Ankle exercises for training and rehabilitation are made up of four main components; Stretch, strengthen, stabilise and mobilise - these four ingredients form the foundation for anyone looking to improve their ankle function and strength, reduce pain, aid recovery and prevent further injury.
This page is all about getting you the right exercises so that you can get on with doing what you do best. Exercises like these:
Click here for ankle strengthening exercsies
Click here for ankle stretches
If you have sprained your ankle you will be looking for the ankle sprain rehab page which takes you step by step through 6-8 weeks of full ankle rehabilitation.
Any decent ankle exercise program requires a combination of the four main components of training and rehabilitation. These are,
Depending on you goals, some aspects might be more important than others. For example of you are recovering from a sprained ankle, strengthening and balance are going to be key for injury prevention and recovery. If your looking for a way to manage arthritis in you ankle, not only are you going to want to strengthen and stabilise it, your going to need to keep it mobile and active to help manage the pain and to stop the condition from worsening.
Ankle stability exercises have one key purpose: Proprioception. Your sense of balance comes in from several key methods. The most significant is your eyes, the second is your vestibular-cochlea system, or your inner ear, and thirdly it is through muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs in your muscle and ligaments - proprioception.
Every time you move, signals from these receptors in you muscles, tendons and ligaments give information to your brain stating exactly where your body or limb is in space. If you shut your eyes and hold your arm out, the chances are you know exactly where your arm is. What you're experiencing is your sense of proprioception.
After tissue damage in the form of for example an ankle sprain, this sense is damaged and can be lost completely. And if proper rehabilitation does not occur, it can stay that way. The importance of this cannot be understated. Without well functioning proprioception how can you expect your brain to know exactly where your foot and ankle is and what its doing? And if it does not have this information, then clearly the chances of re-injury are very high. Any ankle exercises you do are important for reforming this sense, however none more so than ankle stability exercises.
Standing on one leg (on the affected side) and trying to balance is a start. And then close you eyes and you'll see how difficult this becomes.
Use the video below to aid you in balance exercises or follow this link for the complete guide on ankle stability exercises, so that you can make the best recovery possible.
As already discussed, ankle strengthening exercises constitute the largest part of ankle injury rehabilitation and are essential for faster healing times and future injury prevention.
The muscles around the ankle largely originate in the lower leg and it is exactly there where most ankle strengthening is carried out. These muscles include the gastrocnemius, soleus, tibialis anterior, posterior and so on.
Foot and toe musculature conditioning and strengthening is also important.
Follow the video guide below for specific ankle strengthening exercises.
As well as strengthening, stretching is fundamental for proper ankle function and recovery. Ankle stretches are used for all sort of issues including before and after sport or fitness sessions, tissue recovery, pain relief and for specific treatment for tendinopathies, ankle arthritis and plantar fasciitis.
When stretching a muscle it is important not to overstretch it as this can lead to injury. Hold a nice deep stretch for about 8-12 seconds.
Use the stretches in the video below to keep limber, reduce pain and prevent injury.
As already discussed keeping you ankle joint mobile and free is fundamental to proper function and general joint health. Ankle mobility exercises are crucial to maintaining a healthy, pain and injury free foot and ankle.
Movement of the ankle joint keeps tissue supplied with blood, stops swelling, bathes the inside of the joints with synovial fluid and finally helps reduce inflammation and drain other waste products.
Use the exercises in the video below to learn how to effectively keep your ankle joint free and mobile.
Ankle exercises are utilised for a wide range of reasons including injury rehabilitation, specific strength training and specific sport training for example squash, cricket and football. The process however, is nearly always the same with the goals always between the same posts. These are support, strength and recovery.
When it comes to recovery, specific exercises are used at different phases to aid in treatment, rehabilitation and perhaps most importantly, prevention.
By engaging the ankle with weight and floor exercises damaged tissue gets waste removed and new blood to the area. This reduces the ischaemia and associated high pain levels whether the ankle injury is due to direct trauma or has come on insidiously. Increased blood supply and waste removal significantly speeds up recovery time and is fundamental for effective tissue regrowth and recovery.
Rehabilitation is a large part of what we do as manual therapists and constitutes the most important phase of dealing with ankle trauma and injury. If you've have suffered a serious ankle sprain you'll understand the fear and anxiety that surrounds the process of returning to exercise.
When an ankle is turned, which typically happens in an eversion direction, i.e the ankle rolls out, ligament damage is usually a given. As strong ligaments made of type 1 collagen fibers get replaced by weaker type 2 and 3 collagen they develop an intrinsic weakness which makes the possibility of injuring the ankle is so much greater. That's why ankle exercises are so important.
"Rehabilitation using ankle strengthening and stretching seeks to restore proper functional ability to the affected joint as well as restoring overall quality of life"
Without strong and healthy soft tissues (muscles, ligaments and fascia) the forces directed through joints are enough to damage, dislocate and destroy. It is these tissues which support the ankle.
After ligament damage, muscles used mainly for mobility and motility must take on a new, stabilising role; something they are not designed to do. If they are weak, tired and overused they become dysfunctional and susceptible to issues themselves but also, more importantly, are no longer in a position to support the joint. In the case of the ankle, the consequence of this is further tissue damage, arthritis of the ankle joint, tendinopathy and a higher likelihood of re-injury.
Ankle exercises like those outlined on this site and in the videos on this page are therefore fundamental to proper ankle function and health. Use the videos about ankle exercises above to restore your ankle to its former strength and glory and give your body the strength it needs.
We hope you found this page and the associated videos about ankle exercises useful. For more information follow ankle injuries, find our Youtube channel for all the latest information, exercises, stretches and videos, or return to the OFC homepage