How to Make Your Ankles Stronger
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September 27, 2013, last updated August 7, 2014
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors,
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of
our Editorial Board

Don’t take your ankles for granted. Get up and skip around
because you might not have the strength and agility in your
ankles forever – it seems that ankle stability strength
declines as you age.

Did you appreciate your ankles today? Your ankle is a
major joint made up of three bones that allows you to
move your foot up and down and side-to-side. Those three
bones are the shin bone, the fibula, and the talus – a foot
bone that rests above your heel. Bound together with
tough ligaments, this joint means business.

But your ankles are also surprisingly prone to injury.
Around 60 percent of all foot and ankle injuries in people
aged 17 or older are ankle strains or sprains, according to
the ProFootCenter.  Why do your ankles get weaker as you
age? Are there any exercises or tips that can help to
strengthen your ankles?

Your Ankles Are the First to Go

You know the old saying that your legs are the last to go?
Diahann Carroll, the beloved actress from "Julia" and
"Dynasty" who is still going strong at age 78, actually made
the saying the title of her memoir.  Well, if that is true, then
it's almost certain that your ankles are the first part of your
leg to go. As you get older, your ankle stability strength

Why do you care about ankle stability?  For one thing, the
strength of your ankles determines how fast you walk.
Scientists have discovered seniors walk faster when their
ankles are reinforced by apparatus to stabilize the joint
(2007 study from the School of Biomedical Engineering and
Sciences, Virginia Tech). And if your ankle is not string
enough, it raises your risk of ankle sprain and falls, and
affects your balance and your mobility in the future.

One out of 10 people who sprain their ankle go on to
develop chronic ankle instability, according to the German
Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. This
means your ankle joint gives way too easily.

You are highly likely to twist your ankle again and sprain it
--- possibly many times. If you don’t strengthen the ankle
to prevent the frequent twisting and bending you risk
damaging the cartilage, resulting in osteoarthritis.

Ankle strength is important for soccer players,
schoolchildren, sports people, and seniors. But how do you
increase your ankle strength? Are there weights in the gym
suitable for your ankles? Or should you focus on flexes and
stretches? We looked at the scientific evidence for the best
ways to strengthen your ankles.

Strengthen Your Ankles to Prevent Falls

As you get older your ability to twist and turn your ankle
without injury decreases, leaving you at increased risk of

A 2012 study from the University of Missouri-Kansas City
showed that age-related fall risk is heightened by decline in
strength caused by muscle fatigue – and your ankles are
the first to go. A physical therapy program to improve
strength in seniors who have problems with their ankles
and legs could lead to improvements in the ability to
perform movements and these improvements could reduce
the number of falls, according to a 2010 study from the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Use Rubber Bands for Stronger Ankles

One of the most effective ways to increase ankle strength is
through the use of special rubber bands. We’re talking
exercise bands here, not the bands you tie around your
mail. A 2012 study from Indiana University revealed that
strength training for the ankle using rubber exercise bands
increased strength. Participants performed strengthening
exercises with the bands three times a week for six weeks.

How do you use the bands? According to a 2007 study
from the University of Central Arkansas, strengthening
exercises should be performed using the band while seated
in a chair and they involve hooking both feet into the band
and keeping one foot on the floor while the other foot pulls
in different directions.

Exercises for Ankle Strength

Exercises to make your ankles stronger don’t have to
involve bands or weights. Just balance on one foot for one

When this becomes too easy, balance with your eyes shut.
Do that for a few minutes then move to an unstable surface
like a mini trampoline.

Balancing helps you make your ankles stronger and also
gives your core a workout. Or sit barefoot with your right
ankle resting on your left thigh. Hold onto your toes and
pull them gently back towards your shin to stretch the
ligaments surrounding your ankle.

Use a balance board to improve the strength of your joints
if you suffer from chronic ankle instability. The balance
board tilts from side to side so you must counteract the
movement using your ankles to stabilize your body.

Stretch Prior to Exercising

Getting active by running, jogging, swimming, or
completing an aerobics class benefits your ankles because
you are increasing your overall strength, fitness, and agility.

But don’t forget to stretch before you exercise. Gentle
stretching before exercise appears to improve the range of
motion in your joints, according to a 2008 study from the
American College of Sports Medicine.

Stretching the ankles and lower legs improved range of
motion in the ankle, which can reduce the risk of ankle
sprain and other injuries. The American College of Sports
Medicine recommends that you incorporate stretching into
your exercise program for a minimum of two or three days
in a week, for eight to 10 minutes at a time.

Don’t Ignore Ankle Pain as You Run

Running can bring benefits to your ankles as well as your
overall health but first time and beginner runners are more
likely to ignore ankle pain as they train, and are
consequently more likely to suffer ankle injuries, according
to a 2008 report from Temple University.

If you are beginning a running program, remember that
strenuous activity places a huge load of pressure on your
feet and ankles. You should listen to your body and pay
attention if you feel a twinge in your ankle.

If you injure your ankle when running, help it back to full
strength by resting the joint, applying ice and compression,
and elevating it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Ankles

If swelling from an ankle sprain hasn’t gone down, or you
are still suffering pain, see a doctor or other physician.

But be aware that “resting” your ankle for too long or
immobilizing the joint following a sprain can cause loss of

Your body is well equipped to heal an ankle sprain,
according to the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency
in Health Care, and you should strengthen the joint with
exercises as soon as possible.

Strengthen Both Ankles Equally

When increasing the strength of your ankles with exercise
or stretching, remember to balance the work. Soccer
players tend to suffer ankle sprains more frequently when
one foot is stronger than the other, according to 2012
research from the University of Athens.

Players who had one ankle significantly stronger than the
other had nine times the risk of suffering an ankle sprain,
compared to players who had ankles of similar strengths.
When you land hard or awkwardly from jumping or
sprinting, your two ankles should respond equally to the
strength so the impact is absorbed equally. If not, you risk

Tai Chi for Ankle Strength

Stronger ankle muscles come from participating in an
ancient Chinese martial art, scientists discovered.

Seniors who took part in a program of Tai Chi developed
stronger ankle and knee muscles, according to a 2005
study by the Chung Nam National University in South Korea.

The researchers looked at a group of seniors living in
residential care, who participated in a 12-week course of
Tai Chi.

Tai Chi  improves bone density, even though the exercise
does not involve heavy lifting of weights, according to a
2010 study jointly conducted by The Institute of Integral
Qigong and Tai Chi in Santa Barbara, California and Arizona
State University College of Nursing and Healthcare
Innovation. This improvement in bone density contributes
to ankle stability and strength.

Additional benefits included improved mobility, greater
flexibility, and better balance – everything you need to
keep your ankles in top condition for years to come.

[Meet the
Doctors and Nurses on our Medical Review team.]

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