Your ankles may be small, but these amazing joints allow you to walk, stand, run, jump, and more. An ankle injury can sideline you from life for weeks, months, or even years.
Accidents happen, making it impossible to prevent all ankle injuries. But having weak ankles increases your chances of getting an ankle sprain, strain, or another injury.
At New Canaan Podiatry in New Canaan, Connecticut, board-certified podiatrist Jennifer Tauber, DPM, has the skills and expertise needed to diagnose and treat ankle injuries of all kinds so you can get back on your feet sooner.
Dr. Tauber also knows that prevention is the best medicine when it comes to your ankles. So with that in mind, we’ve created a guide with our top five tips for keeping your ankles as healthy as possible.
1. Wear the right shoes
You probably know that you should wear supportive, well-fitting shoes when you exercise or play sports. But if you want to avoid ankle injuries, it’s crucial to continue to wear these types of shoes at other times.
High-heeled, ill-fitting, and unsupportive shoes increase your risk of foot and ankle injuries, making it easier to stumble, trip, or fall. The team at New Canaan Podiatry can make personalized shoe recommendations customized for your feet and ankles.
2. Exercise your ankles
Simple ankle exercises significantly improve your ankle joint’s mechanics, boosting its range of motion and strength and minimizing your risk of injuring your ankle during sports or exercise.
From a seated position with bent knees on a chair or ground, lift one leg and rotate your ankle in a clockwise direction. Move slowly, and be sure to work through your ankle’s full range of motion. Once you’ve finished 20-30 circles, complete another counterclockwise 20-30 circle. Repeat with the other leg.
From a seated position with bent knees on a chair or ground, lift one foot off the floor. Using your raised foot, “write” the letters of the alphabet in cursive or print. Repeat with the other foot. If you’re more comfortable lying on your back, you can complete these exercises from that position with a slightly raised leg.
3. Don’t skip leg day
Be sure to spend some time focusing on your lower legs during your workouts. Having stronger lower leg muscles also strengthens your ankles and gives you protection against injury.
Begin by standing with your feet slightly apart, preferably on the edge of a step. If you don’t have a step, you can complete the exercises on the floor. Hold on to the handrail or use the back of a chair for added support, then lift your heels until you’re standing on your toes. Lower your heels to the starting position or dip below the edge of the step for extra range of motion. Repeat 10-20 times.
As your strength increases, you can try performing this exercise when standing on one foot or while holding dumbbells.
Walk on your toes or the ball of your foot for about 30 steps. Then lift your toes and lean back on your heels to walk the same 30 steps. Finally, walk heel-to-toe for an additional 30 steps: Step forward on your heel, then roll onto your toes and finish each step with a calf raise for extra strength training.
4. Boost your balance
Having good balance lowers your risk of all injuries, especially ones involving the joints of your legs and feet. Improving your balance by balancing on one leg also strengthens your ankle joint.
Lift one foot off the floor and hold the stance for 20-30 seconds. Repeat with your other leg. If your balance isn’t the best, start by using a chair or the counter to help. As your balance gets better, keep improving by standing on one leg during everyday activities, like toothbrushing, balancing on unstable surfaces, or performing the exercise with your eyes closed.
5. Stretch out soft tissue and muscle
When the tendons, ligaments, and muscles that support your ankle joint function stay limber, your risk of an ankle strain or sprain decreases. A simple stretching exercise called “point and flex” can help.
Begin by lying on your back. Your toes should face up, and your heels should rest on the floor. Next, point your toes as far away from your body as you can. Hold this stretch for 5-10 seconds, then pull your toes back toward your body and hold for 5-10 three seconds. Repeat 10-20 times.
Perform these exercises 3-4 times a week for better ankle strength and function. For more tips on preventing ankle injuries or for help with a current ankle impairment, schedule a consultation online or over the phone with Dr. Tauber at New Canaan Podiatry.