Updated 18 January 2017

5 exercises to strengthen your ankles

Wearing shoes constantly can cause poor mobility and lead to weakened ankles. Try these exercises to strengthen your ankles.


“The foot has many bones and joints, but due to constantly wearing shoes, many people suffer from poor mobility, tending to move their ankles, rather than their feet,” says body alignment practitioner, Fiona Douglas. “Ankles also weaken when they do most of the work for the feet.”

Stand in a comfortable position, with your feet hip distance apart. This is a wider stance than most people use for standing and walking, and it is recommended because it protects the knees. Like the wheels of a car, your feet should point straight ahead.

Read: Keep moving to ease joint pain

Big toes up

Try to lift just your big toes. Then try and lift each toe one by one. If you battle to control the individual toes, then try and keep your big toes on the floor while lifting the others.

toe stretch to improve ankle strength

Stretch toes apart

Sit and spread your toes as wide apart as you can with your fingers. Toe socks also do this effectively if you can get hold of some.

Separate toes to strengthen ankles

Read: How to keep your bones healthy

Foot on tennis ball

Take a tennis ball and stand on it with one foot. This helps to open the joints in the foot.

roll foot on ball to strengthen ankle

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Calf stretch

A calf stretch is particularly beneficial if you wear heels. Keep both feet straight. Place the ball of the right foot onto a folded towel, keeping the heel on the ground and body weight over the heel. Move the left foot forward as far as possible while keeping the feet straight, and body weight over the right heel.

calf stretch to strengthen ankle

Double calf stretch

To do the double calf stretch lean forward and rest your palms on the seat of a chair. Moving one foot at a time, step onto a folded towel with both feet, keeping the heels on the floor. Make sure feet point straight ahead. Gently lift the tailbone to the ceiling to increase the stretch down the back of the legs.

double calf stretch

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This article was originally published in the Autumn 2015 edition of Joint Ability, the official publication of the Arthritis Foundation of South Africa. To visit their website, click here or telephone their helpline 0861 303030 during office hours.


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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