One of the reasons I chose couch to 5k to make my return to running, was the fact it would be a gradual build up. This would give my body – especially knees, ankles and hips – time to get stronger and reduce my risk of injury.
But every body and everybody’s journey will be different. In addition to complaints of shin splints and plantar fasciitis, I’ve noticed a lot of people sharing that they have weak and sore ankles. So I reached out to Modestas again for advice on strengthening our ankles for running.
The Ankle Explained
The ankle is quite a complex structure made up of several different joints. The two most important joints in the ankle are the talocrural joint and the subtalar joint.
The talocrural joint is your actual ankle joint allowing you to plantarflex and dorsiflex your foot (pointing toes to the sky or the ground). The subtalar joint allows you to invert and evert or supinate and pronate your foot meaning move it in and out respectively.
When running, all the forces of your bodyweight are transmitted through the ankle, resulting in it being a very robust structure. Weight bearing activities such as running, jumping or weight lifting place a significant amount of strain on your ankles.
This can increase the risk of injury to the joint or the surrounding structures such as joint capsule, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Therefore, having sufficient strength in your ankle muscles is very important.
Ankle Structure & Things To Consider
There are also a few factors to consider based on individual structures of each persons ankle. For example, your foot position has a major influence on ankle biomechanics.
A fallen arch of the foot, known as pes planus, will force your ankle to over-pronate, placing an excessive strain on the structures surrounding the ankle creating a predisposition for rolling ones ankle inwards.
One can also have an increased arch of the foot which is known as pes cavus. This forces the foot to go more inwards placing excessive strain on the structure around your ankle and again, predisposes you to rolling ones ankle outwards.
Therefore, strengthening the musculature around your ankle may also help you to improve the biomechanics of the foot as well as reduce the risk of injury.
Exercises To Strengthen Your Ankles
There are many exercises available to help you strengthen your ankles for running. Here are some options which in my opinion are the most specific for runners:
- Calf raises standing tall
- Calf raises with knees at 90 degrees (sitting or in a squat position)
- Eversion against resistance band
- Inversion against resistance band
- Single leg knee to chest for proprioception
- Single leg hops and land for explosiveness, proprioception and loading
- Toe curling for plantar muscles
However, even though there is a large amount of people who have biomechanical discrepancies with foot and ankle, it does not mean that everyone will experience any type of issues.
This very much depends on the rest of your body, how much and what physical activity you are participating in and your weight.
If you have pes planus or pes cavus and are experiencing some discomfort and pain around your ankle area, exercises may help you to improve your symptoms, however, there are a number of people who will require personalised insoles to help to alleviate the pain.
Are you new to running?! What issues have you encountered on your journey?
Elle & Modestas
*If after trying the suggestions above symptoms do not ease or worsen we encourage you to seek professional help.
Strengthening the ankle joint often seems to be forgotten when it comes to running. You have reminded me to work on mine! Thanks for sharing these useful exercises.