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6 Ankle Strengthening Exercises

Dec 22, 2023

An ankle provides support, stability, and mobility of the foot and the lower leg. This means that it’s one of the parts of your body that is constantly in use. You won’t even know how much you rely on its mobility and functionality until it starts hurting or your ankle’s mobility becomes limited due to a number of conditions, diseases, or injuries.

Still, some ankle-strengthening exercises could help with this issue. 

You see, the ankle is a complex joint consisting of all kinds of tissue. It consists of bones (tibia, fibula, and talus), joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. This means thatweakness of any of these structures may cause an injury. As such, you can drastically increase ankle stability and strength by doing exercises that strengthen them and support muscles.

  1. Calf raises

The first of these ankle exercises is standing calf raises.

Calf raises increase muscle strength but also help you develop skills that will improve your balance, in general. They’ll affect your joint stability and even make you more resilient to ankle injuries. 

You need to stand on a flat surface with your feet hip-width apart. You also need to ensure that your feet are parallel to each other and pointing straight ahead. 

Next, you need to lift your heels off the ground by pushing through the balls of your feet. The key point is that you need to control your descent. This means doing it slowly and with full control. You’re aiming for the full range of motion and shouldn’t settle for anything less. 

  1. Ankle alphabet

Another ankle-strengthening exercise that you should try is the ankle alphabet.

The procedure is as it sounds - you sit on the chair or lie down with your legs extended and lift one of your legs. Then, you write the letters of the alphabet with your big toe. Once you’re done, you repeat the procedure with the other foot.

While this may seem too low-intensity to work, the effects can be quite fascinating. This is also one of the most effective ankle stretches out there. Taking just a few minutes to do this every day could really help people suffering from chronic ankle pain. Sure, it won’t make the problem go away, but it maymake it more manageable. 

  1. Resistance band exercises

So far, we’ve mostly addressed ankle-strengthening exercises that use nothing but your body weight (although you can add weights when it comes to calf raises); now, let’s talk about the simple, inexpensive equipment you can use.

All you need to do is get a resistance band (which seldom costs more than a few dollars), and secure it around the top of your foot. Then, you secure the other end of the band around a fixed point. 

After this, you only need to flex and point your toes against the resistance. This will significantly strengthen your muscles and even make your ankle accustomed to the motion in question. 

  1. Heel-to-toe walk

The simplest way to explain this exercise is to say that you’re mimicking tightrope walking. Just walk in a straight line by placing the heel of one foot directly in front of the toes of the other. Do this with each step. 

While the strengthening of walking muscles is minimal (not that big of a difference compared to regular walking), this way, you’re actually enhancing the strength of the mucles which control eversion and inversion of the foot (the side-to-side tilting). This way, you’ll increase your body's ability to sense its position in space, balance in uneven terrain, and encourage proper walking mechanics.

Sure, to you, this may seem minuscule, even unnecessary, but there’s more to chronic ankle instability treatment than just physiological conditioning. You must also improve your walking mechanics, balancing, and more. 

When it comes to ankle exercises at home, this is one of the best. They don’t take much room, and you don’t even have to lie on an unpadded floor (like with the ankle alphabet).

  1. Toe taps

This is an exercise that doesn’t require anything more than a chair. You sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. You lift your toes off the ground (while still keeping your heels down). Then, you tap your toes back down. Repeat this process a number of times. This strengthens the muscles in the front of the ankle.

Remember that this is an incredibly simple exercise, but if even this turns out to be more painful than you expected, you may suffer from one of the foot and ankle conditions that will require proper medical assistance. It’s always safer to turn to professional medical help. In other words, this is both an exercise and a test of sorts. 

  1. Single leg squats

When looking for how to build ankle strength, it’s inevitable to do some of the bit more demanding exercises. One of these exercises is a single-leg squat. The way you do this is simple. You stand on one leg with the other leg extended in front of you. You lower your body into a squat position and keep your balance on the standing leg. Then, you return to the standing position.

The key thing is that you’re doing a squat with one leg in front of you. That’s it.

Ideally, because of the extra pressure (one ankle instead of both), it’s paramount that you only do this when your ankles can take it. Also, adding any extra weight is unwise (again, because of the added pressure).

Most importantly, this is one of the exercises where keeping a proper form is an even greater priority. 

Wrap up

In the end, if there’s one thing that you can get from this, it’s the fact that the majority of these exercises are incredibly low-intensity. Just think about it: ankle strengthening exercises are there to increase stability and mobility and reduce pain. They won’t be able to do that by just putting more pressure on an area that’s already overworked. Instead, they are simple and don’t require any additional equipment, and even when they do, it’s inexpensive and simple. 

Still, if you need some extra expert advice on the subject, the ankle specialists at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey can help you find the best ankle-strengthening exercises to increase your mobility. 

This article was reviewed and approved by an orthopedic surgeon as we place a high premium on accuracy for our patients and potential patients.