Welcome! In this post, you will learn about the best ankle exercises for seniors and why ankle stability is very important for injury prevention.
Your ankles are something you probably don’t often think about that much until you have problems with them.
The ankle is a marvelous design. It’s very mobile which allows good balance over all kinds of surfaces.
But the ankle is also very strong. The ankles have to support your body weight not only while standing but while running jumping or lifting something heavy.
Because the ankles are the closest large joints to the ground in your body you will instantly notice if there is any problem with them.
And unfortunately, there often is. Your ankles are prone to overuse injuries, twists, tears, tendonitis, and many other ailments because they are so mobile.
The good news is that by keeping the muscles and connective tissues that connect to the ankle strong, you can protect the ankle from injuries. Or at least reduce the risk of injury.
Aging increases your risk of injury even further because the connective tissues around the ankle tend to become less elastic and muscular strength diminishes.
The best way to strengthen your ankles is with both specific ankle exercises and with diverse activity and exercise.
How The Ankle Joint Works
Before we look at the best exercises for improving ankle strength it’s important you understand the basic functions and anatomy of the ankle.
The ankle is one of the most complex joints in the body. It connects the lower part of your leg, the shin, to your foot.
Your shin actually consists of two bones. The tibia and the fibula. Your foot consists of several small bones but the ones that join the ankle joint are the talus and the calcaneus.
There are several ligaments and tendons that connect in and over your ankle joint. The largest muscles that move your ankle are located in the calves.
The ankle joint moves in three planes. You can straighten and raise your foot, turn it side to side and tilt it inside or outside.
It’s not that important to remember the bones and anatomy but the point that I’m trying to make is that there are a lot of things that can go wrong in the ankle. And that it’s a complex joint with many movement directions.
That’s why an ankle injury can be tough to heal. There are ligaments that can rupture and cartilage that can suffer permanent damage. That’s why injury prevention is key.
How To Make The Ankles Stronger
IMPORTANT: If you have an ankle injury, pain, swelling, lack of stability that affects your ability to stand and walk, or anything that suggests a trauma or disease process you need to see a medical professional for assessment instead of trying to treat it with these exercises. The exercises and information in this article are not medical advice. Full medical information disclaimer.
To make your ankles stronger and more injury resistant you need to develop both stability and mobility/flexibility of the ankle.
To improve mobility the best way to start is by stretching the tendons and muscles around your ankles. This allows your ankles to function with a full range of motion. It also makes the connective tissues more resistant to tears if you twist your ankle.
If your ankles have suffered several twists or dislocations or you have hypermobile joints, it’s especially important to plan your any stretching in guidance with a medical professional. That’s because in these situations stretching can make the ankles less stable.
The best way to build strength in the muscles and tendons around your ankles is by doing strength training that involves the ankle joint.
Finally, to build stability in the ankles you should do diverse activities that include the ankle joint. Daily walking is one of the best ways to build stability in your ankles.
Ankle strength and stability are also important for maintaining balance. Different kinds of balance exercises are great for improving your ankle stability as well.
Ankle Exercises For Seniors: Stretching
Let’s start our exercises with some stretching exercises that help to improve the range of motion and mobility of the ankle.
The most injury-prone and problematic area of your ankle in terms of mobility is the Achilles tendon that connects to the calf muscles.
The large muscles of your calf are responsible for extending the ankle when you walk, jump or stand on your toes.
The standing calf stretch is probably the most effective stretch for the calf and the achilles tendon. You are likely familiar with it already.
It involves standing with the leg you are stretching a bit behind you and leaning forward while keeping your heel on the ground. This will stretch the calf and its tendons, increasing the range of motion.
Here’s a great tutorial of the calf stretch by National Stroke Association (YouTube embed, content not owned or created by ElderStrength.com):
Strengthening Ankle Exercises For Seniors
Two great exercises for improving ankle strength are calf raises and squats.
The calf raise directly strengthens your calf muscles. It can be done on two feet simultaneously or on one foot. For most seniors the two leg version is hard enough.
You can do the calf raise simply by holding on to a support and raising your heels from the ground so you are standing on the ball of your feet.
Then you just lower your self slowly and perform another repetition. To improve the effectiveness of the exercise you can raise the ball of your feet on a low but sturdy platform like
This way you can lower the heels lower, stretching the calves and increasing the range of motion. You can learn more about calf raises in the article Calf Raises For Seniors.
Another great exercise for your ankles is the squat. The squats don’t directly target the calves but they use them in a complex multijoint movement that build overall leg strength.
For most seniors, bodyweight squats are enough to improve and maintain leg strength. The squat can also be done with an added weight if you are advanced in strength training. You can learn more about squats in the article Squats For Seniors.
If you have problems with the stability of your legs and have an access to a gym, the leg press is another great alternative to improving ankle and leg strength.
The leg press is not likely quite as effective as the squat for the ankles. That’s because it’s done on a fixed machine and doesn’t involve stabilizing the ankle. You can learn more about the leg press in the article Leg Press For Seniors.
Ankle Stability Exercises For Seniors
To build stability in your ankles different kinds of exercises and activity that require the use of the ankles in varying positions is great.
Walking, especially in variable terrain in nature is great for your ankles. If you have stability issues with your ankles however it can be challenging and the risk of injury can be high.
Then it’s better to stick to flat road surfaces. Another great option is nordic walking or pole walking. Hiking sticks help you maintain balance and offer full-body exercise.
You can learn more about nordic walking in the article Nordic Walking For Seniors and Best Hiking Sticks For Seniors.
Different kinds of balance exercises are also great for building ankle stability. The balance starts from the feet and ankles and they do a lot of work when you train your balance skills.
A balance board is one of the best ways to train your balance. There are a lot of other options as well that don’t require any special equipment.
You can learn about balance training in the articles Standing Balance Exercises For Seniors, Printable Balance Exercises For Seniors, Best Balance Boards For Seniors and Balance Exercise Equipment For Seniors.
I hope you found these ankle exercises for seniors useful. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments section below. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
As a recap, ankle stability is important for your balance, ability to walk, and fall prevention.
The ankle joint is very complex so it’s prone to injuries and inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
By improving ankle mobility, strength, and stability you can reduce the risk of injury and keep your ankles healthy. This will also improve your ability to maintain balance and move independently as you age.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!