Exercises for Foot and Ankle Injuries

3 min read  |  April 17, 2023  | 
Disponible en Español |

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a performance athlete, the strength of your feet and ankles is critical to almost everything you do. From weightlifting to basketball to trail running, strong feet and ankles enhance your movements and help you prevent injuries. 

As we age, feet and ankle injuries can become more common. 

Although Steven D. Steinlauf, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with the University of Miami Health System, says that feet and ankle injuries are a risk for the young as well as the older. All it takes is one wrong step to end up with one of the common foot and ankle injuries, which include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, tight Achilles tendon and hamstrings, ankle sprains and strains, and many others. 

The most important step to prevent foot and ankle injuries is to make sure to stretch your feet and ankles every day, says Dr. Steinlauf.

“The average person is prone to develop problems if they don’t stretch adequately,” he says. “Unfortunately, people tend to get busy and skip or shorten this important step.” 

To prevent common injuries, Dr. Steinlauf recommends 5-10 minutes of foot, ankle and hamstring stretching daily. 

“Whether you do it before or after an activity is still up for debate, but the most important thing is to actually do it if you want to prevent a common injury,” he says. 

Other lifestyle factors play a big role in preventing foot and ankle injuries during activity, such as staying active and maintaining a healthy weight. 

“If you look at the common foot and ankle issues, a lot of them occur in people who are carrying excess weight,” he says. “So it’s best to maintain a healthy diet and an ideal body weight to lower the risk of injury.” 

Specific exercises to strengthen the foot and ankles

Dr. Steinlauf says that a well-rounded strength training regimen should provide adequate support for your feet and ankles. Here are a few that they recommend:

  • Standing calf raises. Hold onto a stable surface and raise your heels while standing on your toes before slowly lowering the heels to the ground. Repeat ten times each day.
  • Use your toes to draw the alphabet. Hold onto a stable surface and lift a leg. Then use your toes to draw out the entire alphabet. Repeat with the other foot.
  • Lying on your back. Arch your foot so it’s pointed toward the ceiling, and hold for 30 seconds. Then point your toes forward and hold that pose for 30 seconds. Repeat each movement twice.
  • Single leg stance. While standing, lift one leg and balance on the other leg. Then switch legs and repeat. Do this three times for each leg, for a total of two minutes each day.
  • Tandem walk. Walk across a room as if crossing a tightrope, placing one foot directly in front of the other for each step. Cross the room three times, using a wall for support if needed. 

Specific foot and ankle strengthening exercises become more important when actively recovering from an injury. Visit a physical therapist and follow their instructions closely for the best chance of recovery. 

These exercises, of course, can vary widely based on the nature and severity of your injury. Check with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) for foot and ankle conditioning after an injury or surgery. 

Wyatt Myers is a contributor for UHealth’s news service.

Tags: Dr. Steven D. Steinlauf, exercise is medicine, foot injury, point and stretch, stretch properly

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