Did you know your ability to balance directly correlates with your ankle strength? Conversely, your lack of ankle strength— perhaps because of an injury— could be the reason you find it hard to balance.
Think of your ankles and their components as your body’s foundation. If that infrastructure isn’t strong, you won’t be able to maintain balance for long.
Besides the correlation with balance, your ankle joints need to be strong to prevent specific injuries. For example, if you build up your ankle strength, you are less likely to experience a sprained or rolled ankle. Even if you do experience a sprain, when your ankle is strong, it will be much less severe.
Thankfully, there are exercises specifically designed to strengthen your ankles and improve your overall balance.
What Causes Weak Ankles?
Before delving into the exercises, it’s important to understand what can cause weak ankles.
- Injury. There are many injuries that can cause ankles to weaken. This could include an accident related to certain sports, like soccer, volleyball or basketball or an accidental fall.
- Poor or improperly fitted footwear. Weak ankles could also be caused by wearing the wrong footwear for your activity.
- Age. Sometimes, it’s just the by-product of getting older and the joints wearing out a bit.
- Obesity. Excessive weight can cause natural wear and tear on your feet and ankles. Learn more about how weight may affect you here.
- A number of other foot conditions. Achilles Tendonitis, gout, Osteoarthritis and other foot conditions are linked to weak ankles. Read more about the top causes of ankle pain not related to injury.
Whatever the cause of your weakened ankles, your primary goal is to restore their strength. After all, ankles are an immensely important part of your body when it comes to stability and building strength.
Symptoms of Weak Ankles
If you aren’t sure if your ankles are as strong as they should be, look for the following symptoms. These are indications of weakened ankles:
- Rolling or turning your ankle on a result basis. Usually, this involves you rolling the joint to the outside. This is the most common symptom of a weakened ankle joint
- Having sore or painful feet or ankles
- Being susceptible to ankle sprains and other ankle related injuries
- Balancing problems
Balance Exercises Designed to Strengthen Your Ankles
The following are beneficial exercises designed to help you rehab your ankle after an injury or just to improve your ankle strength.
Try them to build your ankle strength over time, and, in turn, improve your body’s balance. Keep in mind that each of these ankle strengthening exercises builds stability in the ankle, but they can also improve the muscle strength in your lower leg, core, and all over the body.
When you perform these exercises, you might notice one ankle is naturally stronger than the other. Obviously, that’s not surprising if you have injured one, but even if you haven’t, it’s normal for you to have one dominant side. It’s important to work to even them out, so they are both equally strong.
1.) Single-leg Balance
Injuries like a sprained ankle or certain medical conditions can affect your balance on your feet. This simple single-leg exercise can go a long way in increasing your leg strength, and as a result, your balance. All you need is a chair or object to hold onto for added stability.
- Stand up with legs directly under your body or as they feel best naturally.
- Shift your weight from both feet onto one foot. (If you feel unstable, use a chair to prop against until you build strength).
- Hold for a few seconds at least, adding time as you improve.
- Switch legs and repeat.
- Repeat each set.
Practice the exercise once a day.
As you improve, you can lift your non-weight-bearing leg off the ground more and more, or stand on unstable surfaces, like a BOSU ball for an added challenge. You can also simply increase the amount of time you hold the pose.
2.) Single-Leg Balance with Movement
If you don’t feel challenged by the exercise above, kick it up a notch by adding some additional movement.
- Stand up with your legs directly under your body as they feel the most natural.
- Shift your body weight from both feet onto just one foot.
- Lift the leg without weight on it off the floor, slowly.
- Instead of keeping your lifted leg still, like the single-leg balance mentioned above, move your leg.
- Swing it back behind your body and then in front, bend your knee and lift it up towards your waist and then back down. Or, send your leg out towards the side of your body and then back in. Perhaps, do all three in sequence.
If you are unsteady because of the movement, use a chair for added support, just like you did in the original single-leg balance. Eventually, you will be able to do this pose unaided.
3.) Toe-Heel Walking
Transferring your weight from your heels to the front pad of your foot and help to build stronger muscles throughout your foot and ankle. This exercise doesn’t require too much balance and no additional props other than your own body.
- Stand up.
- Shift your body weight to the back of your feet.
- Make sure the front part of your foot is elevated off the floor.
- Balance on your heels, then walk.
- Keep this up for a few seconds at least between breaks. Aim for 8 sets of 15 to 20 seconds with 20 seconds rest between, suggests Sport Injury Clinic.
- Transfer your body weight to your toes (or as close as you can get).
- Begin walking on your toes.
- Keep this up for a few seconds at least between breaks.
Try to complete this routine twice a day and aim to increase the duration as you gain strength back in your ankles.
4.) Single-leg Step Downs
We’re going to simulate the idea of doing stairs by doing single step-downs from a safe, elevated surface. This is a controlled movement exercise designed to strengthen the stabilizing ankle.
- Stand on a stable, elevated surface, such as a box, step, or bench.
- Hold one foot off the edge.
- Bend the knee of your supporting leg.
- Bring the foot back up to its elevated position.
- Drive your weight through your heels.
- Repeat 15 times on each side of your body.
5.) Walking Lunges
Lunges may seem like an easy exercise, but for those experiencing ankle pain, even this type of movement can be a struggle. Take it easy and slow to avoid extra strain on your lower half.
- Stand up.
- Take one step forward and bend this leg until your knee is at a 90-degree angle.
- Let your back knee dip down to the ground.
- Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Use the leg in the back to step in.
- Repeat on the other leg.
6.) Single-leg Roman Deadlifts
For those who start to see improvements in rehabilitation, try adding additional weights. If you feel ready to handle the added weight, follow these instructions:
- Stand up with a weight (preferably a kettlebell) in one hand.
- Slowly bend at the waist, maintaining control of your body.
- Lower the weight down towards the floor (using one hand) while you raise your leg (on the same side of your body) off the ground.
- Slowly return to a standing position.
- Repeat ten times on each side of your body.
If after completing these exercises to build strength, you are still experiencing pain in and around your ankles, this could indicate something more serious.
Contact us to schedule an appointment to have your ankle evaluated. We may suggest braces or treatments that could be beneficial to the healing process.
Call us at 239.936.5400 today.
Categorized in: Blog