Ankle sprains are among the most common injuries to lower limbs endured by the general public. At this time of year, our wet and icy conditions often turn surfaces we normally take little notice of into a peril. Icy pavements, shop floors made wet from hoards of soggy Christmas shoppers, and rock-hard sports pitches all pose a risk to our lower limb health.
Regularly strengthening your ankles with simple exercises can help to lower the risk of severe injury. Plus if you do suffer a sprain or break, your recovery time may be reduced.
How Common Are Ankle Injuries?
In recent research-based in the West Midlands, it was estimated that there are 302,000 reported incidents of ankle sprains at A&E departments across the UK every year, with an additional 42,000 being classed as severe sprains. The study found that females between the ages of 10-14 years and males between the ages of 20-24 years were most commonly seen with ankle sprains. The numbers declined steeply for both sexes after 44 years old, before rising again after 85 years old.
How to Strengthen Your Ankles
To avoid becoming part of these statistics, keep your ankles strong and supportive by regularly using these strengthening exercises.
If you’re elderly or suffering from any underlying mobility issues such as arthritis, consult your GP or podiatrist before embarking on a new exercise routine. These exercises are not designed to be painful. Recommendations for repeats and numbers are only approximate, so adjust our suggestions to suit your own level of ability.
To strengthen your whole ankle joint:
- Balance challenge: Standing near a wall to support you if needed, lift one leg to a right angle in front of your hip. Balance on one foot for 30 seconds, keeping your hip and knee steady. Repeat 10 times on each leg.
- Heel raises: Stand behind a chair and hold for support if needed. Feet facing forwards, hips-width apart, raise both heels off the floor to balance on your toes. Hold for 5 seconds and replace your heels down. Repeat 10 times, then repeat with your feet turned out from each other at 45° angles.
To prevent ankles rolling inwards:
- Foot Flex: With the use of a resistance band or a lightweight towel if you don’t have one, sit with your legs out in front of you, keeping your back straight. Bend one knee and loop the band or towel around the ball of your opposite foot with your toes flexed and pointing up. Holding the ends of the band or towel to maintain resistance, point your foot forwards, and then return it to the upwards flexed position. Do this 10 times on each leg.
To support quick changes in direction:
- Lateral hops: Stand with your feet slightly parted and imagine a line running between them, in line with the centre of your body. Lift one foot slightly off the ground and balance. Laterally hop from one side of the imaginary line to the other, for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other foot.
To strengthen the front of your ankles:
- Heel Walks: Either barefoot or in trainers, lift the balls of your feet off the floor to balance on your heels. Take 20 steps forwards on your heels, keeping your toes lifted and pointed. Lower your toes and rest for 5 seconds, then repeat the 20 steps back to your starting position.
If you would like more personalised advice on keeping your ankles strong or if you are prone to ankle injury and want to prevent further problems, our team of podiatrists can help make a treatment plan to suit you. Contact Feet By Pody today to book your next appointment.