Especially for athletes, the ankle is one of the most frequently injured parts of the body; once you’ve had an ankle injury, you’re that much more susceptible to further injuries down the road. Even though the ankle is so vulnerable, it’s also responsible for holding up your whole body, so strengthening exercises are crucial.
One easy trick to strengthen your ankle: stand on one foot, with your eyes closed, and work hard to maintain your balance. Be sure to spend equal amounts of time on each side. Isometric exercises, where you press your shoe-clad foot inward then outward against a solid object (like the wall) will also help safely build up your strength.
Not sure what this is? You’re not alone! According to Harvard researchers, who published their study on the foot core in the March issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it has been largely overlooked by sports doctors and therapists and is extremely weak or even dormant in most people.
The core, as described in the study, is made up of 11 small, intrinsic muscles, located entirely within the foot. According to lead study author Dr. Patrick McKeon, you can’t really strengthen these tiny muscles, but you can ‘turn them on’ to promote better foot health and all-over stability. The exercise he and his colleagues recommend is called “foot doming:” it involves arching the foot to shorten it while keeping the toes and ball of the foot flat on the ground. As you get stronger, you progress from sitting to standing, standing on one leg, and eventually to squats and single-leg hops. Other exercises include spreading the toes as wide as possible, squeezing them together, pulling a towel toward you on the floor by curling your toes, and picking up a marble with your toes.As you can see from these examples, being proactive about your foot health is crucial to avoiding injury. Responding to pain quickly, however, is just as important, so if you are experiencing any foot, toe or ankle problems, schedule an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider immediately.