Your ankle joints and muscles experience a lot of wear and tear every day, which can take a toll over time. Weak ankles can affect your balance and increase your risk of sprains, which can lead to chronic instability.

Strengthening weak ankles with the following exercises may improve your stability, relieve pain, and help you avoid further injury.

Here are some exercises for weak ankles to help increase your strength and mobility.

Standing calf raises

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, ideally at the edge of a step while holding the railing for balance. You can also do this standing on the floor next to a table or counter to hold onto for balance.
  2. Raise your heels up so that you’re standing on your toes, then lower your heels down.
  3. Repeat 10 times.
  4. Do this once a day.

Draw the alphabet

You can do this standing or lying on your back. Here’s how:

  1. Start by lying on your back or standing next to a sturdy chair for support.
  2. Lift one leg and draw, flex your foot, and draw every letter of the alphabet with your toes.
  3. Repeat with the other foot.
  4. Do this once a day.

Hand-foot war

  • Sit on a chair, and place your right foot flat on the floor.
  • Bend forward, and put your right hand against the outside of your foot and push.
  • Resist the pressure with your foot, holding for 10 seconds.
  • Next, place your hand on the inside of your foot, and repeat the push and resistance.
  • Repeat steps 1 through 4 on your left foot.
  • Do this 10 times on each foot, once a day.

Stand on one foot

  1. Stand next to a sturdy chair with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hold the chair for balance, and lift one foot off the floor.
  3. Balance on one foot for 10 to 20 seconds.
  4. Put your foot back down, then repeat with the other foot.

Flex and stretch

  1. Lie on your back with your heels on the floor and your toes pointing toward the ceiling.
  2. Slowly point your toes as far away from you as you can.
  3. Hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Do this once a day.

Heel walks

If you have balance issues or are prone to falling, you may want to stand next to a long wall that you can hang onto for balance:

  1. While standing, lift the front of your feet off the floor by raising your toes so that you’re standing on your heels.
  2. Walk across the room.
  3. Do this once a day.

Resistance push

You’ll need a resistance band for this exercise:

  1. Sitting in a chair, raise your foot off the floor, and place a resistance band under the ball of your foot, holding the ends of the band with your hands.
  2. Slowly flex your ankle down as far as you can.
  3. Then slowly return your foot back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 times on each foot.

The most common symptom of weak ankles is your ankles turning or rolling to the outside. Other symptoms include:

  • sore ankles and feet
  • frequent ankle sprains or injuries
  • ankle often twisting outward when walking
  • balance problems
  • trouble keeping your ankles straight in heels

Weak ankles can be caused by injuries and certain conditions. Let’s look at these and how to treat them.

Previous trauma or injury

Injury to the muscles, ligaments, and bones in and around your ankles can lead to weak ankles, especially if an injury doesn’t heal properly or you injure the ankle more than once.

Ankle injuries include:

Treatment of an ankle injury depends on the type and severity. Sprains can usually be treated at home with rest, ice, and elevating the foot to relieve swelling. A doctor may also recommend wearing an elastic bandage or brace, using crutches, and physical therapy.

More severe injuries, such as a fracture or dislocation, may require a cast or surgery.

Chronic ankle instability

Chronic ankle instability (CAI) can develop after an injury, such as an ankle sprain or fracture. CAI develops in approximately 20 percent of people who experience an acute ankle sprain.

CAI causes your ankle to repeatedly give way and turn or roll to the side. It also causes persistent ankle pain, swelling, and a feeling that the ankle is wobbly.

CAI can usually be treated with a combination of physical therapy, medication, and bracing. Surgery is used to treat severe instability that doesn’t respond to nonsurgical treatments.

Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction

Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) is also called adult acquired flatfoot. It happens when the posterior tibial tendon becomes inflamed or tears.

PTTD is usually caused by an impact injury or overuse.

Symptoms include:

  • foot and ankle pain when walking
  • inward rolling of the ankle
  • flattening of the foot
  • turning outward of your foot and toes

Anti-inflammatory drugs, exercises, immobilization, and orthotics are used to treat PTTD. Surgery is reserved for severe cases that limit mobility.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by the breakdown of the cartilage that covers the joint bones. It’s more common in older people, but it can affect adults of any age. The most common cause of OA is wear and tear on the joints.

Previous cartilage, ligament, and joint injuries can also cause it.

Pain, stiffness, and inflammation are the most common symptoms of OA. Ankle arthritis symptoms can also cause weak ankles, instability, and reduced range of motion.

Anti-inflammatories, braces, and ankle stretches and strengthening exercises can relieve symptoms and improve stability.

Wearing incorrect footwear

There’s evidence that wearing incorrect footwear causes foot and ankle pain, weakness, and deformities, such as hallux limitus and claw toe.

Incorrect footwear refers to shoes that are too narrow, wide, long, or short, or shoes without enough support.

Wearing shoes that fit properly and have enough support for the activities they’re being used for can help.

Diabetes

Up to 50 percent of people with diabetes have nerve damage known as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Symptoms can include pain and weakness in different parts of the body, including the ankles and feet. This condition often causes muscle weakness in the ankle, numbness, and foot deformities. It can affect your coordination and cause you to wobble and lose your balance.

Managing your diabetes, wearing orthotics, and doing ankle strengthening exercises can help.

You should make an appointment to see a doctor if you have foot or ankle pain or swelling that lasts more than a week, is a result of an injury, or if you have diabetes.

Seek emergency medical care for any weakness that comes on suddenly, affects your ability to walk, or is accompanied by numbness in the foot, leg, arm, or face, as these are signs of a stroke.

Strengthening the muscles around your ankles can help improve weak ankles and instability. At-home treatments can usually relieve pain and swelling that can be brought on by weakness and many of the conditions that cause weak ankles.