Feet and Ankle Strength
Joe Fleming explains how to strengthen the feet and ankles to avoid injury and improve performance.
Your feet and ankles carry you through life and the gym. However, even though they do so much every single day, most people tend to neglect them.
If you are part of this group, remember that healthy feet and ankles are essential for a variety of activities, from walking to weight lifting.
Read on to learn more about the importance of strong feet and ankles and get some tips on how you can start strengthening yours today to protect them from injuries.
Why do Strong Feet and Ankles Matter?
Your feet and ankles play a significant role in just about every movement you make. Even upper body-focused movements like a bench press require you to plant your feet firmly into the ground to help you push the weight up.
Whether you are a runner, a basketball player, or a weightlifter, strong feet and ankles help you prevent injuries, such as sprains and fractures. They also help you move with more power and explosiveness when you are jumping, sprinting, changing directions, and lifting heavyweights.
Are You Prone to Ankle Injuries?
How can you tell if your feet and ankles are weak? This can be difficult for some people, especially if they have gotten in the habit of letting other muscles compensate for their weaknesses.
One of the easiest ways to tell if your feet and ankles are working the way they should is to look at them from behind. Stand barefoot with your feet about hip-distance from each other. Have someone take a picture of the backs of your ankles.
Ideally, your ankles should be in a neutral position, meaning they are not leaning one way or the other. It should be easy to draw a straight line from the bottom of your heel to your calf.
If your ankle rolls out to the side, you have a problem with over-supination. If it rolls inward, you have a problem with over-pronation. Both issues may increase your risk of experiencing foot and ankle injuries, especially when you are running or walking.
Best Exercises for Strengthening the Feet and Ankles
So, how do you correct your weaknesses and start strengthening your feet and ankles? The five exercises listed below are great ones to add to your routine.
Even if you do not have an issue with over-pronation or over-supination, these exercises are still beneficial. They will help you avoid imbalances and will decrease your injury risk.
One of the easiest ways to strengthen your ankles is to do ankle circles. These are a simple exercises that you can do anywhere -- even under your desk at work or school!
Sit in a chair and extend your right leg so that your knee is straight. Then, move your right foot in a clockwise circle. Repeat for 10-20 repetitions, then rest for 5 seconds before performing 10-20 repetitions in the opposite direction.
Repeat on the other side when you are done.
For this stretch, grab a towel or resistance band and sit with your legs extended in front of you.
Wrap the towel around the ball of your right foot and gently pull back to bring the toes toward the shin until you feel a deep stretch in your calf, Achilles tendon (back of the ankle), and possibly even hamstring.
Hold for about 15 seconds, then repeat on the left side. Do four stretches on each side.
Write the Alphabet
This exercise is a step up from regular ankle circles, but it performs a similar function -- strengthening and improving range of motion in the ankles.
To do this exercise, sit in a chair and extend your right leg straight in front of you. Then, pretend you are writing the alphabet with your big toe. Write it in capital letters first, then repeat with lower case letters before switching sides.
Using Your Feet Properly While Lifting
In addition to utilizing the exercises mentioned above, these tips can also help you if you are having a hard time using your feet and ankles properly while lifting weights.
Many people have a hard time with this at first, but, once they start applying these techniques, they find they can lift more weight more explosively.
Activate Your Feet
Make sure you are pushing into the floor with your feet while you lift. Do not just let them hang there. Think about gripping the floor (or the soles of your shoes) with your toes.
Wear Minimalist Shoes
Wearing thick, clunky shoes while lifting will make it very hard for you to connect to your feet and use them properly.
If you work out at home, lift barefoot. If you work out in a gym, wear "minimalist" shoes that are lightweight, flexible, and have a wide toe box that lets you spread your toes easily. They should also have minimal cushioning and allow your foot to be flat on the floor (no added arch support).
How to Manage Foot and Ankle Injuries
Whether you are a gym novice or seasoned pro, just about everyone can benefit from knowing more about ankle sprains and how to manage them. The same goes for foot injuries.
Keep these tips in mind if you or someone you know is dealing with a sprain or other injury and needs some help treating it and preventing it from getting worse:
If these treatments do not help, and you are still experiencing pain after about a week, you may need to see a doctor for more specialized treatment.
Once your ankle or foot starts feeling better, make it a point to incorporate the exercises mentioned above into your routine. They all help speed up recovery and maintain your mobility.
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About the Author
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. To inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health, and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces, and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.