11 Ankle Strengthening Exercises, Recommended by Physical Therapists

Learn about the importance of ankle strengthening exercises to improve balance and mobility, and discover which moves are PT recommended.

Published Date: Jun 10, 2024

11 Ankle Strengthening Exercises, Recommended by Physical Therapists

Learn about the importance of ankle strengthening exercises to improve balance and mobility, and discover which moves are PT recommended.

Published Date: Jun 10, 2024

11 Ankle Strengthening Exercises, Recommended by Physical Therapists

Learn about the importance of ankle strengthening exercises to improve balance and mobility, and discover which moves are PT recommended.

Published Date: Jun 10, 2024

11 Ankle Strengthening Exercises, Recommended by Physical Therapists

Learn about the importance of ankle strengthening exercises to improve balance and mobility, and discover which moves are PT recommended.

Published Date: Jun 10, 2024
Table of Contents

When we think of strength training, we often picture big muscle groups, like the quads, calves, or biceps, getting stronger but all parts of our bodies need strengthening. Ankle strengthening exercises may not be at the top of your list, but they should be. Your ankles are crucial for stability and mobility. “Having strong ankles can help with balance and prevent falls,” says Julianne Payton, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health. “Strong ankles can also help you avoid ankle sprains, especially if you’re regularly playing sports or doing activities like hiking.”

Ankle strengthening exercises become even more critical as you get older and develop normal, age-related changes in ankle strength and stability. “With age, your balance tends to decrease,” points out Dr. Payton. “But if you keep your ankles strong, you can stay more confident and steady on your feet for a lot longer.”

Read on to learn how strengthening your ankles prevents and relieves ankle pain, and discover ankle strengthening exercises recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists.

Our Hinge Health Experts

Julianne Payton, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Payton is a Hinge Health physical therapist with 8 years of experience and specializes in ergonomics and workplace injuries.
Jonathan Lee, MD, MBA
Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Lee is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and an Associate Medical Director at Hinge Health.
Maureen Lu, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Lu is a Hinge Health physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist with over 17 years of clinical experience.

11 Ankle Strengthening Exercises

The exercises below work to strengthen calf, ankle, and foot muscles, as well as strengthen and stabilize the muscles and tendons around your ankle joint. They will also improve balance. Try to work these into your exercise routine every day. You can do these exercises as part of a quick office break, as a warm-up or cool down before or after activities, or as part of a resistance training workout.

1. Calf Raises

1. Calf Raises

Tap into pain relief. Anytime, anywhere with our app.

Get exercises from a licensed physical therapist and more to relieve your pain. All right from your phone. At $0 cost to you.
Start your app tour

Calf raises help to improve lower body strength and mobility. “They strengthen the calf muscles above your ankles,” explains Dr. Payton. “When those are strong, they help to support your ankles as well.”

How to do it:

  • Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and with one hand on a table for balance.  

  • Now, push through the balls of your feet to raise your heels off the floor. Focus on squeezing your calf muscles as you hold this position. 

  • Then, relax your heels back to the floor. 

2. Single Leg Calf Raises

2. Single Leg Calf Raises

This exercise helps to improve balance. “It trains your ankle to remain stable when you stand on one leg, which is especially important when walking and running,” says Dr. Payton.

How to do it:

  • Stand with one hand on a table or wall for balance, and your targeted foot flat on the floor with your opposite foot lifted off the floor. 

  • Push up onto your toes to lift your heel off the floor. Focus on squeezing your calf muscles while you hold this position. 

  • Relax your heel down to the starting position.

3. Soleus Raise

3. Soleus Raise

This exercise is like the calf raise, but it more specifically targets your soleus muscle (a muscle that forms part of the calf), which you also need for ankle stability.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your knees bent, and with one hand on a table for balance. 

  • Push through the balls of your feet to raise your heels off the floor, as you keep your knees bent. 

  • Relax your heels back to the floor.

4. Tib Raises

4. Tib Raises

This move helps to improve shin, ankle, and foot strength. When all of these structures are strong, you’ll feel more stable and balanced.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your back against a wall, with your feet about a foot out from the wall. 

  • Lift the front of your feet off the floor to come onto your heels. 

  • Lower your feet back down to the floor.

5. Standing Arch Raises

5. Standing Arch Raises

This exercise targets the smaller muscles on the bottom of your foot. “There are so many small muscles under foot that we rely on as we stand and move, so it’s important to strengthen them to help your foot and ankle become more stable,” says Dr. Payton. 

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart. 

  • While keeping your heel in place, slide the ball of your foot toward your heel. It should feel like the middle of your foot is arching upward. 

  • Focus on holding up the arch of your foot. 

  • Relax your foot back to the starting position.

6. Banded Ankle Inversion

6. Banded Ankle Inversion

This exercise is more specific to your ankle muscles. “It helps to strengthen the inside ankle muscles that are important for stability,” says Dr. Payton.

How to do it:

  • Sit in a chair that is next to a table and wrap a looped resistance band from one leg of the table to the inside of your target foot. Adjust your foot so the band has tension running from the leg of the table to the inside of your foot. 

  • Raise your toes slightly away from the floor and move the inside of your foot away from the table to stretch the band as your heel remains in place. 

  • Move your foot back to the starting position. 

7. Banded Ankle Eversion

7. Banded Ankle Eversion

This move is similar to the ankle inversion, but this time you’re focused on strengthening the muscles on the outside of your ankle.

How to do it:

  • Start by sitting with your feet propped on their heels. 

  • Place a looped resistance band around the outsides of your feet near your pinky toes. 

  • Move the front of your target foot out to the side to stretch the band as your heel stays in place. 

  • Move your foot back to the starting position.

8. Single Leg Balance

8. Single Leg Balance

This exercise works to strengthen the muscles around your ankle, as well as your knee, hip, and even your lower back. “It helps with stability, which is the biggest issue with ankles,” says Dr. Payton.

How to do it:

  • To begin, stand straight in a comfortable position. 

  • Bend one of your legs to lift your foot off the floor by bringing the heel up toward your butt. 

  • Grasp your foot with your hand as you reach out with your other arm to help with your balance. 

  • Focus on your balance and your breath as you hold this position. 

  • Relax your foot to the floor and return to standing. 

9. Single Leg RDL

9. Single Leg RDL

“This exercise mimics more functional movements,” explains Dr. Payton. As a result, it helps to improve lower body strength, mobility, and balance.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart. 

  • Move your chest toward the floor by hinging at your hips. 

  • Lift one leg off the floor behind you and up toward the ceiling. Your knee can be slightly bent as you hinge. 

  • Focus your eyes on a spot on the floor to help with balance as you hold this position. 

  • Slowly return to the starting position. 

10. Reverse Lunge

10. Reverse Lunge

Move on to this exercise once you’ve mastered some of the above exercises since it challenges your balance a bit more, says Dr. Payton. It’s also an all-over lower leg strengthener.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart and your hands at your side or on your hips.

  • Step one leg backwards to land on the ball of your foot. While bending your knees, lower into a lunge position. 

  • Your weight should mostly be in your front leg, with your front knee positioned over your ankle. 

  • Focus on your balance as you hold this lunge position. 

  • Push through your front foot as you straighten your legs and return to standing. 

11. Single Leg Squat

11. Single Leg Squat

Like the reverse lunge, this is a more advanced move. “It forces you to work on your balance while you squat, which requires a lot of leg and ankle strength,” explains Dr. Payton.

How to do it:

  • Stand with one hand resting on a sturdy surface, like a countertop or table.  

  • Lift one leg off the floor. 

  • To perform the squat, bend through your knee as you lean your chest slightly toward the floor and hold in a squat position. 

  • Push through your foot to straighten your knee and return to standing. 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

The Benefits of Ankle Strengthening Exercises

Weak ankles tend to sprain more easily, says Dr. Payton. This can lead to you hobbling around for weeks, making most daily activities more challenging, from grocery shopping to driving to simply walking around. 

And ankle sprains are more common than you may realize: It’s estimated that at least two million Americans sprain their ankles each year, whether they have stumbled on the sidewalk, slipped on the stairs, or rolled an ankle on their morning jog. Once you sprain your ankle, you’re also more likely to sprain it again. In fact, up to 40 percent of ankle sprains lead to chronic symptoms like pain, swelling, and ankle instability.

Your ankles have to withstand a lot of weight and force. When you run and jump, for example, they carry the load of several times your body weight. If your ankles aren’t strong enough to support you, you run the risk of pulling a muscle or spraining ankle ligaments.

Plus, ankle strength affects more than just your ankles. “Weak ankles put more stress on your knees, hips, and back, as well as other structures in and around the foot,” explains Dr. Payton. Achilles tendinitis, for example, is more common if you have weak ankles as surrounding tendons often get overworked.

Bottom line: Strong ankles have a positive ripple effect on the entire body and there’s a lot you can do to help them get stronger, starting with the exercises above. 

PT Tip: Challenge Your Balance 

Anytime you balance on a single leg, you help to strengthen your ankle, says Dr. Payton. Try to incorporate small balance challenges into your day, like while you brush your teeth, wait in line at the grocery store, or pump gas. It’s a small tweak that will go a long way towards strengthening your ankles.

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

$0 Cost to you

Looking for pain relief? Check if your employer or health plan covers our program

Join more than 800K members and over 1,700 companies that trust Hinge Health to get relief.

References 

  1. Maughan, K. L., & Jackson, J. (2023, November 1). Ankle sprain in adults: Management. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/ankle-sprain-in-adults-management 

  2. Herzog, M. M., Kerr, Z. Y., Marshall, S. W., & Wikstrom, E. A. (2019). Epidemiology of Ankle Sprains and Chronic Ankle Instability. Journal of Athletic Training, 54(6), 603–610. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-447-17

  3. Mugno, A. T., & Constant, D. (2020). Recurrent Ankle Sprain. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560619/ 

  4. How does the ankle work? (2017, December 27). Nih.gov; Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279301/