Wellness Wednesday: Exercises to Strengthen the Ankle


Loudoun County, Va. — Overall ankle weakness can lead to a number of injuries, not only with the ankle joint specifically but it can lead to injuries at other joints such as the knee and also down into the foot. Typical ankle sprains (also known as “rolling” your ankle) can occur if the muscles on the medial and lateral side of our ankles are weak.

Ankle weakness can also contribute to over-pronation of the foot which can lead to injuries such as plantar fasciitis. Over-pronation can also cause injuries up at the knee including sprains of ligaments or abnormal patellar-tracking injuries. Essentially every joint is related to each other, if there is an issue with one joint, it can lead to imbalances or weaknesses at another joint. As the foot and ankle is the first contact with the ground when walking, running, going up and down stairs etc. it must provide a good base of support for the rest of the body when we are moving around.

Exercises to Strengthen the Ankle

There are a number of exercises that can be performed in order to strengthen the ankle and make sure that it is stable enough to support our bodies with just regular activities of daily living or sport activities.

Single Leg Stance

An easy ankle stability exercise that can be performed at home is single leg stance balancing. This exercise requires an individual to stand on one leg (mid-stance, seen in picture below), keeping the knee straight and locked out while squeezing the glute muscle and holding this position for 5-10 seconds depending on how much balance the individual has; after holding for 5-10 seconds, switch to the other foot. This can be performed 10-15 times on each leg.

Once standing on just the floor starts to get too easy, individuals can challenge themselves by standing on a folded towel, or a pillow in order to change the surface and make this exercise a little more difficult. This exercise will help strengthen the muscles around the ankle, while also strengthening the glute muscle. This balance exercise is beneficial as during walking or running, there is a point in time when we are planted on one foot only, by increasing our balance and ankle strength we can decrease the possibility of falls or “rolling” an ankle.

Heel Raises

These are another good exercise to perform at home that will strengthen your calf muscle which also supports the ankle. To perform this exercise, stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes pointed straight forward, begin by standing up on the balls of your feet (standing on tippy toes) and then slowly lowering heels back down to the floor, perform this movement 10-20 times with rest breaks between when needed. Increasing our calf strength can decrease the possibility of injury during the push-off and acceleration phases of walking or running.

How Physical Therapy Helps

Physical therapy helps to increase the stability of your joints furthest away from the trunk and core which helps to decrease the possibility of injuries. Joints that are far away from our trunk and core are more prone to instability and weakness. By strengthening our ankles we can prevent future injuries from occurring at our knee, foot and hip.

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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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