stretch in your calves but you should not overstretch, so stop if you feel actual pain.
- You can also do this stretch sitting on a chair. Extend your legs straight in front of you before you begin.
Flex your toes.Lie on your back with your arms relaxed and next to your sides and your legs evenly spaced apart. Flex both of your feet, trying to point your toes toward your face. You’ll feel a stretch in your calves.
- You can repeat this exercise as many times as you’d like, but be sure you aren’t overextending your ankles. If you feel pain (and not just a stretch) in your calf, don’t flex as far.
Stretch your calves.Place both hands on a wall at about shoulder height, and then prop the ball of your right foot against the wall. Lean toward the wall until you feel the pull in your right calf. Repeat this exercise with the ball of your left foot against the wall.
QuestionWill these exercises help prevent injuries such as sprained ankles?
Personal TrainerPersonal TrainerExpert AnswerYes, but be vigilant. Practice rising up onto your toes and slowly lowering down again. Balancing on your toes and squatting will also help build the strength your ankles need to be stable.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I strengthen my ankle after it has been put back in place?
Personal TrainerPersonal TrainerExpert AnswerStart very gradually by putting weight on the injured leg. Once it is happy supporting your weight, you can begin doing small range of motion calf raises and balancing on one leg while leaning your back against a wall. Slowly work up to the exercises suggested here. Circling the ankle slowly while seated is another good exercise at this stage of recovery.Thanks!
QuestionWhat causes weakness in the ankles?
Personal TrainerPersonal TrainerExpert AnswerWeak ankles can be genetic or just caused by a lack of activity in those muscles.Thanks!
QuestionWhat causes chronic ankle instability?
Personal TrainerPersonal TrainerExpert AnswerIt may just be the way you are made or it may be a lack of challenge to the ankle muscles.Thanks!
QuestionI have very weak ankles from a previous injury. Should I wear a brace when I first start doing any of these exercises?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes! It is important to support the weak ankle until it becomes strong enough to work out without the support. This way, working little by little, you reduce the risk of injury!Thanks!
QuestionI have a weak ankle because of all the times I have rolled it, and I'm only 13 years old. Will that affect me as I grow up?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt shouldn't, but you should carefully strengthen your ankle and try not to do much exercising until it's fully healthy. You should also stretch often to prevent injuries.Thanks!
QuestionI have bad ankles. Will I still be able to do gymnastics?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou may be able to if you start strengthening your ankles now.Thanks!
QuestionI have really weak ankles and they are always hurt. I'm in ballet and about to go into pointe shoes. What can I do to help?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerEach day, hold a weight of 5 - 10 pounds in each hand to your side, and go on your tiptoes while holding the weight. Hold 5 - 10 seconds. Do three sets of these, then take a break and repeat until you've done 12 sets.Thanks!
QuestionI am 11 and I can not run 50 meters without my ankle rolling badly. Is this only for adults, or can I do it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPretty much any of these techniques should be fine for you, though you might want to get adult supervision if you try the one with weights, just to make sure you don't hurt yourself.Thanks!
QuestionI broke my foot last year February. Would these exercises help with strengthening my ankle?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGo to the pool; it is helpful for regaining strength and endurance after injuries.Thanks!
What exercises do you recommend for Achilles problems?
Are these exercises good for one who has osteoarthritis?
Can these exercises make me a stronger figure skater?
- For best results, exercise your ankles daily.
- You can place a ball under the foot and roll it back and forth. This works your ankles similarly to the way a toe lift or heel drop does, but is less strenuous.
- If you feel pain in your ankles, stop immediately.
- Consult with your doctor before you begin any of these exercises.
Sources and Citations
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