We deal with ankle injuries and improving joint health every day. Here's some of the best ways to improve your ankle strength or provide extra support that we've learned from PTs and athletic trainers. All of our sources are listed below in case you want to look any of the scientific papers up.
An ankle brace can be great for support. Ankle braces lock down the joint, and if you already have weak ankles from an injury, are a great way to limit motion during rehab.
However, there are some strong downsides to a brace. First, if you wear it every day for injury prevention, you are likely to weaken your ankle from the consistent use. This is because your ankle relies on small micromotions to improve its strength over time. These motions are limited, if not impossible, when you wear a rigid ankle brace, so in the long term your ankle does not have a way to improve itself.
Ankle braces are best when used for a brief period of time and only on the rehab side of an injury, not for prevention.
Ankle tape is most often used for injury prevention, but it again comes with the same downsides as ankle braces. When you support the joint in such a rigid way, the lack of flexibility ends up weakening the joint over the long term, so these are another red flag when it comes to using them every day.
Additionally, tape requires some level of expertise to apply because the patterns in which it is applied matter to the support you will receive. You need some sort of training or an educated professional to use this product effectively, and this means it isn't accessible for everyone.
However, if you need support for that one game, or you are looking for a one time use case that can fit into your regular shoes, tape could be a good solution. Just be warned that consistent and prolonged use may result in a weaker ankle.
Flexibility exercises are great for the ankle because they help the ligaments and tendons stretch within the joint. When those tendons and muscles can stretch and elongate, it can make them less prone to injury, because their range of motion is greater.
Some flexibility exercises you can try are:
- Plantar Flexion
- Ankle Rolls
Here's a video that shows these motions.
Strength exercises help strengthen your joint and its ligaments and tendons. These are important when you get to the extremes of your motion, that your body is conditioned to handle situations in which injury could occur. Strengthening a joint can be really great to improve performance, or a key part of a rehab program put together by your physician.
Some strengthening exercises are below:
- Calf Raises - Video here
- Scissor Hops - Video here
- Bounding - Video here
- Squat Jumps - Video here
Last but not least, balance exercises are one of the best way to help your brain's connection with your foot and ankle. Balance training helps with proprioception, which is the body's way to know where it is at any given time. Proprioception helps your body put your foot down in a safe way even when you aren't watching it.
These are a few balance exercises that you can implement into your routine to help strengthen your ankle.
- Stand on one leg - 30 seconds at a time
- Balance + Activity - Stand on one leg and throw a ball with a partner or off of a wall. Repeat on the other leg
- One leg mini squat - On one leg, do a half squat with the other leg straight out in front of you. Do 10 and repeat on the other leg.
If you have any questions, we've cited all of the studies we used to write this article below.
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