Ankle and foot training is the most overlooked aspect for most of the runners. And then when they complain of Achilles issue and Plantar Fasciitis and wonder why they got it. I have asked myself the same question more than once, so that’s why I am here again to tell you few exercises I do to keep my ankle and foot healthy.
Why is it required?
Well, when we run, there is a repeated loading of whole body weight on one foot for a brief period of time. At that time, hip flexors, quads, hammies, knee, calves and ankle are working all out to maintain balance. Even if one of them is not strong enough, an injury takes place.
If you strengthen your ankle and foot muscles, you are increasing your resilience to fatigue and protection from running on tarmac or on undulating trails. Do you know that your ankle and feet can take up two or three times of your body weight? Strong ankle and foot means more stability.
If they are stable and strong, they will likely be a immune to overuse injuries like Achilles and PF. There will be less pronation which means lesser injuries. Also if you have stronger feet, then you won’t require those expensive motion control stability shoes or orthotics or highly cushioned shoes.
Strong ankle and foot also means you will lay less stress on your shin bone, knees, hips and lower back.
Tips to increase ankle and foot strength
You can perform the given exercises everyday or 2-3 days a week. As these exercises don’t take much time, I have incorporated some of them as part of my lifestyle now.
Place a towel on the floor and keep your foot flat on it. Now with the toes try and grab the towel and pull it towards yourself. You can also add left and right ankle turn while grabbing the towel with your toe.
With your toes pick pebbles or marbles one by one and drop them in a cup.
3. Stay barefoot
Try and stay barefoot in the house for as long as possible. Moving barefoot activates those tiny supporting muscles of ankle and foot which otherwise remain dormant when we wear shoes. Also, incorporate few hundred metre jog, to start with, at the end of your daily runs to strengthen the foot muscles. Gradually you can increase the distance.
4. Single leg balance
I try to perform many activities at home and office while standing on one leg like brushing teeth, shaving, making tea, answering phone calls etc. Single leg balance apart from challenging the core, activates the ankle and foot muscles. I also like to do single leg balance with eyes closed. It will help you create very strong ankles and feet over a period of time.
Toe yoga helped me immensely while I was recovering from Plantar Fasciitis. Keep your foot flat on ground and alternatively lift the big toe and rest of the fingers of the foot.
6. Tip toe walking
Walk on your tip toe for 10-15 metres and back. To make it more challenging, close your eyes or carry light weights.
Another great exercise to strengthen the calves and ankles. I try to do them throughout the day i.e whenever I am standing. No limit to the numbers you can do. Though increase gradually.
9. Tip toe lunge
Tip toe lunge is like a normal lunge, just that it is done on your toes. If you do them you can feel your ankle working extra hard to keep balance. Result – stronger ankles. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps on each leg.
I wish to buy one someday and try it out. I have seen Scott Jurek doing it in one of the YouTube videos. I guess it helps activate your core, ankles and foot to keep you from falling down. It looks like a ‘lot of fun’. Here’s a video on street slacklining and how crazy are people.
I was reading this very interesting article by Joe Uhan on how stride width can be useful in combating foot and ankle injuries. What he says is that the narrower your foot falls to the centre of the body, the legs muscles tissues are overstretched, causing an array of injuries to hips, IT bands, ankle and foot. Widening the steps can help alleviate the pain. It is a new concept and thought of sharing with you guys.
So, guys find out ways to include these exercises in your daily routine to keep up the health of your feet. Remember, your ankles and feet are the foundation of your running streak. Keep them strong. Additionally, you can also perform these lower body exercises to have a holistic workout of the lower extremities.
Till then stay fit and keep running.
Have you ever tried slacklining?
What do you do apart from the exercises given above to strengthen your ankles and feet?
What are your Sunday plans? Mine is just to laze around the house and go for a run in the evening.