Let’s talk about one of the biggest complaints in trail runners: unstable ankles. If you feel like your ankle twists without much provocation, or if you cringe at the thought of barreling full throttle down a rocky route, it might be time to consider strengthening those ankles.
There are passive and active components that influence your ankles’ mobility. On the passive side, you have some important ligaments keeping your ankle from jellyfishing all over the place. Unfortunately, if you’ve had a history of previous ankle sprains, it’s possible that these ligaments are looser than they could be.
Not to worry! You might not have control over those passive structures, but you can improve the activation of the muscles that surround your ankle to make up the difference.
Try this series of balance and proprioceptive training twice a week and you can decrease your risk of ankle sprains up to 36%.  Remember: practice makes permanent. And to improve your ankle motor control, you need a lot of practice.
Make sure all exercises are pain-free and stay consistent for at least five to six weeks to see results. If your ankle still feels wobbly, you can consider augmenting your exercises with some taping or bracing methods to keep your ankle rock solid during competition.
Workout of the Week: Ankle Stability Moves
Remind your joint where it is in space
After an injury, your brain’s understanding of where your ankle is can get a little fuzzy.  More so, the mechanoreceptors in your tissue might get hypersensitized to movement, and this can cause pain. With that in mind, try to keep the following moves as pain-free as possible.
- 3 × 15 sec. Isometric Hold Ankle Eversion at Wall
- 3 × 15 sec. Isometric Hold Ankle Inversion at Wall
- 3 × 10 Standing Calf Raise with Ball
- 2 × 15 Seated Resistance Eccentric Plantar Flexion
Strengthen your intrinsic foot muscles
- 2 × 45 sec. Plantar Fascia Wall Stretch
- 4 × 10 Arch Lifts
- 2 × 45 sec. Soleus Wall Stretch
- 2 × 10 Alternating Big Toe/Lesser Toes Extension
- 8 ea. Single-Leg RDLs
After getting all of your muscles ready, it’s time to add perturbations to your system to practice responding well with your ankles. Progress through each of these. If any feel way too easy, move on. To improve on balance, you should “fail” (need to do a big stabilization to get recentered) about 15% of the time.
- 2 × 30 sec. Tandem Stance Hold
- 2 × 30 sec. Single-Leg Hold on Foam Pad
- 2 × 10 Single-Leg Star Reach
- 4 × 15 sec. Single-Leg BOSU® Ball Balance
- Rivera MJ, Winkelmann ZK, Powden CJ, Games KE. Proprioceptive Training for the Prevention of Ankle Sprains: An Evidence-Based Review. J Athl Train. 2017 Nov;52(11):1065-1067. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-52.11.16. Epub 2017 Nov 15. PMID: 29140127; PMCID: PMC5737043.