Wellness Wednesday: How Do Your Ankles Become Unstable?


Loudoun County, Va. — 10,000 steps is the Center for Disease Control & Prevention recommended step count for a day. While we are all shooting to hit those 10,000 steps in 24 hours, it’s quite likely that one of us will stumble, miss a step/curb, or trip.

Those missteps can be a result of:

  • Wearing high heels
  • Incorrectly sized shoes
  • Inconsistent walking surfaces
  • Or even something as simple as ankle instability

People often make the comment “What did you even trip over?” when there actually wasn’t anything in their direct path that caused their misstep. Often enough, the cause was self-implied, as their weak ankles let them down.

Your Ankle Joint

The ankle joint is composed of three bones:

  • The tibia
    • Forms the inner portion of the ankle.
  • Fibula
    • Forms the outer portion of the ankle.
  • Talus
    • Sits perfectly between the two creating the bottom of the ankle joint

In addition to the bones, there are muscles and ligaments that work together to provide stability.

The ankle joint is broken down into four movements:

  • Plantarflexion
    • Pushing down on a gas pedal
  • Dorsiflexion
    • Pulling the toes back towards your face
  • Inversion
    • Rolling your ankle inward
  • Eversion
    • Rolling your ankle outward

How do your ankles become unstable?

The most common answer to that is any history of an ankle sprain or sprains. Whether you’ve experienced one or multiple ankle sprains, the possibility of developing ankle instability grows significantly if it goes untreated. When this particular injury occurs, the muscles and ligaments become stretched or even possibly torn.

Now let’s make that statement a bit more realistic as we reference a brand new rubber band and its perfect circular shape. Now we will place that same rubber band around a group of 20 pencils. As the rubber band holds the pencils together, it is being stretched therefore increasing its elasticity and decreasing its ability to maintain the original support.

Like the rubber band, ligaments don’t generally become “un-stretched”; however muscles can as a result of us strengthening them.

Strengthening the Ankle Joint

When it comes to strengthening the ankle joint muscle, first have a solid foundation for standing and walking, well before advancing into any other aspects such as: negotiating stairs, jogging, sprinting, cutting, and sports-specific drills. Once the foundation has been built it is important to begin addressing surrounding areas, as they also play a part in overall lower extremity strength.

With the ankle joint specifically, we look at the knees and hips, as their positioning and lack of strength can produce added stress to the joints below.

Note from our sponsor: Here at LSTC, we take the time to look over the entire chain of body mechanics as deficits in one area can make a great difference at our focal point. For instance, weak hips can be a cause of knee pain, which can cause the feet to fall flat and eventually lead to plantar fascia pain. Or it can present the opposite way, where we would simply work our way back up to find the origin of the problem.


About Author

Loudoun Sports Therapy Center is a premier physical therapy clinic. We offer outpatient orthopedic and sports physical therapy as well as specialty programs.

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