Bulletproof Ankles — How do I prevent repeating an ankle sprain?

Ankle injury leads a group of men to assist

Every day across the U.S. all sorts of people face the debilitating pain of an ankle sprain. Sprained ankles are one of the most common injuries of the musculoskeletal system and tend to become even more prevalent during wet and often icy winter conditions. Snow can camouflage obstacles on hiking trails, increasing the odds of a misstep that causes an ankle injury. Driveways and sidewalks can be slippery, leading to falls that result in ankle sprains.

Additionally, the start of a new youth sports season, or transition from fall to winter sports, can also be the factor that leads to a greater ankle sprain rate among kids.

Unfortunately, there are no magic exercises to prevent an ankle sprain. But there are helpful tools you can use to reduce your risk of ankle sprains and re-sprains – which are significantly higher within the first two years after an initial sprain.

Maintaining good flexibility and ankle mobility is critical for ankle health. We see too many individuals who sit most of their day and ignore their ankles which can lead to reduced ankle and calf flexibility. This not only increases the risk of ankle sprains but also other common injuries such as Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. Good ankle mobility also impacts our knees, hips and low backs. When the ankle moves adequately, it allows regional joints above it to work as optimally as they can.

Strong ankles are also important for withstanding the occasional misstep that ideally does not cause a sprain. Balance training is ideal for strengthening our ankles, especially when we stand on something soft that forces our ankles to work harder than they do when we stand on solid, level ground. Strong hips are also important because our glute and hip muscles control a lot of what happens below them. When the hips are weak it can lead to increased movement and lack of control at the knee, ankle and foot. And don’t forget the core!

By taking care of these various body parts and making sure we have good strength and flexibility all the way down to our ankles, we can reduce the risk of ankle sprains and re-sprains.

woman balance training

Top exercises for strong ankles

The following exercises can help get you back to your activities after an ankle sprain and will also boost your ability to avoid a re-sprain. And, if you haven’t sprained your ankle, adding these moves to your exercise routine at least three times per week is a great way to keep it that way!

Early-stage rehabilitation exercises:

Mid-stage rehabilitation exercises:

woman works on ankle mobility with band stretching exercise
man illustrates how to do a proper lunge exercise
balance exercise for ankle stability

Late-stage rehabilitation exercises:

These are general exercises, and this list is obviously not a complete or comprehensive list of ankle exercises. However, they will hopefully work as good guidelines and starting points if you have injured your ankle and want to rehabilitate while also working to ensure you don’t re-sprain it in the future. 

In most cases this is an appropriate progression for individuals who have sprained their ankle but could apply to other ankle injuries or dysfunction as well. 

If you think you sprained your ankle, check out our blog Sprained Ankle? What You Need to Know. for education and tips on ankle sprains. And of course, if you need treatment for your ankles come visit us at one of our local Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy clinics.

Start your physical therapy journey today.

As physical therapists, we know the importance of movement for overall health and well-being. From injury recovery to achieving optimal performance, our passion is to help every patient reach their goals and live an active, pain-free life. Get started with PT today!

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