Ankle strengthening exercises for restoring functional strength, agility and stability 

Ankle strengthening exercises are the key to having a stronger foundation, and we all know that mighty things need strong foundations! One of the most important ankle rehabilitation or training aspects is muscle strength - but strength alone is not enough! Mobilisation, stretching and stability/balance exercises play a huge role in good ankle function and these strengthening exercises form just one part of a complete ankle training program.

Most of the muscles that control the foot and ankle are located in the lower leg, so this is predominately where we will be focusing;

  • Gastrocnemius and Soleus (calf muscles that point the foot down)
  • Tibialis anterior and posterior (front muscles which lift the foot up and out)
  • Flexor and extensor digitorum and hallux (muscles which influence toe movement)

Progressive difficulty

These ankle strengthening exercises are laid out in progressive manner, meaning that once you have mastered one level or phase you should move up to the next. The consequence of doing these exercises if they are beyond your ability is likely discomfort, sometimes pain and if you really over do it, then further injury. So start at stage one and only move on to the next once you've got it down. And if things get tough, simply scale back on the intensity!

As stated above, these strengthening exercises should be used in conjunction with other ankle rehabilitation and training exercises, specifically ankle mobility exercises, stretching exercises and stability exercises.

What equipment you might need for ankle strengthening exercises

To start with you won't need any equipment apart from a decent, comfortable and supportive pair of trainers. However as you progress through the program you will need to incorporate some weights and a theraband/elastic band.

  • Trainers
  • Dumbell/plate/sack of potatoes (if that is all you have got)
  • Theraband/Elastic band

Watch our Youtube video or follow the step by step guide below

Execise 1: Standing calf raises

This exercises focuses on you calf muscles, in particular gastrocnemuis an soleus. The movement passing through the ankle is plantarflexion and dorsiflexion.

Calf raise: Phase 1

Standing upright with you feet together, push up onto you tiptoes, hold for a second or two and then relax back down. Repeat 10-15 times per session.

Step 1

calf raise ankle strengthening technique

Step 2

calf raise ankle strengthening technique

Calf raise: Phase 2

Once you mastered that, move onto one legged, or single calf raises. This type of ankle strengthening exercise requires a degree of ankle mobility and also some stability, so to start with you might want to find something to help you balance.

Step 1

calf raise ankle strengthening technique phase 2

Step 2

calf raise ankle strengthening technique2 phase 2

Calf raise: Phase 3

Using your weight, whatever it might be, you can make this exercises gradually more difficult. Hold the plate, dumbbell or sack of potatoes in you hands, and then repeat the standing calf raise again, first on both legs and then one leg.

Step 1

weighted calf raise ankle strengthening technique

Step 2

weighted calf raise ankle strengthening technique

Exercise 2: Foot lift

These ankle strengthening exercises below look at the movement of dorsiflexion of the ankle, or simply the movement of lifting the ankle up. The muscle you are predominately focusing on here is the tibialis anterior muscle. The strengthening exercises for the ankle are staged and progressive, once you have mastered one you can move onto the next.

Foot lift: Phase 1

To start with, sit on a chair, point your foot upwards towards you, bending it at the ankle. Hold it for a second and then relax it. Repeat this exercises 10 - 15 times per session.

Step 1

footlift ankle strengthening technique phase 1

Step 2

footlift ankle strengthening technique phase 1

Foot lift: Phase 2

To level this ankle strengthening exercise up, you need to use a theraband. Find one of medium strength, not too strong and not too weak. Place both feet on the floor and wrap it around both feet as shown in the images below. Again, we are looking to repeat this exercise 10-15 times. If you experience any pain then yo need to limit the amount of exercise you are doing.

Step 1

footlift ankle strengthening technique

Step 2

footlift ankle strengthening technique 2

Execise 3: Ankle eversion

This ankle muscles peroneus longusperoneus brevis are the focus of this exercise and the predominant movement is eversion. This ankle is fundamental especially if you are recovering from a strain or find that you regularly roll you ankle.

Ankle eversion: Phase 1

Lift your foot off the ground and turn it outwards, and back in again, as is demonstrated in the images below and the video above.

Step 1

Ankle eversion strengthening technique phase 1

Step 2

Ankle eversion strengthening technique phase 2

Ankle eversion: Phase 2

All of these ankle strengthening exercises are designed to get the muscles around the ankle stronger so that it has more support and is less prone to injury. These two ankle eversion exercises are particularly important when it comes to ankle injury and sprain prevention.

In Phase 2, use a theraband and simply turn you foot inwards, and then outwards against the band as is shown in the images below.

Step 1

Ankle eversion strengthening technique

Step 2

Ankle eversion strengthening technique 2

Exercise 4: Plantarflexion

This exercise again uses the calf muscles but rather than doing it standing it can be done sitting and using a theraband.

Ankle plantarflexion: Phase 1

Hold onto one end of the theraband, wrap the other end underneath your foot, around the ball of the foot is usually best. Slowly and in a controlled manner, point you foot down and away from you, hold for a second, and then gently bring it back. Repeat 10-15 times depending on your level and progress.

Plantarflexion ankle strengthening exercise
Plantarflexion ankle strengthening exercise 2

And that's it!

The ankle strengthening exercises on this page constitute a basic but holistic and complete ankle strengthening program. If done properly and with patience, adding more difficulty when appropriate, you'll find that you will have more control over you ankle, you roll it or sprain it less often and it will give you more stability when you need it.

To accompany these exercises make sure you are also doing ankle stretchesankle strengthening exercises and ankle mobility exercises - the four pillars of ankle training

Advanced ankle strengthening exercises

Depending on what your goals are, ankle training exercises can be advanced to any level you want. Players of squash for example will require quite significantly more advanced exercises due to the fast pace and side to side movement that they use to play their sport.

More advanced  ankle strengthening exercises are beyond the remit of this page but some examples include single leg squats or pistol squats, box jumps, side to side squats. Follow the links for more information in these advanced ankle exercises.

advanced ankle stability and strength exercises

Why strengthen muscles?

Control, power, protection - increased muscle mass around a joint improves its stability, meaning it is better protected and you have more control. For more information about why strengthening muscles is important check out the uk NHS website about the advantages of strength training


I hope you enjoyed this page about ankle strengthening exercises, and you leave with an understanding about why they are so important. For more information go back to the OFC homepage or use this link for more ankle exercises.


AUTHORS AND CREATORS

This page was written and composed by experts in their fields;

OLIVER WAKEFIELD M.ost
REGISTERED OSTEOPATH

Oliver is a registered Osteopath in the UK with a particular interest in sports and rehabilitation - he practises in Devon, Southwest England.

LOUISE PRATLEY M.ost
REGISTERED OSTEOPATH

Louise is a registered Osteopath, fitness model and enthusiast as well as a business and social influencer. She also practises as an Osteopath in Devon, UK.

Oliver and Louise specialise in helping people get over their pain and get back to living the lives they want to be living - follow this link to find out more about us.

We welcome any one who wants to get in touch with us here at the OFC for any reason - please use the form on our contact us page.


All the information and advice in this website should be followed with common sense and expert help - follow this link for our full disclaimer.