Simple Ankle Exercises to Prevent Injury

April 26, 2024 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team

Picture this: you’re out for a leisurely jog in the park, enjoying the fresh air, when an uneven surface causes you to roll your ankle, sending you tumbling to the ground. These scenarios are all too familiar for those who’ve experienced the frustration and agony of ankle injuries. Yet, what many fail to realize is that these seemingly minor mishaps can have long-lasting repercussions.

Weak ankles aren’t just a nuisance—they’re a ticking time bomb, waiting to detonate with each misstep or sudden movement. In this fast-paced world where agility and mobility are prized, neglecting ankle strength is a recipe for disaster. This is because our ankles serve as the foundation for our body’s movement, bearing the weight and impact of every step we take.

By incorporating targeted exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and tendons surrounding the ankles, you can enhance your stability and proprioception, reducing the likelihood of rolling or twisting your ankle during physical activity.

Whether you’re an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or simply someone who wants to move pain-free, incorporating ankle exercises into your routine is paramount for healing and injury prevention. Let’s delve into a variety of ankle exercises essential for preventing injury and maintaining overall well-being:

Ankle Alphabet

The focus of this exercise is to increase your ankle range-of-motion exercise. This can be done seated while watching TV or even at your desk. Simply trace the alphabet using your toes to encourage movement in your ankles from any direction. Do this at least three times a day. It will take less than three minutes to complete and can significantly improve your ankle mobility.

Ankle Circles

Another range-of-motion focused exercise is ankle circles. This can be done seated or in a lying position. Slightly raise one leg in the air and point your toes like a ballerina. Slowly rotate the foot of the raised leg clockwise and counterclockwise 15x each direction. For best form, try not to move your leg so the movement stays isolated at the ankle joint.

Calf Raises

With your feet shoulder width apart, slowly lift your heels as you shift weight onto your toes. Repeat this movement 10-15x as tolerated in a seated or standing position. Ensure that your ankle is in a neutral position throughout repetitions for good balance.

Single-leg Balance

As a variation to the calf raises, you may do a single-leg calf raise alternatively. In standing, slightly bend both of your knees and lift one foot off the floor. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds to maximize strengthening. Repeat on the other side. If you’re at risk for falls, be sure to hold onto something for external support during the duration of the exercise. 

Shin Raises

Shin raises are similar to calf raises, however, it’s the toes you have to raise instead of the heels for this exercise routine. Try this seated or in standing 10-15x and repeat if tolerated. Keep doing this to master good control of your feet and legs and avoid rolling in your ankles and toes. 

Towel Pulls

Place one bare foot on a towel and try to grab or pick this up with your toes. Lift your heel when you’re pulling the towel and repeat the process until you feel some soreness around your feet. This means that the muscles are activating and working. Alternate with the other foot.

When you’re feeling your ankles getting stronger, try to incorporate sport-specific ankle exercises such as hopping, lateral leaps, squats, and lower-body exercises for further strengthening and injury prevention. If you are not sure how to perform these exercises, you can always schedule an appointment with one of our performance specialists to take your exercise routine to the next level!

What to do if you sustain an ankle injury?

Visit one of our board-certified, fellowship-trained Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Specialists if the following signs or symptoms are present:

  • Severe, persistent pain
  • Limited range of motion in the affected ankle
  • Swelling that doesn’t subside
  • Ankle instability
  • Obvious deformity

Depending on the severity of your injury, your doctor might recommend surgical intervention. Our qualified foot and ankle surgeons are dedicated to quality outcomes and are trained in the latest techniques to help you regain your quality of life. Request an appointment with a foot and ankle specialist today or contact us at 919-781-5600 for inquiries.


The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.