Exercises For Ankle Strength

Give some love to your ankles—your powerhouse joints for balance and stability. Learn five ankle stability exercises with physical therapist Josh Davis.

Why Is Ankle Strengthening Important?

We all know strength exercises are beneficial, but have you ever thought to strengthen your ankles? This often-forgotten joint is crucial for a well-balanced, strong body for all. “Everybody can benefit from ankle strengthening,” said Josh Davis, a physical therapist in Portland, Oregon. Davis sees many youth to professional athletes for ankle injuries—especially those who encounter repetitive movements like dancers and runners. But he also sees older people who may have lost some muscle mass over time. By working to strengthen your ankles with exercises like the ones below, you’re improving your physical health and longevity overall.
Similar to exercises for stronger knees, Davis’s methods for stabilizing ankles involve working your entire lower leg and foot. “The muscles around the lower leg and ankle are going to help support, improve your balance and proprioception, prevent any falls, improve your stability and allow you to absorb impact,” said Davis.
Here are five ankle stability exercises provided by Davis for you to try. Mix them into your usual workout, or give them a go while watching TV.

Five Exercises For Ankle Strength


Resistance Band Tug

Equipment: Resistance band and a towel
  1. Sit with your left leg straight in front of you and your right knee bent. Loop the band over your left foot, holding it with your right arm.
  2. Smoothly move your foot left and right, holding the band taught in the opposite direction to add resistance. Repeat the motion to the left and then downward, holding the band in the opposite direction for resistance.

Toe Raise

Equipment: A chair for balance if needed
  1. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Keep your back straight, shoulders back and down, and core engaged.
  2. Raise your toes slowly, keeping your knees straight but not locked. Pause for one second. Lower your toes back to the ground, returning to the starting position. Repeat movement for 30 seconds.

Calf Raise

Equipment: A chair for balance if needed
  1. Stand tall with feet hip-width apart. Keep your back straight, shoulders back and down, and core engaged.
  2. Raise your heels off the ground, hold for a second, then slowly lower your heels to the ground. Avoid rolling your ankles outward with each raise.

Four Square Drill

Equipment: Tape on the floor or cones. If you don’t have props, visualize a large plus sign about one foot across in width and height.
  1. Mark the ground with four quadrants.
  2. Stand in the lower left quadrant and hop forward, backward and side to side, hitting each square.
  3. For an added challenge, hop on one leg.

Single-Leg Deadlift

Equipment: Dumbbell or kettlebell
  1. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand.
  2. Shift your weight onto your right foot with your knee slightly bent. Maintain a neutral spine as you hinge your hips forward to bring your torso parallel to the floor as you lift your left leg.
  3. Come back up to standing and lower your left leg back to the floor. Between reps, try not to touch your left foot to the ground to test your balance.
These ankle stability exercises are some quick and easy ways to get stronger every day. You can slip them in as a warmup or a cooldown to your usual workout—or try moves like calf and toe raises while brushing your teeth. Whichever way you decide, Davis suggests doing exercises for ankle strength at least two to three days a week.
You can also use your usual strength workouts as opportunities to strengthen ankles and balance. “Any time that you take a strength movement such as a squat, deadlift, or a lunge and you do it in a single-leg capacity, you are also strengthening all the muscles of the foot, ankle, calf, and your balance and proprioception. So that's why as a trainer and physical therapist, I always recommend that you have a good variety of single-leg training,” said Davis. The single-leg deadlift is a great place to start but see where in your training you can work in some more ankle exercises to become stronger and balanced overall.