Get Ahead of Running-Induced Ankle Pain With These Strengthening Exercises

Gijón, Asturias, Spain,  detail of an athlete woman legs at sunset

If your regular method of exercise is a long-distance run, paying attention to the strength of your ankles (and their overall health) may be in your best interest as an athlete.

Ankle-strengthening exercises aren’t given as much attention at the gym as quad workouts, but as Steve Stonehouse — NASM CPT, USATF-certified run coach, and director of education for STRIDE — explains, weak ankles could negatively impact the “human movement system” — and therefore lead to injuries.

“The kinetic chain concept specifies that every part of your body works together and nothing works in isolation,” Stonehouse said. “If your feet and ankles aren’t strong enough, it will surely lead to impairments in that human movement system — either at the foot and ankle complex or somewhere up ‘the chain.'”

Stonehouse said this could result in many different injuries — some examples include achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee issues, and hip and low-back issues. “Again, your body will do its best to compensate for weakness in certain areas, but that compensation comes at a price,” Stonehouse said.

Acknowledging the impact that running puts on the body will also help put the importance of ankle strength and the kinetic chain into perspective. “While you’re running, you spend 99 percent of your time on one foot,” Stonehouse explained. “That’s important because we all know running creates a lot of impact on your body, but especially since one leg or foot is absorbing all that impact.”

To help prevent injuries, Stonehouse said you can work ankle-strengthening exercises into your routine around three or four times a week. If you’re already dealing with pain in your ankles during or after runs, check in with a medical professional or a certified personal trainer before beginning any program to address the root cause and prevent worsening any injuries.

Ankle Circles

  • Perform 10 circles clockwise and 10 circles counterclockwise — both feet.

Calf Raises

  • Standing on a step on one leg, push up onto your toes, then lower down until your heel is slightly below the step.
  • Keep the movement as smooth and controlled as possible.
  • Perform three sets of 10 reps.

Walking on Your Toes

  • Take 20 steps — 10 each foot.
  • Repeat for three sets.

Walking on Your Heels

  • Take 20 steps — 10 each foot.
  • Repeat for three sets.

Jump Rope

  • Start with jumping rope for 60 seconds, then rest.
  • Work up to three sets of 60 seconds.

Jumping Jacks

  • Perform three sets of 25 reps.

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