A Foot Combo for Stronger Ankles (Great for Runners!)

Foot Exercises for Stronger Ankles for Runners
photo by Silckerodt Photography

In order to strengthen the muscles all around your foot and ankle joint, you’ve got to do a variety of different types of movements in a variety of directions. There are slow strength exercises like calf raises, and ballistic ones like unilateral and bilateral hops, as well as isometric ones to help control your strength at different end ranges of motion. There’s no ONE right way to train below the knee, rather a myriad of tools to help you build a solid, durable joint. Here’s another combo to add to your toolbox that you can do anywhere:

When I was a dancer standing on pointe shoes a lot, my ankles were BOMBER… So strong. I still had to train them though. One of my jazz teachers in college (shoutout Mary at Point Park University!) made us do the below combo pretty regularly. The first time I did it (even with super strong feet and ankles), my muscles BURNED. If you’re not used to working your feet, maybe start with smaller rep numbers and work your way up.

What I recommend:

  • Beginner: 8 reps of each exercise, 2 sets in a row without stopping
  • Intermediate: 16 reps, 2 sets
  • Advanced: 16 reps, 4 sets

Descriptions:

“Point & Flex”
Technically, you’re doing ankle plantar flexion and dorsiflexion, but focusing on the toes too will increase the intensity and benefits of this exercises.

When you pull the foot up, move your toes first, then your foot. When you go back down, go in the opposite order – foot first, then toes.

“Circle Out”
This is ankle circumduction, but again, add your toes into the mix. Pull the toes back while the foot goes up and around, then point the toes as you go down and finish the circle.

“Circle In”
Same thing as above, just in the opposite direction. See video.

“Scrunch In, Flex Out” 
You’ll be swooping your feet back and forth like you’re drawing a “u” shape. Scrunch your toes at the top of the U as you go inward, and then pull your toes back when you get to the top of the other side. See video!

“Flex In, Scrunch Out” 
Same swooping motion in a “u” shape back and forth, but this time you’ll flex your toes at the top of the inward move and scrunch them at the top of the outward movement. I feel like this one works your brain just as much as you feet and ankles. See video.

Try this out and see which muscles starting burning when. Usually the anterior tibialis and fibularis/peroneals get worked, but you may find some other spots that fatigue pretty quickly.

Why?

The stronger the muscles and tendons around your ankles, the better off your exercise and running form, which speeds you up and keeps you safe. Also, your knees get more durable since they don’t have to pick up the slack when your ankles fatigue. Try this combo out and let me know how it goes!

 

Extras to Enjoy:

This article from Outside Magazine summarizes things pretty well.
The various studies, particularly the men’s/women’s marathons.

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