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How to Increase Ankle Strength and Flexibility

Ankle exercises and stretches than can improve ankle strength

The ankle can be considered the most ignored joint, next to the wrist, in regards to athletic performance, flexibility, and injury prevention. In order for an athlete to reach optimal performance, they must have stable balance around each active joint. Our ankles serve as stability joints that, during active performance, must quickly absorb force and help shift and stabilize weight before the next movement. Strong and flexible feet and ankles provide our base for stable movement and are essential for performing physical exercise, and even daily activity, without pain or strain. Building strength and flexibility in your ankles will help prevent injury and improve your performance. Here are a few ways to help increase your ankle strength and flexibility:

Balance training

The purpose of balance training is to strengthen the tendons and ligaments surrounding the ankle joint. Another benefit is to improve overall balance in your body and body-in-space awareness. If you’ve had prior ankle injuries, these exercises may be familiar to you. These are simple, quick exercises you can do at home to improve your balance and ankle strength.

• Standing on one leg: Hold for 30 seconds per leg, with the goal of working up to one minute per leg.

• Balance and catch: Standing on one leg, play catch with a partner. Throw the ball in every direction – right, left, high, low. Perform three sets of 20-30 catches.

• One legged mini squats: Do a half squat on one leg, with the opposite leg out in front. Do 10 repetitions, three times and repeat with opposite leg out to the side and to the back.


Some self-massage work is very beneficial to the lower leg and foot, to loosen tension before exercise or stretching. While massage doesn’t necessarily make you more flexible, it does help you feel less tight for a window of time. If you self-massage your ankle before stretching or exercising, it gives you the opportunity to stretch or exert yourself further with less discomfort. Make sure to listen to your body as you massage your ankles and feet. Too much pressure might actually cause tension!

Strength training

There are several different exercises you can do at-home or at your gym that can build strength in your ankles and the tendons surrounding them. The following are just a few examples:

• Banded ankle mobilization: Place band at ankle joint line between medial and lateral malleoli (the base at the top of your foot). Place a considerable amount of tension through the band and lift your knee upwards without letting your heel rise off the ground. Hold this for between two to three seconds and perform eight to 10 repetitions.

• Self-ankle mobilization: Place your hand, in a web, at the level of the ankle between medial and lateral malleoli (again, the base at the top of your foot). Push from front to back as your raise your tibia (area between the knee and the calf). Hold for two to three seconds and repeat eight to 10 times.

Overall, increasing ankle strength and flexibility takes time and focus but can provide essential benefits including injury prevention. If you’ve already suffered from an ankle injury, you should consult a professional before pursuing your own therapy options.

That’s where Dr. Nina Coletta’s podiatry practice comes in. By working with other medical disciplines, such as orthopedics and internal medicine, she can provide the most comprehensive and effective treatment options to fit your needs. Learn more on how Dr. Nina Coletta can help you get back to your performance levels.

Nina L. Coletta, DPM, PA

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