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Ankles. They’re the joints that crack when you stretch out after a long day on your feet. They’re also the part of your body that protects your knees from harm—which is very important. Trust me, you don’t want to be one of those people who complains of knee pain in your old age.
Whether you are a professional runner or just someone who walks during short breaks at work, ankle stretching and strengthening can improve your ability to move.
Try these 6 ways to stretch and strengthen your ankles so you can walk and run better than ever:
1. Up, Down, In, Out, and All Around
The easiest stretch for your ankle to do is moving it up and down, in and out, and in circles. Sit down and place your leg out in front of you. Move your foot and ankle up and down—forward and backward. Once you have done this in a repetitive motion, move your foot and ankle in toward your other leg and out away from your body.
After this, move your foot and ankle in circles. This might cause some cracking and popping to occur, but it allows your ankle to stretch and become more limber.
2. Toe Writing
While sitting, try writing words in the air with your toes. This allows your ankles to stretch in a large range of motions. It can also be fun if you have someone next to you trying to guess what you’re writing. You can also utilize it to memorize parts of a presentation or speech you need to give.
3. Stair Step
If you have stairs in your house, walk over to them and use them to stretch out your ankles. Stand at the edge of the stair, then drop your ankles down and hold them to stretch them out. Repeat this, moving your ankles up and down.
4. Play Pick-Up with Your Feet
Cleaning might not be the most fun thing you can do, but you can use something like it to strengthen your ankles. Place some small objects (marbles, game pieces, or Legos work great) around a small cup. Pick up each of the pieces with your toes and place them in the cup.
You can turn this one into a game by challenging your significant other or children to speed contests.
5. Calf Raises
Use your body weight to strengthen your ankles by doing this exercise. If you have an exercise ball, place it against the wall. (If you don’t have one, don’t worry! Place your hands against a wall and lean against it.) Lean against the ball with your legs straight behind you.
Place one of your legs behind the other, resting on the back of the other leg. Slightly bend the knee of the resting leg. Raise the foot of the non-resting leg so you’re standing on your toes, then return to the ground. Repeat this motion, keeping the leg you are raising straight.
Repeat the exercise and switch the legs being used.
6. Golf Ball Roll
Stretch out your ankle by using a golf ball. Grab a golf ball or another small, round object like it. Sit on a strong chair (preferably one that doesn’t swivel or move) and plant both feet on the floor. Roll the ball under your foot, stretching out your ankle. Remember to sit up straight in your chair while doing this exercise.
For all of these stretches and exercises, repetition is key. Repeat 10 to 20 times for each of these. Before beginning any exercise regimen, consult your doctor to make sure your body can perform in the way you want it to. Talk to your doctor about the amount of repetitions you should be doing.