7 Best Ankle Exercises For Strength And Mobility

Jonathan Scorey

The ankles are an essential part of our bodies, yet they often go overlooked when it comes to strength training. However, strong ankles are crucial for overall stability and can help prevent injuries, especially for athletes and individuals who engage in physical activities regularly. In this article, we will explore seven effective exercises to strengthen your ankles, along with tips to enhance their strength.

Understanding Ankle Strength

Before diving into the exercises, it's important to understand the significance of strong ankles. Having strong ankles provides a solid foundation for the rest of your body. They support your weight, absorb impact, and help maintain balance during various movements such as walking, running, and jumping.

Strong ankles can have a profound impact on your overall physical well-being. Not only do they provide stability and support, but they also play a crucial role in preventing common injuries such as ankle sprains and strains. When the muscles surrounding the ankles are strong, they provide support and stability, reducing the risk of twisting or rolling the ankle. This is particularly important for athletes or individuals who engage in daily activities that involve quick movements and changes in direction.

Now, let's take a closer look at the anatomy of the ankle to better understand how to effectively strengthen this vital joint. The ankle joint is formed by the tibia, fibula, and talus bones. These bones work together to provide stability and mobility. Ligaments, tendons, and muscles surround the ankle joint, further contributing to its overall function.

The ligaments in the ankle, such as the anterior talofibular ligament and the calcaneofibular ligament, play a crucial role in maintaining stability. These ligaments connect the bones and provide support, preventing excessive movement and potential injuries. Tendons, on the other hand, connect muscles to bones and allow for movement and flexibility.

The muscles surrounding the ankle joint are responsible for generating the necessary force to move the foot and maintain balance. The calf muscles, including the gastrocnemius and soleus, are particularly important for ankle strength. These muscles work together to control movements such as plantar flexion (pointing the foot downward) and dorsiflexion (pulling the foot upward).

By understanding the intricate anatomy of the ankle, you can gain valuable insight into how to effectively strengthen this joint. Strengthening exercises that target the muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding the ankle can help improve stability, prevent ankle injuries, and enhance overall athletic performance.

Preparing for Ankle Exercises

Before doing the following exercises, it's important to take some safety measures and gather the necessary equipment.

When it comes to ankle exercises, safety should always be a top priority. Ensuring that you have a cleared workout space is crucial to avoid any potential accidents or injuries. Make sure there are no objects or obstacles that could trip you up during your exercises. Additionally, it's important to wear proper footwear that provides adequate support for your ankles. Opt for shoes that have good arch support and cushioning to minimize the risk of strain or sprain.

Once you have taken care of the safety measures, it's time to prepare your ankles for the upcoming exercises. Starting with gentle warm-up exercises is essential to gradually increase blood flow to the muscles and joints, improving their flexibility and reducing the risk of injury. One effective warm up exercise for the ankles is ankle circles. To perform this exercise, sit on a chair or the edge of a bed, extend one leg in front of you, and rotate your ankle in a circular motion. Repeat this motion for 10-15 times in each direction. Additionally, incorporating light stretches into your warm-up routine can help loosen up the muscles and prepare them for more intense movements.

Safety Measures

The best way is to ensure you have a cleared workout space and wear proper footwear that provides support for your ankles. Start with gentle warm-up exercises such as ankle circles and light stretches to prepare your ankles for more intense movements.

Remember to listen to your body during the warm-up phase. If you feel any pain or discomfort, it's important to stop and reassess your technique or seek guidance from a healthcare professional or a certified trainer.

Equipment Needed

You won't need any fancy equipment for these ankle-strengthening exercises. Some of the exercises can be performed using your body weight, making them accessible to everyone. However, there are a few exercises that may require some additional equipment to enhance the effectiveness of the workout.

A resistance band can be a valuable tool for ankle exercises. It provides resistance throughout the range of motion, making the exercises more challenging and beneficial. The band can be wrapped around your foot or ankle, and you can perform exercises like ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion against the resistance. This helps to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle joint.

In addition to the resistance band, you may also need a sturdy surface for balance exercises. These exercises focus on improving your ankle stability and proprioception. A balance board or a foam pad can be used to challenge your balance and engage the muscles responsible for maintaining stability. These tools add an extra element of difficulty to your ankle exercises, helping to further strengthen your ankles.

By incorporating these safety measures and gathering the necessary equipment, you can ensure a safe and effective ankle exercise routine. Remember to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to avoid overexertion or injury. Always consult with a healthcare professional or a certified trainer if you have any concerns or specific conditions that may require modifications to your exercise routine.

​Example Warm up

​1. Towel stretch: The towel stretch for the ankle is an easy exercise to boost ankle flexibility. Sit with legs extended, wrap a towel around one foot's ball, and gently pull it toward you, keeping your knee straight. Point your toes and push your foot away while pulling the towel. Hold for 15-30 seconds, then switch sides. This stretch can aid athletes, ankle injury recovery, and overall joint health but consult a professional if you have any ankle issues.

2. Ankle rotation: A great stretching exercise, The ankle rotation stretch is a simple exercise to improve ankle mobility and flexibility. Sit on a chair or the floor with your feet flat on the ground. Lift one foot slightly off the ground and gently rotate your ankle in a circular motion, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Perform this motion for about 30 seconds in each direction. It helps to increase the range of motion in your ankles, making movements like walking and squatting easier and reducing the risk of ankle injuries.


Detailed Guide to Ankle-Strengthening Exercises

Now that you are prepared, let's dive into the seven exercises to strengthen your ankles. Remember to perform each exercise with control and focus on maintaining proper form throughout.

Exercise 1: Heel Raises/Calf Raise

Heel raises are a simple yet effective exercise to strengthen the calf muscles and the muscles surrounding the ankles. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly rise up onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels off the ground. Hold for a second, then lower your heels back down. Repeat for a designated number of repetitions. Performing Calf Raises not only strengthens your ankles and calves, but also assists in development of the Achilles tendon.

ankle stretching exercises

Exercise 2: Ankle Circles

Ankle circles help improve ankle mobility and flexibility. Sit on a chair or the edge of a workout bench. Lift one foot off the ground and trace circles with your toes, moving clockwise. After a set number of repetitions, switch to counterclockwise circles. Repeat with the other foot.

Exercise 3: Toe Curls

Toe curls target the muscles that support the arches of your feet and help strengthen your ankles. Sit on a chair with both feet flat on the ground. Starting with one foot, curl your toes and try to grab and lift a towel or any other small object placed in front of you. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat with the other foot.

Exercise 4: Ankle Pumps

Ankle pumps are a great exercise to improve blood circulation and flexibility in your ankles. Sit on the ground or on a mat with your legs extended in front of you a neutral position. Point the top of your foot (big toe) away from you as much as possible (plantar flexion), then flex them back towards you (dorsiflexion). Continue alternating between pointing and flexing your toes for a designated number of repetitions.

Ankle pumps exercise

Exercise 5: Resistance Band Exercises

Resistance band exercises can add extra resistance and challenge to your ankle strengthening routine. Loop a resistance band around a sturdy object or anchor it to your foot. Perform exercises such as resistance band ankle flexion, extension, inversion, and eversion. Follow the specific instructions provided with your resistance band for each exercise.

Exercise 6: Balance Exercises

Balance exercises can help improve stability and proprioception, which is your body's awareness of its position in space. Stand on one leg while keeping the other leg lifted slightly off the ground. Hold this position for a designated amount of time, then switch legs. To make it more challenging, try closing your eyes or standing on an unstable surface like a foam pad. Single leg balance is a great technique for correcting a ankle instability!

Exercise 7: Plyometric Exercises

Plyometric exercises involve explosive movements that can help build power and strength in your ankle muscles. For example, perform ankle jumps by jumping off both feet and landing on the balls of your feet. Make sure to land softly and with control. Another plyometric exercise is lateral hops, which involve jumping from side to side while keeping your ankles stable and aligned, doing this will promote positive ankle health.

Tips to Enhance Ankle Strength

To maximize the benefits of these ankle mobility exercises, consider incorporating them into your routine and progressing gradually.

Incorporating Ankle Exercises into Your Routine

Perform these exercises two to three times per week, allowing for at least one day of rest in between sessions. Aim for 10-15 repetitions of each exercise and gradually increase the number of sets as you build strength. Remember to listen to your body and rest if you experience any pain or discomfort. If you happen to be experiencing weak ankles due to injury consider being referred to a physical therapist for medical advice.

Mens workout clothes

Progressing with Ankle Exercises

Once the exercises become easier, challenge yourself by adding weights to certain exercises or increasing the duration of balance exercises. You can also try performing the exercises on a uneven surface like a balance board to further enhance ankle strength and stability.

In conclusion, incorporating ankle strengthening exercises into your routine can significantly improve ankle strength, stability, and overall performance. Strong and stable ankles provide a solid foundation for your movements, reducing the risk of injuries and enhancing athletic performance. Stay consistent, be patient, and enjoy the benefits of strong ankles!

Before you wrap up your workout, why not dive into our previous blog post on 5 Biceps Exercises You Can Do Without Weights At Home? It's a treasure trove of home workout ideas that'll keep those biceps and triceps in top-notch shape. Get ready to flex and feel the burn!