How to Strengthen Ankles: 10 Exercises for Runners

Natalie Cecconi
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Solo Leg Lifts

In this exercise you will strengthen the tendons and improve the flexibility of your ankles.

Don’t rush to switch to the other leg. Keep practicing the exercise until you feel a burning sensation.

Place a soft surface beneath your feet like a folded blanket or towel.

Use a body weight of about 10-25lbs. Do 10 repetitions on each leg and try to increase the number of repetitions as you get stronger.

Negative Calf Raises

If you want to make a positive impact on ankle strength, look no further than standing negative calf raise.

Why?

Because it builds the critical supportive muscle that will help keep your feet and ankles strong and ready to move throughout your run, and throughout the rest of your life.

How Negative Calf Raises Work

Stand on a step, box, or your calf raise machine with the balls of your feet and toes placed in the wide position of the platform.

Keeping your heels on the floor, let your weight sink into your heels as you lower yourself as much as possible.

Ease your way back up to the starting position before repeating.

Squat Jacks

Targets: Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves

Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you. Keep your back straight and core tight. Your feet should be flat on the floor, your knees directly above your ankles, and your toes pointing forward.

Once you’ve reached the floor, jump your feet out to the sides and jump them back in toward each other. Return to the starting squat position. Continue this motion for the specified number of reps.

The Crane Game

Look down and find something in your environment that you could grab onto or use to help you re-align yourself should you start to topple over. Here, at the park, there are a few options, but if I look closely I can see that maybe I could grab onto the vertical pole that helps keep the basketball hoop steady. This is a crane game of sorts. Stand and find something that you can use to be able to sit down, right there, without having to shift your feet much at all, like a small bench, a tree branch, a pole, or a wall. If you are doing this standing up, maybe you have a firm grip on the railing or can lean against something. This is super helpful if you already have issues with balance. It might almost be a way to practice basic balancing that helps prevent a fall down or leaves you able to quickly right yourself. You can do this for a very short period of time, just as long as it takes you to get to the next time where you can rest. And then repeat.

Single Leg Mountain Climbers

Stand straight with a slight bend in both knees and your arms crossed in front of your body and your feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight onto the left foot, keeping your right heel lifted with toes pointing downward. Engage your abdominal muscles and exhale as you lower your body toward the floor by bending your left knee. Reach your right leg toward the floor under your body with your toes pointing upward and your knee pointing upward toward the ceiling. Avoid dropping the right knee too close to the floor.

Muscles Involved: Gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus, peroneus longus

How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands behind your butt with your palms against your hips.

Begin by bending your knees slightly and tightening your butt and abdominal muscles.

As you exhale, engage your abdominal muscles and tighten your butt.

Keeping the right leg stiff, jump and switch the positions of your legs in the air. At the same time, jump high enough to reach your hands above your head.

Land with your left leg bent and your right leg straight and repeat the movement with a slight bend in your knees.

Muscles Involved: Gluteus maximus and medius, quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus

Plantar Stretching

If you have weakened ankle muscles (plantar fasciitis, Achilles’ tendon, peroneal tendons), then you should try the following plantar stretching exercises in your recovery program.

To perform these , sit with your heel on the ground as far back as possible without making any other muscles tense. Then lean forward and take your hands behind you on the floor or a pillow. Hold for about 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat 5 times.

To increase the difficulty and stretch the calf muscles as well, do the same sitting but with your calves resting on a chair or bench.

Perform these stretches 2 to 3 times per day.

Three-Point Lung

This is one of the best exercises to strengthen ankles for runners.

How to:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart
  • Transfer all body weight onto the right foot
  • Slowly lower into a deep lunge, ensuring heels stay on the ground throughout
  • Slowly return to start position
  • Repeat for 20 reps on each leg

Topsy-Turvy Flamingo

A post shared by Fitness & Wellness (@fitness_and_wellness) on May 2, 2018 at 8:17am PDT

This ankle strengthening exercise will help you improve ankle stability and flexibility. Ensure that you keep your body upright and maintain control throughout the movement.

How to:

Stand with your feet a few inches apart, toes facing forward. Lift one leg behind you and rest your foot against the seat of a chair. Lower yourself towards the floor by extending your trunk and bending your knee of the front leg. Without bending or arching your lower back, lower yourself until your bottom knee is positioned beside your front leg. Keep your legs perfectly straight throughout the exercise. Breathe throughout the exercise. Do not hold your breath as this could lead to dizziness. Hold the position for half a second. Return to the starting position by pushing yourself up with the chair. Repeat the exercise for 8 to 10 times. The exercise is ideal for beginners and can be gradually increased as the muscles get stronger.

Soleus Stretch

Ankle and foot muscles are strong on the outer edges of the legs and they become very weak on the inner side. To compensate for this, you will have to work the inner portion of your ankle.

The soleus is a muscle in the inner ankle area. This muscle is responsible for plantar flexion (pointing your foot). Stretch it this way.

Sit on the floor with your leg extended out in front of you. Place the sole of your foot on the floor. Move your leg forward, until a sensation of tightness is felt in your soleus.

Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Then gently move your leg forward and back a few times for stretch and / or release.

Ankle Tug

Stand on the middle of the band with your left foot. If you need extra resistance, you can put your left foot on a ledge and keep your right foot on the floor.

Cross your right ankle over your left ankle to create a circle with your ankles.

Pull your right foot backwards while keeping your knees straight.

Return your right foot to approximately the same position as the start to complete your set.

Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

You do not want to move too quickly with this exercise. There should not be any shaking. Slow down or go back if you start to shake.

To make the exercise more intense, hold your arm straight out to either side (extended line or T position for upper body), palm facing forward. Your aim is to try to pull your arm back towards your torso.