Are you struggling to find your balance? Did you know that your ankle strength can directly impact your balance, and weak ankles can leave you more susceptible to injury?
If you’re struggling to walk or run previously manageable distances, or you’re experiencing persistent pain and difficulties balancing, you may have weak ankles.
Your ankles and lower legs are one of the most important parts of your body. Injuries or weakness can negatively affect your mobility and quality of life and make you feel worse for wear.
Want to learn how to strengthen your ankles? Stick with us to learn the causes of weak ankles, the most effective strengthening exercises, and more.
Weak Ankles: The Symptoms
Do you have pain in your ankles when walking or performing low-impact sports? Are you susceptible to injuries and sprains? You may have weak ankles. Here’s a list of symptoms you should be keeping your eyes out for:
- Trouble balancing
- Pain or tenderness in your feet and ankles
- Regular injuries or ankle sprains
- Unusual positioning when walking (e.g., ankles twisting outwards)
- Difficulty keeping your ankles straight when wearing heels
Weak Ankles: The Causes
Ankle injuries and weakness are fairly common and can be caused by a number of conditions or injuries. Here are some of the potential causes of weak ankles.
If you play sports regularly, you may have suffered an ankle injury. Our ankles bear all the weight of our bodies.
They may be strong, but with persistent and vigorous exercises, they can become damaged. An ankle injury could include any of the following:
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Stress Fracture
- Lateral ligament injury
- Osteochondral lesions
Any injury to the ankle muscle, ligament, or bone can lead to weak ankles, especially if you’ve had more than one ankle injury or experienced difficulties in the healing process.
If your ankle is suddenly bent or twisted with force, you may get an ankle sprain. Although sprains and fractures share many of the same symptoms, a sprain is a soft tissue injury, whereas a fracture is a break in the bone.
Ankle sprains can occur from twisting, falling, or tripping, and your ankle will likely become tender to the touch.
Your invertor muscles (the muscles that pull your foot and ankle inwards) become weak after an ankle sprain. This can cause long-term ankle weakness.
Fractures And Breaks
Ankle fractures and breaks are one of the most serious ankle injuries. If your ankle is bruised, swollen, painful, stiff, unable to bear weight, or positioned at an odd angle, you’ve probably fractured your ankle.
Ankle fractures have a number of causes, including falls, missteps, car accidents, and more. They can take anywhere between 6-8 weeks to heal, and you will probably have to wear a plaster cast or a boot.
However, you may continue to suffer from weak ankles, even after the healing process is completed.
Diabetes is a long-lasting condition that happens when your blood glucose is too high. If your body is struggling to produce enough insulin, or the insulin it does produce is ineffective, you may develop either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes has a number of symptoms, including:
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Cuts and wounds that won’t heal
- Needing to urinate frequently
- Blurred vision
- Losing weight unintentionally
If you have diabetes, you may also develop peripheral neuropathy. This presents as frequent leg pain, tingling and numbness in your hands and feet, and muscle weakness. Weak ankles are a common symptom of diabetes.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a form of arthritis that occurs most frequently in the knees, hips, and hands. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage in a joint will slowly start to break down, and the bone will begin to change.
You will often feel stiff and sore, and daily tasks may become challenging.
Osteoarthritis can also cause weak ankles. Your ligaments can become weaker over time, putting more strain on the cartilage. This may make it painful to run, walk, or put any weight on your ankle.
Inadequate Arch Support
Inadequate arch support is another cause of ankle weakness. If the natural curve of your foot doesn’t allow space for an arch, your feet will bend inward, which causes pain and/or weakness in the ankles.
Strengthening Weak Ankles
Thankfully, there are a number of low-impact exercises you can perform to increase the range of motion in your ankle and make it easier to bear weight.
Strengthening your ankles and adjoining ligaments will also decrease your risk of injury and drastically improve your stability.
Before you start any exercise program, we recommend talking to your doctor. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, weak ankles have a number of causes, and these exercises may not be appropriate for all forms of ankle weakness.
If it’s safe for you to perform at-home exercises and treatments, here are a few exercises you can perform to strengthen your ankles.
To start this exercise, sit on a chair and begin extending your right leg, keeping your knee straight.
Then, move your right foot in a clockwise direction between 10-20 times, then rest for 5 seconds.
Once you’ve rested, lift your leg again, now moving your foot counterclockwise for the same number of repetitions. Remember to alternate legs, and perform around 3-4 repetitions on each side.
If your weakness or pain is more severe, you may wish to start with a smaller number of repetitions and work your way up gradually.
Peroneal Stretching And Strengthening
Your peroneal tendons sit along the outside of your ankle, and for those that run, dance, or perform ball sports regularly, these are crucial tendons.
Taking the time to stretch and strengthen your peroneal tendons can dramatically improve your muscle strength and range of motion.
To stretch your peroneal tendons, start by rolling onto the outside of your feet and walk for 60 seconds. This can also improve your flexibility.
With this exercise, perform as many repetitions as you feel comfortable with, and remember not to overdo it.
Standing Calf Raises
Standing calf raises are a simple but effective exercise. To perform a standing calf raise, start by standing with your feet a hip-width apart.
If you can, try standing on the edge of a step, and use a secure, surrounding object to maintain your balance.
Now, raise yourself up as high as you can on your toes, and begin to lower your heels down. Ideally, you should repeat this exercise 10 times with 1 set.
Remember: Subjecting your weak ankles to persistent, vigorous exercise will only increase your risk of injury. If you’re trying to strengthen your ankles, don’t overdo it. Instead, take your time and listen to your body.
Weak ankles are a common issue, but they can dramatically affect our mobility, physical and mental health, and quality of life.
Whatever the cause of your weak ankles, know there are plenty of low-impact exercises that you can perform (with the approval of your doctor) to reduce stiffness, pain, and swelling and get you back to enjoying life again.