How to strengthen your foot and ankle

It’s time to start your foot and ankle exercises again. The season for getting outdoors is here, and for many in Utah that means enjoying the spectacular scenery while hiking and running.

Regular exercise is important for your overall health. In a spectacular setting such as Utah, getting outdoors is a great health boost for mind, body and spirit. But walking and running put the foot and ankle under a lot of stress. Strong muscles can withstand more force before sustaining an injury. So in advance of that first 10K run, try the following exercises to help protect your foot and ankle against injury.

Balance

Good balance is crucial to walking and running performance, and it’s one of your best protections against sprains or strains caused by falls or accidentally rolling your ankle.

To boost your balance, stand on one leg. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then switch to the other leg. Increase the duration every workout, up to 1 minute.

As your balance and foot and ankle strength improve, increase the challenge: Stand on one foot and hold the other leg in front of you. Dip down halfway to a squat, then rise slowly. Do 10 reps, then switch legs. Next, do 10 reps on each foot with the other leg held out to the side, then another set with the opposite leg behind you.

You can also try the one-legged clock. Stand on one foot and, keeping your body straight, point your arms to three o’clock with one arm up and the other straight out to one side. Swing your arm around to nine, then back to three. Switch arms and repeat, then switch legs and repeat.

For a greater challenge, try squats and the clock on a balance board.

Strength

A variety of exercises can be performed to improve strength.

Standing calf raises: Rise onto your toes, hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat this 10 times. As your foot and ankle get stronger, do this on one foot at a time, or hold weights in each hand.

Heel walk: Raise your toes off the floor, balancing on your heels to walk across the room. Then return.

Hand press: Push the side of your right foot with your right hand, resisting with your foot. Then, try pulling your foot to the right with your right hand, resisting with your foot. Repeat with your left foot and hand.

Towel pull: Put one bare foot on a towel on the floor. Grab the towel with your toes and pull it toward you. Lift your heel and use it to pull the towel flat again before releasing the towel with your toes, then do it again. When you reach the end of the towel, turn around and repeat with the other foot.

Scissor jump: Stand in a lunge position, with one foot ahead of you and the other behind you. Jump straight up, and switch feet in mid-air before landing with the opposite foot forward. Do 10 reps.

Resistance bands: Tie the ends of a resistance band together to make a loop around a steady table leg or other immobile object. Loop your foot and ankle inside and pull sideways. Hold at the maximum point for a count of 10, release slowly and repeat 10 times. Switch and do 10 reps with the other leg.

Next, lie down with the resistance band looped over your foot. Keeping your leg steady, rotate your ankle to pull your toes toward you. Pause at the maximum point, then slowly release.

Next, stand and loop the band under your foot, and hold the other end in your hand. Rotate your foot and ankle slowly down as far as you can, then slowly release. Do eight to 10 reps before switching to the other foot.

You can come up with many variations of exercises with resistance bands. Just remember to move slowly and not to overextend.

Stay strong, stay healthy

Maintaining the strength and health of your foot and ankle in Salt Lake City Utah will help ensure you get to enjoy this summer! The team at Heiden Orthopedics can prepare you for the outdoor season ahead.

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