It’s no secret that the muscles we utilize most when running are all found in our legs. However, even so, many runners are surprised to discovered just how many lower body muscles are truly at work on the run. One of the biggest surprises: your ankle muscles.
Ankle exercises should be a regular part of your strength training routine.
Most runners fail to pay attention to their ankles until it is too late. Ankle injuries, such as ankle sprains, and lower leg problems are fairly common in runners, and yet they are often overlooked until they have progressed to something more serious.
These ankle strengthening exercises are a great addition to any runner’s training plan. Not only do these ankle exercises help keep those muscles strong and stable, but they are quick and easy to complete.
Practice a few simple ankle exercises to maintain optimal stability.
Ankle muscles play a key role in helping stabilize our bodies on the run, as they engage with each step we take. However, weak ankles can often lead to a variety of injuries and more serious issues, such as shin splints, knee pain, foot pain, and much more.
Preventing running injuries often involves a great deal of proactivity and diligence each week. However, a few extra minutes spent strength training is usually all it takes to keep you healthy and strong for long-term success.
Try incorporating these simple ankle exercises to maintain optimal ankle strength and stability on the run.
8 Ankle Strengthening Exercises for Stability
Heel Raises x 20
To complete this ankle exercise (also called calf raises), begin by standing with your feet about hip width distance apart. Simply rise up onto your toes by lifting both heels off the floor, hold for 2-3 seconds, and then lower back down.
If you would like to further increase the difficulty, try completing this ankle exercise on the edge of a stair or step. Stand with your heels off the edge of the step and the front part of your foot planted firmly. Allow your heels to dip below the step to increase your range of motion.
Heel Walks x 40 steps
Begin by standing with your feet about hip width distance apart. Lift both toes off the floor so you are balancing on just your heels. Simply walk forward, side to side and backwards while keeping your toes elevated.
Star Exercise x 5 taps each
To complete this ankle exercise, it is sometimes helpful to use tape to create a star on the floor to use as a guide – however, it is not necessary.
Begin by standing with your feet together, in the center of your “star”, and then lift one foot off the floor to balance on a single leg. Extend your airborne foot straight in front of you and tap the floor with your toes five times – bending at the knee and lowering into a mini squat to facilitate movement.
After the first five taps, return your foot back to the center, continuing to keep it elevated. Next, extend your foot in front of you to the top left to tap the floor 5 times. Return to center, and then extend your foot across your body directly to the left to tap the floor 5 times. Continue tapping in all directions, and then repeat on the opposite leg.
During this calf exercise, you’ll want to make sure that the knee of your grounded leg remains in line with your pinky toe. Do not let your knee fall in towards the middle or out towards your side, even as you lower your center of gravity towards the floor.
Single Leg Balance x 20 seconds each
This calf exercise can be completed on even floor, with a towel under your foot, or on the top or back of a Bosu Ball. The more uneven or unstable the surface, the more challenging the exercise will be.
Begin by simply standing with both feet next to each other, allowing time to gain full balance. Next, lift one leg in the air, bending at the knee. Continue to balance on a single leg for 20 seconds.
To increase the difficulty, place a rolled up towel under your grounded foot. For a further challenge, balance on the round side of a Bosu Ball, or the flat side for the highest difficulty. Repeat the balance on the opposite leg.
Single Leg Mini Squat x 10 each
Stand with both feet together, and then slowly lift one foot in the air, extending it straight out in front of you. Take a moment to gain your balance, and then bend your grounded leg slightly to lower into a mini squat.
While in this squat position, ensure that the knee of your grounded leg lines up with your pinky toe – do not let your knee tilt inwards. Straighten back up, and continue to repeat. Afterwards, complete on the opposite leg.
Jump Squats x 20
These type of squats are a great ankle stability exercise that also engage your entire lower body. Jump squats help strengthen many muscles throughout the leg, and the dynamic movement forces your lower body to engage many different stabilizing muscles.
Begin by standing with your feet about hip width distance apart. Bend at the knees and send your hips back to lower into a squat position, as if you were about to sit on a chair.
From this position, straighten both legs simultaneously while using your lower legs and ankles to jump into the air. Land back in a standing position, and immediately lower down into another squat. Continue to repeat without breaks in between.
Seated Toe Points and Flex x 30
Start in a seated position, with both legs stretched out straight in front of you. While seated, point your toes as far forward as they will go, creating a flat line from your toes to ankle.
Hold for 2-3 seconds, and then bring your toes back towards your body to flex your foot. Hold for 2-3 seconds, and continue to alternate.
Single Leg Lateral Hops x 20 each
This ankle exercise engages the ankles with another dynamic movement. Begin by balancing on a single leg, with the opposite leg bent and foot behind you. Jump side to side, landing at least 12 inches apart each time, while maintaining balance. Switch legs and repeat.
These ankle strengthening exercises are quick, simple and easy to incorporate in any training plan. Simply fit them in once a week after an easy run, or include them with your usual strength training routine to help prevent various injuries.
If you’re already struggling with weak ankles, practice these exercises multiple times each week to help regain ankle strength and promote optimal stability.
Injury prevention is key to staying happy and healthy on the run. Complete these ankle exercises on a regular basis to create the ultimate strength training routine!