Ankles have to bear the entire weight of the body, a tall order for a joint that doesn’t get a lot of attention during workouts. To be fair, there isn’t an “ankle muscle” but there is a group of muscles that start in the foot and run over the ankle up into the leg. Strengthen them so they can do their job of supporting you without risk of buckling, twisting or spraining.
Ankle Supporting Muscles
The tibialis posterior, flexor hallucis posterior, flexor digitorum longus and plantaris are the muscles that move your feet and ankles. They help you twist and turn your feet, and they help point your toes, too. You can’t lift a loaded barbell using these ankle-supporting muscles, but it is possible to strengthen them with tip-toe exercises to provide support and stability for your ankle joints.
Tip-Toe Walking Helps
Lifting your body up to stand on tip-toe requires flexing all four of the ankle-supporting muscles. Because you’ll recruit them all to walk tip-toe, it’s an exercise that will help strengthen those muscles. Don’t just spend the day walking everywhere on your toes, though. Perform it purposefully as you would any exercise. Rise up on your toes and walk for 60 seconds, then lower back down and walk normally for another minute. Continue alternating normal walking with toe walking for about 10 minutes.
Walk on Your Heels, Too
Those muscles that provide strength and support for your ankles will benefit more completely if you include exercise that allows the muscles to move in more than just one direction. Experts also recommend walking on your heels in addition to walking on your toes. Just lift your toes off the floor and walk along on your heels. Alternate heel walking with toe walking for a minute at a time to enhance strength in your ankles.
Additional Tip-Toe Exercises
There are no specialized machines for working your ankles, but any move that flexes your toes to point up or down will improve strength and support. Rise up on tip-toe, then lower yourself back down in controlled move. Or take that toe raise to the staircase, and allow your heels to drop below the step you’re standing on for an exercise that will flex your ankle in both directions. Stand on the toes of both feet at once, or lift one foot off the floor to increase the resistance by working one foot at a time. There’s one machine that’s built for other exercises, but it can be used to add more resistance to your toe raises. Load some weight onto the bar of a Smith machine and step into it so that the bar is across your shoulders. Unrack the weight but instead of lowering yourself to do a squat, lift up onto your toes and then back down again. For any of these exercises, perform three sets of 10 to 20 reps each or go until failure.