The anatomy of the ankle is very complex and whether you are walking, running or jumping normal ankle function is needed for a smooth and nearly effortless gait.
Even when everything works together and the ankle functions correctly the ankle and surrounding muscles are put under a great deal of stress and when one part becomes damaged, it can affect every other part of the ankle and foot, leading to problems. The ankle joint acts like a complicated hinge made up of several important structures with the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the ankle joint working together to propel the body. The unique design makes it a very stable joint, which it needs to be, in order to withstand 1.5 times your body weight when you walk, and up to eight times your body weight when you run.
With strong ankles you are more able to withstand greater force before an injury is sustained. In addition to decreasing ankle injuries, strong lower leg muscles will help prevent chronic conditions such as shin splints and Achilles tendonitis, both of which disturb the normal way the ankle works making it difficult to do activities without pain or problems.
Unstable ankles may challenge your balance putting you at risk of falls and fractures.
Improve your balance by simply standing on one leg, arms out to sides. Too easy? Close your eyes and stand on one leg. Balancing improves proprioception, which is the body’s ability to unconsciously know where it is in time and space. Strengthen your ankles with these simple exercises.
- Standing calf raises: raise yourself up on your toes and lower down onto heels 10 times. Too easy? Try on one leg or hold weights.
- Fidgety feet: stand feet apart holding chair back for support. Pull your knees inwards, lift heels up and push them outwards, weight on inward facing toes. Now push knees outwards and pull heels together, toes facing outwards. Repeat 10 times.
- Circles (sit or stand) to maintain ankle mobility: lift right foot off the ground, point your toes and rotate the ankles circling first clockwise 15 times, then anti-clockwise 15 times. Repeat with left foot.