There is nothing worse than pushing yourself to the max on a long run, and suddenly, your ankle gives out from underneath you. Even walking becomes a challenge when your ankle is in pain, so getting back to running can take a while.
With the feet and ankles being vital for running, it’s important to keep them strong to avoid injuries, especially for long-distance runners, where the terrain might be subject to rocks and twigs ready to trip you up at any given moment.
Strength training is the pillar of any endurance sport. It gives you the power to push through, which is why these ankle-strengthening exercises for runners will improve your running performance.
Why do my Ankles Hurt? Causes of Ankle Pain among Runners
Running on an uneven path and hurting your ankle is common for runners. It is more common among beginners; however, sometimes, experienced runners may hurt their ankles. Your feet carry your body weight, and therefore, when you take a step, it puts pressure on your ankles. It can lead to injury or pain. But why does it happen?
The following can be a cause of ankle pain among runners.
- Ankle Strain: The tissue that connects bones and muscles is the tendon. If it gets stretched or torn, it is called ankle strain. You may feel swelling in your ankle with cramps.
- Ankle Sprain: The stretched or torn ligament characterised by swelling and pain is known as an ankle sprain. It is common among runners and can lead to the inability to use the ankle in serious cases.
- Ankle Arthritis: Arthritis, in general, is usually associated with old age. In reality, it can affect runners at any age. Ankle arthritis refers to the weakening and damage of the foot joint. As a result, the ankle becomes stiff and difficult to move.
- Stress Fracture: Unlike other reasons for ankle pain, this is an issue in your bones. As the name suggests, stress fractures refer to cracks in the bone caused by excessive stress, such as running long distances. Other causes of stress fracture include lack of nutrients, running on uneven surfaces or improper form during exercise.
- Tendinitis: Sometimes, ankle pain is a result of tendinitis. It refers to the inflammation in tendons caused after running for too long. It may also be caused by wearing the wrong shoes, running too far, or running in one direction only.
Some other causes of ankle pain can be chronic ankle instability (CAI), flatfoot, osteoarthritis, or wearing incorrect footwear. Whatever the reason for the pain, you can always get high-quality massaging tools to relieve the pain.
How Do Runners Strengthen Weak Ankles? 5 Tips to Strengthen Weak Ankles
Weak ankles affect the performance of runners. However, you can strengthen them by following some easy tips. Whatever the cause of your weak ankles, it is possible to strengthen them and, eventually, make them pain-free.
The following tips can help runners strengthen their weak calves and ankles.
Always warm up before running. It helps your foot, ankle, and lower leg muscles stretch and prepare for the run. Warming up improves the blood flow, which increases the oxygen levels in the body. It reduces the risk of muscle tears and injuries. Your body gets prepared for a high-intensity workout or physical activity like running.
Ankle Strengthening Exercises for Runners
Try some effective ankle-strengthening exercises for runners. Weak ankles have a high risk of suffering from injuries. To reduce this risk, take good care of their strength and flexibility. Most ankle strengthening exercises for runners focus on the posture and stability of your ankles.
Your ankles carry the weight of your body, so they need some extra care. Use some massage tools to massage your calves, feet, and ankles. You can use a pro massage gun or a vibrating foam roller pro - they are both effective at easing stiff and sore muscles.
Regular massaging improves the flow of blood to the ankles. As a result, the muscles get a fresh blood supply, oxygen, and nutrients. This improves the growth process and leads to strong ankles.
Your diet can also have an impact on muscle strengthening. To strengthen your ankles, you need adequate amounts of calcium and vitamins in your body. So take a diet rich in calcium, vitamins, and protein. Calcium strengthens your joints, and vitamin D effectively improves an athlete’s health and overall performance.
Try the RICE method. It is a common pain-relieving method among runners. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It is a method for the rehabilitation of ankle injuries and also helps to strengthen your muscles.
The first step involves giving your sore muscles a rest. How long your muscles should rest depends on the intensity of the pain and the seriousness of the injury. Secondly, use an ice bag to rub the injured area, which will decrease inflammation and swelling. Use a compression sock or a bandage to tie it around the ankle to keep it in place and apply pressure to the area. Lastly, keep your ankle elevated to reduce swelling faster.
Best Ankle Strengthening Exercises for Runners-With Equipment
Among other ankle strengthening tips, exercise is one of the most effective. It gives runners the physical strength and flexibility needed to improve their mobility. Below are some of the best ankle strengthening exercises for runners.
The soleus is one of the muscles that surround the ankle joint. It contributes to the stability of the joint. Foam rolling your soleus muscle is one of the most effective ankle strengthening exercises for runners.
How to do it?
- Sit on the floor on a yoga mat with your legs lying straight on the ground.
- Place your Pulseroll vibrating peanut roller just under your ankle where it meets the calf.
- Put one foot over the other and apply pressure to let the vibrations work their magic.
- You can gently roll back and forth.
You can also use your foam roller under your feet.
How to do it?
- Sit straight in a chair and place your foam roller under your feet.
- Gently roll your foot back and forth.
- Let the vibrations do all the work travelling up the arches.
This is another exercise to strengthen your soleus muscles. Soleus muscles play a significant role in strengthening your calf and ankle. Strong soleus muscles lead to strong calves and better running.
How to do it?
- Sit on a chair with your back straight and knees bent 90 degrees.
- Use a weight to put pressure down through your calves (you can also use a calve raise machine at a gym).
- Raise your calf by raising your heels in an arched position. Keep the front part of your feet on the ground.
- Lower the heels after a few seconds.
- Repeat it 8-12 times and include it in your workout routine.
This can also be done with resistance bands, which are great for improving ankle stability and avoiding common causes of ankle pain.
Massage Ball Rolls
This simple yet effective exercise stretches the muscles of your feet and ankles. It enhances their flexibility and enhances their strength. All you need is a high-quality vibrating massage ball, and you will be good to go.
How to do it?
- Sit on a chair, keeping your back straight and place both feet flat on the ground.
- Place your massage ball under the right foot.
- Use your foot to roll it over so that the ball touches the bottom of your foot.
- Do this for a minute and then repeat the same with the left foot.
- For this exercise, you may also use a golf ball or any other similar ball.
This exercise focuses on stretching your lower legs and ankles. Stretching is an effective method to get rid of stiffness and add to the flexibility of the muscles.
How to do it?
- Sit on the ground and keep your legs straight, stretching forward.
- Place the stretch band around your feet and keep both ends in your hands. Slightly pull the ends, pulling your feet towards your body.
- Keep the leg straight, and do not bend your knee.
- Hold this position for 30-35 seconds and release.
- Wait for a while, and then repeat.
- Aim for 3 reps or more.
Wobble Board Balancing
You can use a wobble board or BOSU ball for this exercise. They are both great for balance training. This exercise improves your balance and strengthens your feet and ankle. It also speeds up the ankle sprain rehabilitation process.
How to do it?
- Stand straight and place a wobble board under one foot.
- Shift your weight on one foot at a time and try to balance your body weight.
- Start with 20 seconds for each foot, then try to go for longer each time you do it.
Best Ankle Strengthening Exercises for Runners-Without Equipment
Don’t have equipment for working out? You can also try some exercises without the use of any equipment. The best ankle strengthening exercises for runners can make a great difference to your performance as a runner. These exercises combine balance with strength training, therefore providing more support and reducing the possibility of injury.
It is one of the easiest exercises on the list that helps relax your muscles and strengthen your calves. Do calf raises strengthen ankles? Yes, they do.
How to do it?
- Stand straight in a relaxed posture.
- Bend one leg and stand on the other.
- Raise your body by slightly raising your heel and pushing on your toes.
- Hold this posture for a few seconds. Come back to the standing position.
- Repeat the process with the other leg and aim for 10-12 reps on each leg.
This exercise is also known as active arch or short foot exercise. It involves stretching the feet and big toe muscles to improve their flexibility. It is quite easy to do and takes only a few minutes.
How to do it?
- Stand in a relaxed position. Keep your feet distanced shoulder width apart.
- Place your right foot ahead, shifting your weight on it.
- Raise your left foot in an arched position so your toes are on the ground while your heel is in the air.
- Do not put excessive pressure on the foot or toes - there must be a balance.
- Hold this position for 25-30 seconds and return to a relaxed standing position.
- Repeat the same with the left foot and aim for 3 sets on each foot.
This is a great exercise focused on strengthening your ankles. It is great for runners as well as other athletes. Avoid doing this if you have a stress fracture or a major ankle strain.
How to do it?
- Draw an imaginary or real line and stand behind it.
- Stand straight with a straight back and neck.
- Raise your left leg and balance the weight on the right leg.
- Hop with one leg coming back and forth the line with each jump.
- Keep hopping for 25-30 seconds.
- Repeat the same with the left leg.
This is a fun exercise that involves doing what the name refers to. This is one of the ankle-strengthening exercises that help in the rehabilitation of injured ankles as well.
How to do it?
- Stand barefoot on a flat surface.
- Transfer your weight on your heels and raise the toes from the front.
- Walk in this position for around 30-45 steps.
- Take a short break to relax the heel muscles and repeat the same process.
Forward shuffles are great for enhancing the endurance of feet and ankles. It focuses on the anterior part of the foot.
How to do it?
- Stand in a squat position with knees bent forward.
- Keep your big toes lifted in the air while the rest of the foot is on the ground.
- Drive your knees forward along with your right foot sliding forward until it moves past your toes.
- Actively shuffle between your left and right foot. Keep the knees bent and your big toes lifted.
- You may lift your forefoot off the ground during the shuffling.
- Begin with shuffling for 30-45 seconds and gradually increase the time to 3 minutes. You may feel a burning sensation in your shins after 20-30 seconds. Make sure you are doing this exercise on a smooth surface.
How Do Strong Ankles Help Runners?
Strong ankles are crucial for runners. They go through a lot of footwork, and it is important to have strong muscles to maintain running efficiency.
Why do strong ankles matter for runners? There are a bunch of good reasons. Here’s a summary.
Weak ankles are more prone to injuries, and leg or foot injuries are painful, especially for runners. These injuries can affect their performance and limit career opportunities for them.
Strong lower legs, feet, and ankles protect runners from potential ankle injuries. The flexibility of the ankle muscles prevents any strains and sprains. It also prevents posterior tibial tendonitis and achilles tendinitis, which occur due to your foot twisting inward.
Maintaining the right balance in your body is essential during running. It ensures a smooth run and prevents muscle pulling or stretching. It also prevents falling during running and enables runners to maintain their speed.
When your ankles are strong, you can improve your speed and efficiency. Strong ankles allow you to improve your heel stride. As a result, you land your foot on the ground more firmly. All these factors make up the efficiency and performance of runners.
It leads to better mobility and enhances your overall performance. Runners should include some of the best ankle strengthening exercises for runners in their daily workout routine.
Are Ankle Strengthening Exercises for Runners Worth it?
Yes, ankle-strengthening exercises are definitely worth it. Whether you use equipment like a foam roller or do an ankle strengthening exercise without equipment, they help strengthen your muscles.
Ankle strength is an important determinant of a runner’s performance. Weak or aching ankles are not only a hurdle in fast running but can make even walking difficult. Ankle strengthening exercises for runners also help in quick recovery from injuries.
Adding them to your regular workout routine can help runners see visible results in performance improvement.
Runners are prone to ankle pain as running puts pressure on ankles, which may lead to swelling and tenderness. It is important to strengthen your ankles to deal with all these problems. You can try different effective tips and ankle strengthening exercises for runners. If the pain continues for several days without any improvement, seek professional advice from a doctor.
Try out the Pulseroll vibrating foam rollers to help warm up before a long run and cool down the muscles afterwards. Focus specifically on the calves, hamstrings and feet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are weak ankles a symptom of?
Weak ankles can be a symptom of poor diet, lack of care, or muscle overuse. They might sometimes indicate a deficiency of calcium and vitamin D in the body.
How do I stabilise my ankles for running?
Your calf helps stabilise your ankle, so it only makes sense to work on these. Try doing calf raises whenever you’re standing in one place for a while; for example, when you’re brushing your teeth, stand on your toes and slowly lift your heels up and down.
Should I stop running if my ankle hurts?
You should stop intense running if your ankles hurt. It is better to investigate the cause of hurting ankles to treat them. If it is only because of a minor issue, you can recover from it through ankle strengthening exercises. Otherwise, you may need to visit a doctor.
Why do my ankles feel weak when I run?
There can be several reasons ankles feel weak during running. It can include any injury, strain, sprain, soreness, medical condition, or fracture in the ankle.
How can I strengthen my ankles for the Marathon?
You can strengthen your ankles for a marathon by doing ankle strengthening exercises. Massage them regularly using a mini massage gun and take a good diet. Warm-up and cool down after a long run and take a rest.
Pulseroll customers have been able to run a marathon completely from scratch before while using our products, so check out our full range to see how we can help you!