The Road to Recovery: 10 Ways to Build Ankle Strength After an Injury
Posted by Jenn F. on Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
A common question asked of podiatrists, fitness instructors, coaches, and personal trainers alike is: “How can I build ankle strength?” Are we victims of our own genetics, or can a naturally weak ankle be strengthened with the right training like most other parts of the body? One reader wrote in to Harvard’s Dr. Anthony Komaroff, asking if there is any way to prevent recurrent ankle sprains. The good news is that there are, in fact, steps you can take to help your ankles support your body weight.
Why Are My Ankles so Weak?
We tend to think of the ankles as these bony structures attaching our legs to our feet, but — as you can see — there are many muscles and tendons, as well as connective ligaments, that contribute to the overall stability of the ankle.
Two strong ligaments link the inner malleolus to the ankle bones and three more bind the outer malleolus to the talus and heel bones. Loose ligaments are one major cause of sprains. Weakened muscles are another. If you tend to be a supinator (walking on the outsides of your feet) or a pronator (walking on the insides of your feet), then you most likely need to work on your gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Fortunately, there is much we can do about weakened muscles and loose ligaments.
10 Ways to Build Ankle Strength
1. One legged balancing – Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend one leg at the knee and hold your balance on one foot for 60 seconds. Alternate with the other foot to complete one full set. Do six sets per day, with 30-90 seconds of rest in between.
2. Single leg squats – Once you become proficient at the one legged balancing act, try to add a deeper squat into the mix. Hold your arms out straight ahead to keep your balance or hold onto a table if you need to.
3. Ankle turns – Sit on a chair and use a jump rope or elastic band to rotate your foot. First, hold your flexed foot straight out in front of you. Then rotate it right and then left to increase range of motion.
4. Toe taps – Stand with your heels on the ground. Raise the toes of your right foot as high as you can and tap them 10 times. Repeat with the left foot. Next, rotate the foot a quarter turn to the right to do your next set of taps. Then rotate the foot to the left to do another 10 taps. Be sure to practice on both feet.
5. Heel raises – Stand on your toes and raise both heels up off the ground at the same time. Do three sets of 8 to 12. Add weights if this is too easy for you.
6. Heel drops – Stand on a stair or a phone book and drop your heels down to the floor. Do three sets of 8 to 12.
7. Isometric dorsiflexion – Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched. Wrap one end of an exercise band around the leg of your couch and place the other end around the tops of your feet. Pull your toes back toward your body and hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
8. Isometric eversion – Sit on the floor and put your looped exercise band around a table leg. Pull your foot away from the table, increasing the stretch of the band for five to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
9. Ankle lifts – Attach a weight to a rope, placing the rope around the top of your foot. Lift from a seated position, with your ankle flexed upward. Repeat at least 10 times.
10. Wobble board – Bosu boards are used in a lot of gyms to help patients work on balance, coordination, and ankle strength.
NY Sports Medicine Clinic Helps Patients Recover
If you have injured your ankle or fallen victim to frequent sprains, you may want to visit a physical therapist at a sports medicine clinic to help you set up a training program that’ll get you back on track and participating in the sports you love. It isn’t always easy to commit to a regimen at home. Having the support and guidance of a trained professional can make all the difference in the world! Contact us today to set up a consultation.
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.