12 Ankle Strengthening Exercises To Keep Your Legs Strong

If you are an athlete, you definitely need strong legs. Most of the outdoor sports involve running, jumping, and other leg movements. And it’s not just about the athletes, everybody has to go through so many physical activities throughout the day. Therefore, it is important to have strong ankles. 

Why ankles? Because it’s the ankle joint that bears most of your body weight. They also play a very important role when you land your feet on the ground. If you land incorrectly while jumping or running, you can injure your ankles. And you surely don’t want that, it can literally bring your active life to a standstill. Also, if you injure your ankle there are chances of re-injury.

Even if it’s not an injury, you may feel your legs all wobbly after you run or play any sport. This is because your ankles are not strong enough. Hence, you must stretch and exercise your feet and ankles on a regular basis.

When it comes to legs and ankles, there is a very important term that you must know – Proprioception. 

Proprioception is knowing the position and movement of your body in the space. When your body is in the air, you must know where exactly it is. If you have good proprioception, you eventually reduce your chances of spraining or injuring your ankle. Basically, it alerts the athlete of the danger and improves their balance and awareness. It helps one to orient in space and control his or her body more effectively.

And therefore, to improve your proprioception you’ll need some balancing exercises in addition to the ankle strengthening exercise. Listed below are a few balancing and ankle strengthening exercises that will not only prevent injury but also increase your performance.

12 Ankle Strengthening Exercises To Try At Home

1. Heel Raises

heel raise

Let us start with one of the simple ankle strengthening exercises that will warm you up and will strengthen the muscles around your ankle. 

How to do:

  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lift up your heels at the same time and go up on your toes.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds and lower down your heels.
  • Sets – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

2. Heel Walks

Heel walks strengthen your ankles and calves muscles. In the previous exercise, we balanced ourselves on the toes, here we’ll balance our body weight on the heels.

How to do:

  • Stand straight and lift your toes while keeping your heels on the floor.
  • Now, balance your body on the heels and start walking around in the room.
  • Add variations like walking forward and backward.

3. Lateral Steps and Jump

ankle strengthening exercises lateral jumps
Credits: experiencelife.com

Lateral steps and jumps increase your stability and power. It strengthens your ankles and corrects your landing. Start with lateral steps and then move on to jumps. 

How to do lateral steps:

  • Start by lifting your right foot and taking a step towards the right. 
  • Now lift the left foot and bring it near the right foot. 
  • Go back to the start position by lifting the left foot first and then right.
  • You can gradually increase your speed.

Lateral Jumps

This is just a variation of lateral steps. But instead of taking a step you’ll have to jump and land on one leg and come back by hopping on the other leg. 

4. Squat Jumps

Squat jumps strengthen your entire lower body. It targets your ankles, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. 

How to do:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Now, lower your hips down to get into a squat position. Touch the ground in front of you with your fingertips.
  • Now as you get up, jump by lifting your feet off the ground and land softly on your feet. While doing so, swing your arm up over your head. This finishes one rep.
  • Do this for 30-60 seconds.

5. Scissor Hops

Scissors hops is another great exercise that will give you strong and healthy ankles.

How to do:

  • Get into a lunge position with your right leg forward and your left knee almost touching the floor.
  • Now as you stand, jump up as high as possible.
  • Switch your legs when you are up in the air. Your legs will have the motion like a scissor.
  • Land back in a lunge position but this time on your left leg.
  • Sets – 3 sets of 10 to 12 hops.

Now we’ll look at the 4-way ankle strengthening exercises: inversion, eversion, plantar flexion, and dorsiflexion.

6. Inversion and Eversion

You must have heard of the term ‘Inversion Ankle Sprain.’ In this, your ankle turns towards your body. It is one of the common types of sprain. This exercise has a similar movement of your ankle and hence the name Inversion.

Inversion is the motion of legs where the ankles point towards the body. Eversion is the motion of legs where the ankles point away from the body. These exercises can be done with or without the use of a resistance band. 

How to do: 

  • Sit down on a mat and stretch out your legs straight.
  • Keeping your toes pointed up, turn your right ankle towards the left leg as much as possible.
  • Remain in this position for 10 to 15 seconds and return to the start position.
  • Perform 10 to 12 reps before switching to the other leg.
  • For resistance inversion, make a loop with the resistance band and wrap it around your foot. Motion the ankle inwards against the resistance.

How to do Eversion:

  • Sit down on a mat and stretch out your legs straight.
  • Keeping your toes pointed up, turn your right ankle away from the body or outwards as much as possible.
  • Remain in this position for 10 to 15 seconds and return to the start position.
  • Perform 10 to 12 reps before switching to the other leg.
  • For resistance inversion, make a loop with the resistance band and wrap it around your foot. Motion the ankle outwards against the resistance.

7. Plantar Flexion

As you saw that in the above exercises we motioned our ankles inwards and outwards. Plantar flexion is motioning our ankles in the forward direction. This exercise can also be performed in both ways: With resistance or without resistance.

How to do resisted plantar flexion:

  • Sit down on a chair and wrap a resistance band around your right leg.
  • Lift your leg up until its parallel to the ground. Pull the band towards your body to create resistance and keep it controlled.
  • Now point your foot forward as much as possible.
  • Hold the position for 15 seconds and come back to the neutral position.
  • Repeat for a few minutes before switching to another leg.

8. Dorsiflexion

This is the last movement of the 4-way exercise. In the above exercises we moved our ankle inward, outward, forward, and now we’ll motion it backward. You can perform even perform it without the resistance band.

How to do resisted dorsiflexion:

  • Sit down on a chair in front of a sturdy table or heavy furniture where you can wrap the band.
  • Make a loop in the resistance band where you can insert your foot.
  • Lift your leg up until its parallel to the ground. Wrap the loose end of the resistance band around the table to create resistance in the opposite direction and keep it controlled.
  • Now point your foot back towards your body as much as possible.
  • Hold the position for 15 seconds and come back to the neutral position.
  • Repeat for 10 to 15 times before switching to another leg.

9. Calf Raises

Credits: verywellhealth.com

This is just like the heel raise but only on one leg at a time. 

How to do:

  • Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. And lift your one foot off the ground
  • Now rise on the toes of the other foot by lifting the heels. Balance your weight on the ball of the left foot.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds and lower down your feet.
  • Repeat for the other leg.
  • Sets – 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

As mentioned before, in order to improve your proprioception you’ll need to perform some balancing exercise. Here are a few exercises you can try.

10. Standing on One Leg

How to do:

  • Stand straight with your feet close to each other. 
  • Lift your left foot up and balance your body weight on the right leg. 
  • Remain in this position for 30 to 60 seconds before switching to your right foot.

11. Hopping

How to do:

  • Stand straight and lift your right foot up. 
  • Now hop on your left foot in all directions: forwards, sideways, and backward. 
  • Perform 10 to 12 reps and bring down your right foot. 
  • Now lift your left foot and hop on your right foot for another 10 to 12 reps.

12. One Leg Mini Squats

How to do:

  • Stand straight with feet close to each other. 
  • Lift your one foot back and get into a hop position. 
  • Now slowly lower your hips down a little into a squat position. 
  • Come back up and repeat. 
  • Switch to the other leg and perform the same.

Continue Reading: Hip Strengthening Exercises

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