Have you ever sprained your ankle and realized just how fragile yet important the related bones and ligaments are to your daily routines? Have you ever heard someone speak resignedly about their weak ankles?
It’s surprising that ankle strength is not often addressed when it comes to physical health unless you already have an injury, but you shouldn’t wait to take care of your ankles until after you get hurt. But why should you give some specific attention to that strength and what are the best ways to build it up?
One Muscle Affects the Performance of Other Muscles
Your ankles function as part of the network of bones and muscles in your body, playing an integral role between your feet and calves. Remember that time you twisted your ankle and you had to go easy on your entire leg?
The health of all your muscles and bones should be balanced; otherwise, your highest level of performance won’t get any better than your weakest muscle. Especially where your feet have many intricate pieces supporting your arches and all-around movement. Each is its own potential strength or weakness.
Better Athletic Performance
Because of these intermingled strengths and weaknesses, the state of your feet and ankles doesn’t stop there. Especially for runners and other athletes, dysfunctional feet can cause major setbacks in your performance and meeting your goals.
On the other hand, well cared for feet and ankles will improve and promote good body mechanics. They’ll even improve how you perform movements and techniques that are best practices for your particular sport or activity. Because of this, you’ll be able to improve your endurance, balance, and progress much more easily than you could otherwise.
Don’t Just Take the Easy Fix
There are several things you can do to start improving the strength and function of your ankles, but often we fall into solutions that act as a crutch, prolonging our discomfort and even aggravating it. So while you think a pair of new shoes that support, absorb, and correct the issues for you, you should also take a look at the mechanics of your legs and feet then work to correct these through some conscious training.
This may include a better-suited pair of trainers, but it may also help to do some easy barefoot or minimalist training that addresses strength and mechanics head on. If you have more serious issues, a visit to a podiatrist could get you the extra attention and care you need to make lasting improvements.
Stretches & Exercises that Help
In conjunction with these assessments, add some exercises and stretches to your weekly workout regimen that can start building the missing strength and dexterity you want. Look into exercises that deal with your specific issues, but some good ones to start with are:
- Single-leg swap: this video uses a kettlebell (you can substitute a similar object) and is a good all-around exercise for those experiencing foot and ankle problems.
- The Monopoly Game: practice picking up a set of small objects from the floor with your toes and dropping them into a cup.
- Explore Movement: give your entire foot some exercise by lifting your big toe, the other four toes, and spreading all your toes several times, then curl them and roll those ankles around.
- Calf Raises: perform these on a step to target your full muscle, then supplement them with both straight and bent leg calf stretches to reach those deep inner muscles.
Would you build a house on the sand? Weak ankles are similar to building a house on the sand. We all know that a foundation built on sand will eventually fall if the foundation isn’t correct. If you wouldn’t build a house on the sand, why would you even consider training or walking on weak ankles? Your ankles depend on the muscles and tendons in your foot and legs to be strong in order to withstand the amount of force that your feet deal with on a daily basis, let alone doing rigirous physical activity. Don’t wait until an injury to correct your weak ankles.