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Ankle stability is a key component of balance -- a foundational and often overlooked part of good health.  

Balance by definition is the ability to provide even distribution of weight, enabling you to remain upright and steady. Far beyond physical fitness, balance also plays an important role in preventing injuries, maintaining mobility and supporting good posture. 

The stretches and exercises below will help strengthen your ankle muscles to promote stability and coordination.

Toe Isometrics with Toe Separators

Wear toe separators, like Yoga Toes, starting for 10-15 minutes and working up to 30-60 minutes. The toe separators should be as close to the webbing of your toes as possible. 

Toe separators help strengthen the feet's intrinsic muscles, the muscles within the feet that are responsible for fine motor skills. Strengthening the intrinsic muscles not only improves foot posture and tolerance to activities but also minimizes the overuse of extrinsic muscles for foot stability.  Toe separators also give your toes a satisfying stretch.

Toe Separators

Ankle Strengthening with TheraBands

Ankle TheraBand strengthening helps activate and build up the ankle's extrinsic muscles in all directions. The extrinsic muscles of the ankle originate in other parts of the leg and foot.

Plantar Flexion
Dorsi Flexion

Single-Leg Balance

Practice single-leg balance at least once a day. A great place to practice is when you are at your bathroom sink. 

If finding stability is difficult, practice with one or two fingers on the counter. As your stability improves, practice with your hands down by your side. 

If you want to challenge yourself, try performing single-leg balance while brushing your teeth. This challenge will shift your weight and provide a distraction to test your balance and further engage your foot muscles. For even more of a challenge, try single-leg balance on a foam block or pillow.

When performing single-leg balance, always keep the core contracted and activated. Our balance is directly related to our core strength. 

Single-Leg Balance

Single-Leg Balance with Movement

As anyone with a to-do list knows, humans are not stationary. That's why it's important to practice balance while moving and performing functional tasks that mimic movements we make throughout the day.  

Remember that balance depends on your ability to stabilize the core muscles, so always keep your stomach tight during single-leg activities.

Single-Leg Balance with Movement

Heel Walking & Toe Walking

Another effective exercise to challenge your balance is walking on your heels and toes. Keep your core contracted to stabilize your abdomen during movement.

Toe and Heel Walking

Ankle stability encourages healthy balance, helping you avoid falls and continue to do the fitness and recreational activities you love. By performing these simple ankle stretches and exercises daily, you'll enjoy all the benefits of better balance.

This article was created with support from OrthoCarolina Monroe.

This article was originally published on December 1, 2017, and has been updated on November 17, 2020.

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