Stop Sprains: 3 Easy Exercises for Your Weak Ankles

Prevent injuries and boost your balance

Stop Sprains: 3 Easy Exercises for Your Weak Ankles

Do you worry about twisting an ankle and taking a spill? Are you noticing problems with foot pain, balance and mobility as you age? These issues could be a sign that you have weak ankles.

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Weak ankles tend to sprain more easily. And a sprain can put you out of commission for weeks. In fact, thousands of people every year sprain an ankle simply by:

  • Stepping off a curb
  • Stumbling in heels
  • Rolling an ankle while running or playing sports

As you move throughout your day, the joints in your ankles and surrounding muscles absorb a lot of force. And that can take a toll.

But you can work to strengthen your ankle muscles and adjoining ligaments. This will help ward off injuries and improve your stability and mobility.

Why your ankles deserve more attention

If you make alterations at your base (your feet and ankles) you will affect the rest of your joints up the chain — primarily your knees and hips.

One of the greatest worries about a weak base is the effect it has on your knees and how much internal rotation it puts into the hip. If you’re deficient at the bottom, the joints and muscles in your knees and hips can weaken as well. This can cause your gait pattern to change, ultimately making it more difficult for you to walk.

A step in the right direction — what to wear

The right footwear may help prevent an ankle injury or sprain.

  • If you’re on your feet most of the day for work, consider wearing shoes with cushioned soles.
  • If you’re a runner, it’s a good idea to get your feet properly assessed and fitted at a running store.

3 simple exercises for a strong base

The best way to guard against sprains, however, is to perform exercises to improve ankle strength. This addition to your daily routine can boost your lower body strength and improve your balance and stability.

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Here are three exercises you can do anytime, anywhere. It only takes five minutes a day.

1. Draw the alphabet

This one is as simple as A-B-C.

Begin by lying on your back or standing (use a sturdy chair for support when standing).

Lift one leg and draw the alphabet with your toes as you flex your foot. Then repeat with the other leg.

  • Repeat: 1 time (each leg)
  • Complete: 1 set
  • Perform: Once a day

2. Standing calf raises

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. If you are able, stand on the edge of a step (use a banister or other support to help keep your balance). Lift yourself up as high as you can onto your toes and then lower your heels down.

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  • Repeat: 10 times
  • Complete: 1 set
  • Perform: Once a day

3. Flex and stretch

Lie on your back with your heels on the floor (feet in a vertical position, so your toes point toward the ceiling). Gradually point your toes away from you as far as possible and hold.

  • Repeat: 10 times
  • Hold: 3 seconds
  • Complete: 1 set
  • Perform: Once a day

Work with your doctor

While most people can do these exercises safely, we recommend talking to your doctor before beginning any exercise program — especially if you’re overweight.

Being overweight can lead to weak ankles. The heavier you are the more stress you place on your hips, knees and ankles. It runs down the chain.

But weak ankles could also be a sign of other serious problems. For instance, if you have balance issues, it might not relate to bad ankles but could signal a neurological disorder.

So get checked out first, and once your doctor gives you the go-ahead, take time for these exercises every day. Incorporating them into your routine can help you maintain good balance, stability and posture for the long-term.

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Christopher Travers, MS

Christopher Travers, MS, is an exercise physiologist on staff for both Cleveland Clinic Sports Health and Cleveland Clinic Executive Health.