When it comes to muscle strengthening, ankles are unfortunately the most neglected part of the body. But, we want you to know that half of the body weight is tolerated by ankle muscles only. Strong and flexible ankles are the foundation of body, preventing injuries when you are hiking, running, or playing tennis.
The good news here is – just a few minutes of your day can lead to ankle strengthening, and you would never have to experience that prickling pain again. This write-up is going to be all about the health of your ankles, what causes the sprain and how you can strengthen the ankle muscle so as to avoid any pain. So, let’s start with it:
What causes ankle sprain?
An ankle sprain occurs when your feet suddenly get twisted, causing the ankle joint to move out of the normal position. It often happens due to sudden jerk or an unexpected moment that tears down the ligament of the ankle. Some swelling or bruising can be observed after the ligaments tear down, but the condition may vary from person to person.
People mostly feel discomfort when weight is put on the affected area. If the sprain is grave and severe, it can cause damage to the blood vessels, cartilage, and tendons too. Unfortunately, this is a health condition that can happen to anyone at any age. Even the simplest of incidents can lead to ankle sprain like walking on an uneven surface or wearing inappropriate footwear.
Must read: Which Exercises Help Prepare For Uphill Hiking? Your Guide To Blazing Trail
To maintain the proper functioning of ankles, you need to bring it in use on a regular basis. A game of soccer is considered perfect to keep the ankle game up as it includes enough stops and moves to keep the ankles in practice. If you are not using your muscles on a regular basis, the system grows weak, causing sprains again and again.
Unless you have strengthened your ankles enough to escape the injury, you are going to face this issue again. Prominent in those who are into outdoor activities like camping and hiking, ankle issues can be real pain. For safe and healthier feet, you need to start caring for ankles from now onwards.
List Of Exercises
Not just the ankles, but the entire lower body will be strengthened with just this exercise. When you hop side by side, it will help you maintain the stability of the ankles. Some of the day-to-day games like soccer, basketball, and tennis involve such movements. To start with, here is what you need to do.
- Stand with your right foot off the ground, creating firm balance on the left foot.
- Now you need to hop forth and back, over an imaginary line.
- Repeat the same motion again to balance your right foot.
- Take 30 seconds and repeat the exercise again and again.
This can also be a fun exercise during your camping session. Compete with your friends by setting a prize of desserts and this activity can be of a lot of amusement.
Plantar Flexion and Dorsi Flexion
Simplest of all, this exercise can be done even when you are just recovering from an ankle sprain. For beginners, it will be a great start of ankle strengthening exercises, and for those who are suffering a sprain, it will maintain the mobility of ankles. Here is what you need to do.
- Sit down comfortably on a chair or bed or anywhere you feel like, placing your foot on a plain surface
- Pull the foot in the upward motion (in the dorsiflexion) as far as you can go.
- Hold the position for a couple of seconds and then move it in the inward direction (i.e., plantar flexion).
- Hold again and repeat these simple movements in 2 sets and 20 repeats.
The advantage of this exercise is – the ligaments will not be stressed much, and your effort for strengthening the ankles will be accomplished. So, whether you are lying down on the bed or relaxing with friends at your camping site, try this simple trick to keep your ankle muscle in motion.
Active inversion and eversion
Next, we are concentrating on the sideward movement of the ankles. We will like you to know that whenever you get a sprain, it’s the sideways movement that gets affected the most. Active inversion and eversion can be done anywhere, anytime, without any types of equipment.
Here is how you can start.
- Sit down on a chair with your feet on a plain and comfortable surface.
- Now move the feet inward-upward and outward-inward direction.
- While you do the movements, make sure you don’t move your ankles.
The action should be swift and gradual without hurting your ankles and other muscles. 2 sets of 20 repeats will be good to continue with this exercise.
Resistance Band Jump
This is more of a balancing act that will focus on strengthening your legs, ankles, and feet. It’s a simple jumping exercise that can be as interesting as you want it to be. All you need is a stretching band to perform this exercise.
Start now with these simple moments.
- Wrap a resistance band around the waist and anchor it to one of the trees or pillars around you.
- Now jump forward, backward and from side to side.
- Try these moments in 4 sets of 20 repeats.
The resistance band tied to the body makes the movement comparatively difficult and if you want to make it more difficult use a broad band and aim to jump a little further.
A variant of exercises can be tried using a box or step to jump over. It’s quite fun and can be done even when you are camping in the worst atmosphere. All you need to have is a box that is portable enough to carry.
- To start with, you can jump sideways with one foot on one side to the other foot on the other side.
- Do the same exercise from front to back in sets of 2 of 20 repeats.
You can carry out this exercise with self-made steps or stairs also. Just find yourself a slightly elevated area that can be easily found near your camping ground.
The Soleus stretch targets the Soleus muscle which lies beneath the larger Gastrocnemius. When you bend the knees, Gastrocnemius gets relaxed, letting the Soleus muscle get stretched and that makes the ankle muscles more strong.
- Stand in front of a wall with one leg ahead of the other.
- To make a proper balance, place your hands on the wall and bend both your knees.
- Your entire focus should be on the back knee, slowly moving your weight towards the toes.
The heels should be kept down at the plain surface, and you should hold the position for at least 10-20 seconds.
Once again this is an exercise that can be carried our regardless of the place you are at.
To move your ankles painlessly, you need to keep your calf muscles healthy and flexible. The calf muscles include the larger Gastrocnemius muscle and lower Soleus muscle. The Gastrocnemius Stretch is all meant to improve the flexibility of the calf. Start with it.
- Stand in front of a wall and place the leg to be stretched, behind your other leg and lean forward.
- Hold the position for up to 20-30 seconds, making sure the heel stay in contact with the floor.
When you do the exercise, make sure you feel a little stretch at the back of your lower leg. If not, try pushing the leg a little forward. The stretch can be done several times a day until it is not hurting you.
Single Leg Balance
Lets us warn you first, this is going to be a tough one. However, it will benefit your legs, hips, as well as ankles.
- Stand comfortably and get prepared for the single leg balance.
- Raise your right foot off the ground and let the left foot stay firmly on the ground and remain in the same position for at least 30 seconds.
- In the beginning, you can keep your eyes open, but once you are comfortable in the position close your eyes (just to make it challenging).
To start with, you might need to put your hands on a desk for balance, but you can gradually remove the support. If you want to make the experience more challenging, try an uneven surface like a sponge to stand upon.
Once again you have an easy, yet effective ankle strengthening exercise that you can do anytime. This is going to strengthen your leg, ankle, as well as foot muscles.
- Sit on a high chair with your feet hanging two inches above the ground.
- Tap your toe and heel one by one on the ground, making sure your ankle remains intact in one place.
- Start slowly and increase the pace to make a rhythmical tapping.
- Do this in 3 sets of 50 repeats.
Wobble balance board exercises
The main aim of the wobble balance board exercise is to improve the proprioception. Typically it will improve the sense of awareness inside you and will let you recognize the position of your body part. You can start the exercise from a very easy level and make it more challenging if you want. Wobble exercise can also be used to treat lower leg, knees, and upper limb injuries.
Start the wobble board exercises with these steps.
- Sit down with the wobble board under your feet and rotate it in each direction slowly.
- Stand on the wobble board with your feet and rock forward and backward. You can take the support of a chair if you wish to make a balance in the first few seconds.
- When you rotate the wobble board, make sure it doesn’t touch the ground.
- To make your exercise a little more challenging, you can try bending your knees a little bit.
You can even try this exercise with your eyes closed and both your hands reaching out in front of you. All over, your balancing game will be up, and of course, the ankle health will be all time good.
Here the concentration will be totally on the front of the ankle. If you feel like you are having an issue with your feet and front of ankles, this one exercise can be your bait. With or without shoes, this exercise can be done in both the ways.
- Lift your feet, bringing your weight entirely on your heels as you walk down.
- Keep your toes in the forward direction at more of a 45-degree angle.
- Take at least 20 steps and then move backward at the same pace.
Heel walk is quite fun and you can do it when you feel bored or want to take your mind off something. A fun game it can turn out to be while you are away camping with your friends.
Lunges are specifically knee exercise that can also be used to improve the ankle strength. The balance and strength both will be improved within just 15 days of doing this exercise.
- Stand in a split squat position, keeping the injured feet in front of other and toes facing forward.
- Bend the back knee towards the floor, holding your back upright.
- Stop before the knees touch the ground and then hold yourself back.
- Start with 2 sets of 10 repeats and increase the momentum gradually
Walking lunges are more difficult than the normal one. You just have to move forward while making the lunges and you can also try it while keeping your eyes closed.
Practicing even the basics of ankle strengthening activities can develop your ankle health; all you will need is few minutes of your daily routine. Also, the need to focus on your ankles health increases when you are a hiker or someone who is into outdoor activities on a regular basis.
If you keep ignoring the health of your ankle, this can lead to several health issues, starting from ankle sprain. The symptoms of ankle sprain are mentioned here:
Symptoms of ankle sprain
- Skin discoloration
The experience is of course, sickening, but you need to be patient for a few days (if the bruise is not intense), the injury will be healed itself. If the pain is unbearable and ice compression doesn’t work, then you need to visit a doctor. According to experts, there are three main reasons behind ankle sprains:
Reasons of ankle sprain
One sprain causing another sprain
One of the prime causes of the injury in your ankles is one of your previous injuries that might not have healed properly. Whenever you encounter an accident resulting in ankle sprain, there are chances that it will leave back a long-term effect. In most of the cases, your ankles lose its soundness and initial stability.
And, the next time you hit an uneven ground, the chances of developing the sprain doubles up. This is basically because the healing process is intervened and neural system faces difficulty in maintaining the standard recovery process of the body.
It’s the connective tissues that support and stabilize the joints in our body, and we all are born with ligaments with certain tightness. Some of us have tight ligaments, while others have soft ones that are unable to provide enough support to the joints. People with loose ankles have a history of twisting ankles from the very childhood.
Your ankles and all the other joints are controlled by receptors that guide the muscles to control the joints. When you don’t get into any sort of physical activity for a long time, the system is left idle, and it won’t be able to act in the best way possible. Practically, our body is like a machine that if left unused for a long time, starts dying. To find out why hiking is such a complete lower workout that benefits you, see our article on this.
Do not practice any tough exercise if it is causing pain. For better and safe results, start with the basics and move into the tough forms of strengthening exercises. Also, we recommend you to consult a doctor if you have loose ankles.
Start practicing these exercises on a regular basis to make your body fitter and better. We are sure you won’t let any excuses come your way when you are determined to make your ankles stronger. All these exercises are tried and tested and will help you gain back you’re the muscular strength of your ankles as well as feet. For more tips on how to train for backpacking, check out our popular piece on this.
Featured Image Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-practicing-plyometrics-7675416/