By: Christopher Travers, MS
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:
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.
Just standing on one leg and practicing balance can help foster the coordination needed to possibly prevent ankle injuries from happening, or if they do, decrease the severity. Standing on one leg while brushing your teeth, doing dishes, or watching TV, for example, may have a positive impact.
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.
The right footwear may help prevent an ankle injury or sprain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.