By: Holly Warner, PT, DPT
Are you suffering from weak ankles? Are you always rolling or spraining your ankles? Are you battling with foot/ankle tendon injuries? Try these exercises to improve your foot and ankle strength and stability.
Heel raises three ways
The first two exercises (photo 1, 2 and photo 3, 4) use an incline board to improve strength of the muscles on the inside and outside of your ankle (ankle invertors and evertors).
Simply stand sideways on the incline board and perform calf raises on the off camber surface. If you don’t have access to an incline board, you can lean into a wall (as if performing a side plank) and perform single leg calf raises with the lean making sure to face both directions. Make sure to face each direction and perform calf raises on each leg facing each direction.
The next exercise (photo 5, 6) is a single leg heel raise working to improve calf strength. This can be performed on a stair/step and progressed by adding weight in one hand.
Finally, it is also important to strengthen your ankle dorsiflexors (photo 7, 8). This can be done by lifting your foot up/down while leaning your back against a wall.
The remaining three exercises are balance exercises to work on general foot and ankle stability.
Single leg pallof press
This exercise is a single leg pallof press using a resistance band placed in a door (photo 9, 10). Balancing on one leg, you then punch forward and back holding onto the resistance band as you maintain balance on one leg. Then, switch legs and repeat the punches. Then, switch the direction you are facing and perform punches again on each leg. This exercise works on medial and lateral ankle stability as well as core and postural control.
Single leg modified RDL
The next balance exercise is a modified single leg modified deadlift with a return to a high march position (photo 11, 12). The focus of this exercise is slow and controlled movement while smoothly moving through the exercise. This exercise should be repeated on the same leg for 30-60 sec before switching legs and repeating.
Ankle pumps on a balance disc
The final balance exercise is performed on a balance disc/dynadisc (a pillow works as well, but is not as effective). Holding onto hiking poles for support, stand on the balance disc and pump the foot and ankle up and down as if performing calf raises or heel/toe raises without lifting off the disc (photo 13, 14).