The Best Way to Strengthen Ankles
Your ankles are probably the last thing you think of when you are working out -- but they shouldn't be. The ankle is a major weight-bearing joint and also the most commonly injured; the rate of ankle re-injury is also high. Strengthening the ankles using exercises to target the muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the ankle joints will lower your risk of injury. The use of isometric exercises, or non-weight-bearing exercises in which you push against a fixed object, are the best way to strengthen ankles for injury prevention or recovery.
Dorsiflexion is the action of pulling the foot toward the body. To perform this exercise, place a resistance band around a fixed point, such as the leg of a couch, and tie it in a loop. Sit with your legs extended, far enough away from the couch so that the band fits tightly around the top of your flexed foot. Pull your toes back toward your body, stretching the resistance band. Hold this stretch for five to 10 seconds before returning to a neutral position. Repeat this stretch for a total of 10 to 20 repetitions on each ankle.
Isometric Plantar Flexion
Plantar flexion involves moving the foot away from the body. To perform this stretch, hold each end of a resistance band in your hands. Sit with your back straight and your legs extended in front of you. Place the band around the ball of your foot and hold it so that the band is taut. Press your toes away from your body by pointing them, causing the band to stretch tightly. Hold this position for five to 10 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat this stretch to complete 10 to 20 on each ankle.
Inversion is the act of turning the foot inward, toward the mid-line of your body. To do this stretch, place a looped resistance band around a fixed object, for example the leg of a couch, and sit so that your legs are extended in front of you and you are near enough to the couch to place the band firmly around the top of your foot. Turn your foot inward, rotating the ankle joint toward your other leg and tightening the resistance band. Hold this for five to 10 seconds before releasing the stretch. Complete a total of 10 to 20 repetitions per ankle.
Eversion occurs when the foot is turned outward, or away from the body. To perform the isometric eversion exercise, place a looped resistance band around a fixed object. It might be best to use a table leg, or something you can extend your legs under. Sit with legs extended and the band looped tightly around your foot coming from the inside of your leg, perhaps straddling the table leg. Pull your foot away from the table leg, increasing the stretch on the band. Hold this stretch for five to 10 seconds then release. Repeat this for 10 to 20 repetitions per ankle.
- American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: Foot Care MD: How To Strengthen Your Ankle After A Sprain
- Yeun YR. Effectiveness of resistance exercise using elastic bands on flexibility and balance among the elderly people living in the community: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Phys Ther Sci. 2017;29(9):1695–1699. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.1695
- Iversen VM, Mork PJ, Vasseljen O, Bergquist R, Fimland MS. Multiple-joint exercises using elastic resistance bands vs. conventional resistance-training equipment: A cross-over study. Eur J Sport Sci. 2017;17(8):973-982. doi:10.1080/17461391.2017.1337229
An American writer living in the United Kingdom, Christy Mitchinson began writing professionally in 2000, during her career in laboratory science, pathology and research. She has authored training materials, standard operating procedures and patient/clinician information leaflets. Mitchinson is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and creative writing with The Open University.