Do you worry about the risk of spraining an ankle while you’re out for a run, walk, or hike? Or perhaps your concern is more from when you rise from a seat and are looking for balance?

ANKLE CARE

This article will help you learn what you should do to protect and strengthen your ankles so you can decrease your chances of suffering a sprain and achieve that stability you need. Stronger ankles can also improve your performance in sport that require lower body strength such as running, jumping, horse riding, cycling – the list is endless

Our ankles are a delicate combination of bones, ligaments, and tendons, allowing your ankles to move through a range of positions with ease and speed. They experience a lot of wear and tear every day and that also means your ankles can be a point of vulnerability. If you stumble or come down wrong when you’re walking, jogging, or hiking, you may end up having to deal with a painful sprain, fracture or dislocation.

The muscles of the ankle and calf play a disproportionately large role in our ability to walk, run and sprint. And the progressive loss of ankle power as we age may be one of the key reasons we slow down. So perhaps it’s time to skip the biceps curls and spend some time on ankle strengthening instead?

Ankles are much more likely to hold you back if they’re weak

When comparing the relative effort of muscles that straighten the ankle and knee during walking and running the absolute forces of the knee and ankle are similar, approximately equivalent to eight to nine times body weight for both.

But knees are capable of much greater maximum forces – when jumping up and down this can be nearly 14 x your body weight.

In contrast, ankles have a maximum force of less than 10 x body weight, meaning that they’re already working at nearly their maximum strength even during a gentle jog.

WEAK ANKLES

Ankles can become your weakest link. This is because they are under duress at their maximum capacity far more often than other muscles, meaning the power produced from the ankle will decline steadily with age.

When they are weak they will hold your movement back and also explains the decline in running speed between the ages of 20 and 59 to shorter strides resulting from less power in the ankles.

The muscles that power ankle extension, which are primarily located in the calves, are much smaller than the upper-leg muscles that straighten the knee. As a result, the gradual loss of muscle associated with aging may cause problems sooner in the ankle, since they have less spare capacity. So maintaining your calf strength will support your ankles.  Starting when you are young is great; before you start to lose muscle strength.

A Step in the right direction

In addition to exercise, it’s important to wear proper footwear with good ankle support when participating in any activities and if you are on your feet all day consider wearing shoes with cushioned soles. Like having your early shoes fitted, good sports shoes and boots can also be fitted to ensure they will provide the support you need.

If you have a history of ankle injuries or chronic ankle instability, or if you end up needing care for a strain or sprain, our expert team is ready to help. However, prevention is always the best medicine. So, we’re sharing some tips and exercises that can help you prevent strains and sprains and improve the integrity of your ankle joints.

Flex and stretch

To support your ankles, pay attention to the whole length of your legs, including your knees and leg muscles. You can exercise your ankles and the rest of your legs by alternately flexing and stretching. Once a day, lie on your back, reaching your legs upwards, and then flex your muscles and stretch repeatedly. Complete 10 sets of stretches, holding each time for at least three seconds. When your leg muscles and joints function together, you reduce your risk of suffering sprains

Always prepare before exercising

Exercise or other vigorous activity can strain your muscles and joints, so it’s important to get plenty of blood flowing through the joint muscles surrounding your ankle.

Stretch, flex, rotate your ankles around, and do some raises before you go out for a walk or run or before you engage in athletic or other strenuous activities

Work with your Doctor and your Therapist

While most people can do these exercises safely, we recommend talking to your doctor before beginning any exercise program — especially if you’re carrying extra weight. Having obesity (BMI >25) can lead to weak ankles. That’s because the more weight you’re carrying, the more stress you’re placing on your hips, knees and ankles.

Weak ankles could also be a sign of other medical issues that require a doctor’s attention. For instance, if you have significant balance issues, it might not be because you have weak ankles — it could be a signal of a neurological disorder. Our Neuro Physiotherapist is on hand to help in these circumstances.

So, if you any doubt get checked out first, but once you’re good to start take time for these exercises every day. Incorporating them into your routine can help you maintain good balance, stability and posture for the long term.

STRENGHTENING EXERCISES

Exercises to help strengthen your ankles.

1.    Work your ankle’s full range of motion:

There are two exercises to help achieve this.

(i) Ankle circles: Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Lift one foot off the ground and slowly rotate your ankle clockwise for 10 to 15 repetitions, then anti-clockwise for another 10 to 15 repetitions. Repeat with the other foot.

(ii) Use your feet to write the alphabet from A to Z. Sit on the ground and bend your legs in front of you, crossing one over the other. Then, use one foot to write each letter of the alphabet.

2.    Resistance band exercises:

Place a resistance band around your foot and hold the other end with your hand. We can advise which colour band you should use. Point your toes forward and then pull your toes back towards your shin. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions on each foot.

3.    Improve your Control and balance:

You can also help improve your muscle control and balance through calf and shin raises

(i) For calf raises, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your heels off the ground as high as you can. Hold for a few seconds, then lower your heels back down. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

(ii) For shin raises, slowly lift up your toes, until you are standing on your heels. As you perform these exercises, make sure you don’t let your ankles roll outwards as that may increase your risk of injury and decrease the effectiveness of the exercise.

4.    Balance exercises:

Stand on one foot and hold the position for as long as you can, then switch to the other foot. You can also try standing on a balance board or a wobble cushion to challenge your balance.

5.    Heel drops:

Stand on the edge of a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly lower your heels down as far as you can, then raise them back up. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.

6.  Ankle Hopping:

If you are actively mobile and enjoy regular walking or running your ankle will benefit from this more dynamic exercise.

Hopping forward while staying on your toes. If you aren’t steady, you can hold onto the back of a chair or something more stable like a work surface. Repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You can also bounce from side to side, front to back or in a square. This will add some variation and also a bit of a cardio workout! Hill work is also great.

Helping you live your healthiest and happiest life. Revival Health & Wellbeing Centre offers a variety of treatments, clinics, counselling and holistic therapies from our specialist team of practitioners.

Please contact us on 01386 792 126 to discuss your consultation.