ankle strengthening exercises

Ankle strengthening exercises for you to try at home

31 May 2023

If you have a muscle or joint problem which is affecting your ankle or your calf, then the good news is that there are several exercises you can try in the comfort of your own home, designed to help you move normally again.1

Ankle exercises can also provide you with the flexibility you need in that region of your body in order to prevent injury and also to support muscles that keep you balanced while walking, hiking, or dancing.

Strong ankle muscles also support your general mobility and your ability to walk properly, thereby preventing your knees and hip muscles from weakening.2

The best ankle strengthening exercises to do at home

Luckily, ankle exercises tend to be quite quick and simple, and can be done at home, or even on the train to work if it is not very crowded!

Foot raises

A foot raise involves sitting and placing your foot flat on the floor.

Then, raise your big toe and the outer border of your foot, and hold it for two seconds.

Repeat, by raising the outer border of your foot.3

Ankle bends

You can do ankle bends either sitting or lying down.

They involve pointing your toes straight out, then bending your ankle back, and relaxing.4

Calf workouts

To do a standing calf stretch, stand and face a wall, then place your foot against the wall.

Move your hips forward, and you should feel the stretch in your calf.

Hold there for two seconds, then move your hips back away from the wall and relax, then repeat.5

Ankle stretches

To do ankle stretches, you are going to need to stand an arm’s length away from the wall, and essentially do push ups.

Keep your back straight and your heels on the floor.

As you move towards the wall you will feel the stretch in your calves. Hold for two seconds, then move back off the wall.

Tip-toe tense

For a tip-toe tense, stand behind a chair and hold on to the top of it, then raise yourself up so that you are standing on your tip-toes. Hold for five seconds.6

A flamingo tip-toe tense is a variation of this exercise, where you stand on just one leg, with the other off the ground.

The easiest thing to do is to hold the other foot against the back of your knee or calf, flamingo style.

Standing heel raise

A standing heel raise applies a similar principal as the above exercise, but without the chair.

Stand with your feet wide apart and your knees bent.

With your hands on your waist, raise one heel off the ground, put it down, and repeat with the other foot.7

Ankle rotations

Finally, ankle rotations and ankle pulls are both beneficial, and feel great – a bit like a massage.

You can rotate your ankles in a circle while sitting, lying, or standing.

Be sure to go both clockwise and anticlockwise.

Then, to stretch your ankle, sit down and cross one leg over the other knee. Put your hand on your foot and pull your toes down gently.8

How to use foam rollers

One exercise you can try involves stretching with foam rollers.

Ideally, this exercise should be done three times a day. It helps with releasing the tight myofascial tissue.9

Start off by sitting on the floor, and put a foam roller under your calf muscle.

Then, push yourself up off the ground, to apply pressure to the calf muscle. Roll back and forth slowly.

You may find a tender spot, which in reality is a knot or adhesion that has built up over years of training or exercising and that limits your mobility. This exercise helps you to break up those knots.10

Circuit training to strengthen your ankles

Circuit training is somewhat similar to HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercising, because it involves high intensity movements.

It typically entails endurance training, resistance training, high intensity aerobics and circuits, or sets of exercises.

You may do ankle exercises as one of these sets, as part of a circuit training routine, use a resistance band.

Sitting on the floor, rotate your ankle within the band, while it is stretched out and hooked on to something else, like the leg of a table.

Then, sit on a chair or bench, and put the band around both feet and rotate them both away from each other.

Two sets of twenty repetitions is plenty for this exercise.11 For more information, you might like to read our Health Hub article ‘4 top tips to help stiff joints’. Last updated: 29 January 2021