Drills and Exercises to Improve Ankle Stability

Oct 31, 2018

Whether you’re on the field, court, track, or just moving along in day-to-day life, you want what’s holding you up to provide the support and balance you need. Unfortunately, ankle stability isn’t something we tend to think about until it starts to give out on us. This often happens after a sprain fails to heal properly, leading to weakness and imbalance. Without proper rehabilitation and support, ankle instability can lead to further ankle injuries, which may make the instability worse and more frequent over time. Ankle instability is frustrating, painful, and confidence-draining, but you can take action now to build your ankle strength and better guard against the injuries that can damage your mobility. Legs and knees get a lot of conditioning attention. Let’s make sure the ankles are getting their fair share, too. The exercises below can have many benefits. However, any given exercise might not be best for everyone depending on their current condition and level of fitness. If you have any concerns at all over whether you should attempt a certain exercise, please don’t hesitate to contact us for advice.

Balance Exercises

A key element of maintaining ankle stability is proprioception. This basically means your body’s ability to know its position and react to it at all times. If you were ever about to slip or stumble and were able to catch yourself, that’s proprioception at work for you! Improving your proprioception allows for faster reaction times, improved balance, and an overall lower risk of ankle injuries. Exercises to start off on balance are quite simple, but easy to make more challenging by increasing time or adding weight where appropriate. Stability

One-Leg Stand

Basic, but effective. Simply stand on one leg and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg. If you are not confident in your stability, do not think twice about performing this move next to a wall for support if you need it. Once 30 seconds becomes easy, you can lengthen your time to a minute or more on each leg. Another way to add challenge involves performing this standing on an unstable surface. You’d be surprised how much standing on a couch cushion can shift you about! If you have a workout partner, try standing on one leg and tossing a ball between each other. Throw high, low, left, and right so both of you will have to reach and shift your balance a bit to catch.

One-Leg Half Squats

While standing on one leg, perform a half squat with the non-supporting leg held out in front of you. Perform 10 reps (or as many as you feel confident performing) in this position, followed by 10 reps with the non-supporting leg held to the side, then 10 more with the non-supporting leg held behind you. Repeat this sequence three times, then switch to the other leg.

Step Downs

You can perform this anywhere you have a step. Start in a full standing position atop the step, then lower one foot off the edge. Slightly bend your supporting knee while you do so, for stability. Then, slowly and deliberately raise your leg back up and to the starting standing position. While you’re moving one leg in this exercise, the main focus is on maintaining balance with the leg you are not moving. This is also a good move for building strength throughout the lower body in general!

One-Leg Deadlifts

You’re likely seeing a theme here with one-legged maneuvers. This one can be made quite challenging. Start by standing on both legs with a weight in one hand. This can be a small dumbbell, a kettlebell, or something else you can comfortably heft and hold easily. Slowly, and without momentum pulling you over, bend at your waist. Lower the weight-bearing arm down toward the floor while you raise your leg on the same side off the ground. Weight on one side, your standing leg on the other. Balance while keeping your body parallel to the ground, hold, then slowly and deliberately return to a standing position. Repeat 10 times for each leg. The weight can be adjusted for greater challenge, but you can also perform these repetitions with no weight at all. Find where you can start with your best mix of challenge and comfort, and work from there.

Strengthening Exercises

While balance helps you react, strength provides the power to place your weight where you need it and the resilience against outside forces moving it where you don’t.

Walking Lunges

You will need some forward room for this exercise. Step forward with one leg, bending this knee at a 90 degree angle while letting your back knee touch the ground. Hold this position for a moment, then step forward with the back leg and lunge again in the opposite way. Perform 10 lunges per leg, or essentially 20 “steps” in total. Lunges

Scissor Hops

This is another one you will want to have space for. This exercise involves jumping and sudden uses of muscle. Begin in a slight lunge position, with one leg and foot in front of the other, spaced apart. Jump up and switch your feet in the air. You should land with your back foot now in front. Repeat this 15 times.


Stand steady on your toes. Start to take large, striding steps at about half of your running speed (this is by no means a sprint). Bound for about 50 feet, repeating 15 times. Different types of exercises and routines may be more beneficial for some than others. If you would like some help determining the best ankle strengthening plan for you, or need additional treatment for other factors affecting your performance, Dr. James Yakel is happy to speak with you. Schedule an appointment with our Longmont office today by calling (720) 600-3380. You may also use our online contact form to have a member of our office reach back to you.
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