Our ankles get little attention, despite the fact that they do so much. Ankles that are strong and flexible allow you to walk, run, jump and dance. But if they are weak, getting around can cause agony. Sore ankles occur for many reasons. Ankle sprains are especially common, where in the U.S. alone, about 25,000 sprains occur on a daily basis.
Despite what may have caused your ankle injury, if it's limiting you from doing what you want to do, it is important to get it checked out. Tendonitis and arthritis are two common sources of ankle pain that you may be able to manage with diligent stretching and strengthening. So, to address these concerns and help prevent ankle trouble, try these 5 simple, effective exercises.
1. Peroneal Stretching/Strengthening
The peroneal tendons run along the outside of the ankle. They're crucial for strength and support. Athletes, particularly runners, dancers and those who play ball sports, should dedicate some time to warming up these tendons.
Here's How: Gently roll onto the outside of your feet and walk around for 60 seconds. This should help build strength and flexibility. It also improves proprioception - awareness of where your ankle is and what it's doing - which can help prevent ankle sprains.
2. Ankle Circles
Here's How: Strengthen the muscles in and around your ankle and improve the joint's stability by sitting on a chair, with your right leg extended and knee straight. Then, move your right foot clockwise 10 to 20 times, resting your leg for 5 seconds, and raise it again, moving your foot counterclockwise the same number of reps. Alternate your legs, doing 3 to 4 sets per side. To add some variety, try moving your foot up and down, as though pressing a gas pedal, or from side to side, similar to windshield wipers. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps for 3 to 4 sets.
3. Dorsiflexion Stretch
Dorsiflexion simply means bringing your toes closer to your shin. This stretch will help protect the muscles and tendons in your ankle.
Here's How: Sit on the floor with your right leg straight and the left crossed in front of you. The sole of your left foot should rest against the inside of your right leg. Using a towel or a band, wrap it around the ball of your right foot and gently pull your toes back toward you. You should feel a stretch in your thigh, calf and Achilles tendon. Hold for 15 seconds and repeat the stretch for 4 times, then switch legs. While you should feel a mild to moderate stretch, you should feel no pain.
4. Write the Alphabet
Here's How: In this challenging strength exercise for your ankle, trace out the alphabet with your big toe, while remaining seated in a chair. Hold your right leg out in front and use your big toe as a pen, writing the alphabet in all capital letters to start, then repeating the process with lower case letters. Switch your feet then repeat for another go.
5. Achilles Stretches
Here's How: This stretch improves flexibility. Start in a standing position and step back with one leg, keeping the back leg straight with your heel to the ground. Then push the hips forward while bending the knee of the front leg at about a 45 degree angle. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat 2 to 4 sets on each leg.