Home Exercises to Strengthen the Ankles

by Erica Roth

Overview

Ankle problems are among the most common injuries experienced by women, especially because of high heels. According to Wisconsin's Bay Area Medical Center, the United States has about 25,000 ankle sprains every day. Strengthening the ligaments that surround the ankle, and stretching out the lower leg muscles, can help treat and prevent many forms of ankle pain. Exercises to strengthen the ankles are easy to do, and you don't need any special equipment.

Heel and Calf Stretches

One of the causes of ankle injuries, including chronic inflammation of the Achilles tendon, is a lack of flexibility in your leg muscles. Heel and calf stretches can loosen tight muscles, and strengthen the ankles, both of which can prevent tendonitis and ankle sprains. The McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests using a hand towel to stretch out the calves and heels. Perform the calf exercises by sitting with your leg straight in front of your body with your knee straight. Loop a towel around the bottom of your foot. Holding one end of the towel in each hand, gently pull the towel up until you feel a slight resistance in the calf area. There should be no pain. Hold the position for at least 20 seconds to attain a good stretch. Stretching out the heel incorporates the same motions, but with the knee bent slightly. Ideally, perform these stretches at least five days a week.

Shin Exercises

Ankle injuries frequently occur when the ligaments that hold the ankle joint in place are weakened from overuse or a particular trauma. The stronger your leg muscles, the more the ligaments can perform their function. Stretches designed to strengthen the legs as a whole can also strengthen the ankle because the ligaments become more efficient. Shin exercises can achieve this goal. Shin exercises can be done at home easily with a regular chair placed next to a wall or using another type of support, such as a heavy piece of furniture. Keep the foot closest to the wall flat on the ground, and push out against the wall so that the outside of the foot touches the surface of the barrier. Hold for a count of three. Aim for 60 repetitions daily per foot, broken up into sets of 20. Strengthen the inner side of the ankle in a similar fashion. Instead of using a wall to support the foot, each foot supports the other. Place both feet together, flat on the floor. Push the left foot towards the right, while keeping both feet level on the floor. Repeat the exercise with the right foot, holding each repetition for three seconds.

Range of Motion Exercises

Once an ankle sprain has occurred, the joint has weakened and is susceptible to subsequent injuries. Range of motion exercises can help you regain full use of your ankle, rather than taking the "work through the pain" approach that can hamper healing. Exercises of this kind help the ankle become stronger and may guard against future sprains and tears of the ligaments. Range of motion exercises are performed while sitting with the affected leg straight out in front of the body, with the knee straight. In this position, the foot naturally points upward. Bring your foot towards your body by flexing, holding the position as long as possible. Try to draw a circle with your toes by rotating your ankle. Start doing range of motion exercises to strengthen a hurt ankle after the initial rest, compression and icing that is standard treatment for most injuries. This is usually the third day after the injury.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.