Ankle stability is one of the main aspects of balance. Balance by definition is the ability to provide even distribution of weight enabling someone to remain upright and steady.
Toe isometrics utilizing Toe Separators (Yoga Toes)
Wear toe separators starting at 10-15 minutes and work up to 30-60 minutes. The toe separator should be as close to the webbing of the toes as possible. It helps strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet in order to improve foot posture and tolerance to activities. If the intrinsics are stronger in the foot, you will be less likely to overuse the extrinsic muscles for stability in the foot. The toe separator also provides the toes with a stretch.
Ankle TheraBand Strengthening
Ankle TheraBand strengthening is used to improve the strength of extrinsic muscles of the ankle into all directions of the ankle.
Single Leg Balance
You should practice single leg balancing at least once a day. A great place to practice is when you are at your bathroom sink. If you are not stable, you should practice utilizing one or two fingers on the counter. As you become more stable you should do it without hands. If you really want to challenge yourself, try performing single leg balance while brushing your teeth. This challenge will provide a perturbation to challenge your balance. When working on single leg balance, you should always keep the core contracted and activated. Our balance is directly related to how strong our core is during activities. If you need more of a challenge, try single leg balance on a foam block or pillow.
Toe Walking and Heel Walking
Another great exercise that will challenge your balance is to walk on your toes and heels. Make sure you keep your core contracted in order to stabilize the core during movement.
Single Leg Balance with Movement
Humans are not stationary in life and need to work on balance while moving. We need to practice functional tasks as well. Remember that balance depends on our ability to stabilize at the core, so always keep your stomach tight during single leg activities.
It is important to work on balance throughout life due to the fact that we use balance throughout the day. By improving your balance, you will help prevent falls and improve your ability to perform sports/fitness/recreational activities.
Debra Myhr, PT, DPT, MOTR, ATC is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Monroe.