Stability issues with ankles can hamper running and allow twisted ankles to become an unfortunate regular occurrence. Poor ankle stability can come from: weakness due to previous sprains, natural laxity in the ligaments from being hyper-mobile or even a weakness through the lower calfs (but not alone)! Most ligaments torn or weakened when ankle sprains occur are those around the subtalar joint. These aid normal stability and range of motion in the ankle.
Below I will give some simple exercises you can do to aid the strength of your ankles. Doing these consistently will make you more confident on your feet as well as stronger!
Single leg balance
Probably the easiest to explain, but for some, the hardest to perform. Literally stand on one leg, with a slight bend in the knee, and hold. Beginners aim for 20-30 seconds, whilst advanced lot aim for 60seconds making sure torso shoulders and hips are all in line. Wobbling is key is the exercise, as you try to control your COM your ankles strengthen as the try to stabilise your body. Try on both sides at least twice.
– Balance pods/Wobble boards are great to help the ankles stabilise even more. This can be done to start with, using two legs and then progress to one. Aim for 30-60seconds controlled movement. If you don’t own a wobble board, screw up a bath towel in a slight ball-like oval shape and stand on it single leg. This will give a similar effect like the wobble board but obviously not as unstable.
– Move your arms! Standing single leg on the floor, bring your arms from your side to above your head, lift one arm up while the other is down- just move them. Your centre of mass (COM) will have to readjust causing you to be more off balance!
Cones (or for those of us at home shoes !) should be placed in a pentagonal shape around you. Once there, touch any shoe in any order you wish whilst balancing on one leg. Use your other arm and leg as a counter balance and perform slowly. Touch each shoe twice and that is one set. Aim for 3sets.
Sitting down, place both feet inside a band. Keep one foot flat on the ground whilst the other is raised in the forefoot. With tension on the band slowly invert the ankle and pull away back to 90degrees. Repeat this 5-8 reps on each side then rest.
For eversion again, apply tension to the band and this time every the foot out and slowly return to 90degrees-same repetitions! KEY ELEMENT: DO NOT TWIST YOUR KNEE AT SAME TIME AS ANKLE. I had to put that in capitals-sorry 😂 as if you do you end up disengaging the ankle ligaments and muscles and instead use the quads. Keep the knee straight, even place your hand on the knee to prevent the need to move it.
Single leg bounds
Again on the one leg, take small jumps using that leg. Drive the arms forward and be controlled during take off but, especially landing. On landing flex more at the knee to help your stability.
Plantar flexion work
Hold the band in your hands and wrap the other end around the forefoot.
With the heel on the ground and toes at 90degrees to the leg, force the forefoot to the ground slowly and control on the way up. This strengthens lower soleus and gastronemius muscle of the calf and give the ankle (synergist) muscles some added strength.
There you have it! 5 simple exercises to help strengthen the ankles. Netballers and basketballers out there you’ll know most of these. Putting them into weekly training programme will aid running strength and technique! If coming straight from the injury don’t forget RICE as well as some soft tissue massage to aid scar tissue removal. Any questions give me a shout 🙂