Think about all of those early mornings, the days you’ve spent putting in time and effort to get better. You’re competing for a spot on the team, trying your hardest to achieve your goals, break a record that no one thought could be done, and mostly spending countless hours doing what you love. It’s important to remember these moments - the highs and the lows. You’ve lived through the mountaintops and valleys of achievement. Sometimes the best memories and comeback stories are the ones you’ll cherish telling others.
After an injury, it’s critical to put in the work to get back to full strength. When recovering from an ankle injury, you’ll need to regain your strength and protect yourself from repeat issues. So how do you get back to 100%? Here’s how to strengthen your ankles after an injury.
Athletes experience common foot and ankle injuries because of regular physical activity and stress on their joints. However, anyone can be susceptible to experience ankle pain or an injury by any number of regular activities. It’s reported that in the US, 25,000 people sprain their ankle every day.
When an injury or setback occurs, everyone thinks they’re an expert, right? Whether it's a coach, athletic trainer, or family member, getting the facts of what's wrong vs. personal opinions can be challenging.
It’s always best to get checked out by a licensed health care provider to find out specific information and start a recovery plan. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common ankle injuries, so you’ll know what to expect when you hear your diagnosis and begin next steps for how to strengthen ankles.
When you think about ankle anatomy, consider the three bones that are coming together in your leg. The ankle joint is where the talus of your foot meets the tibia and fibula. These bones are held together by ligaments that stretch like elastic bands and allow for mobility. Tendons help keep ankle joints stable and allow for movement by attaching bones to muscles.
Tendons, ligaments, and bones can experience overstretching or too much impact, leading to a weakening or injury of the ankle. When these parts of the leg and foot are not working properly, it takes some effort and simple ankle strengthening exercises to recover.
What is an ankle strain? Ankle strains occur from overstretched or torn muscles and tendons. It’s typical for immediate pain to occur, but can vary gradually as well. When you experience an ankle strain, you might notice swelling and/or discoloration around the ankle.
Most likely, some degree of loss of motion will occur, and you could feel discomfort or tightness in other areas like your feet, calves, or shins. Pay attention to ankle strain for increased pain or recurrence. It could mean that you are suffering from weak ankles or other deficiencies that need to be addressed to improve overall health.
How can someone recognize the difference between an ankle sprain and strain? Look for bruising - this most likely is a result of a sprained ankle. When ligaments become overstretched or even torn from repetitive motion, an accident, or overexertion - you’re looking at a sprained ankle.
Another distinction in ankle sprains is what is described as shooting or stabbing pain when weight or pressure is applied. Depending on the frequency of injury, you’ll most likely notice severity in pain for this type of accident versus a typical sprain. Sometimes a “popping” sound can occur when you’ve rolled your ankle, and can render a full loss of motion.
A break or fracture in your ankle is categorized as the most severe. In addition to pain, bruising, and swelling, generally your skin will appear pale when you experience an ankle fracture. Many times it can be hard to move your toes and you feel a numbness in your foot when this type of injury has happened.
With any ankle injuries or noticeable loss in strength, seek medical attention or expert opinion quickly, and possibly have an x-ray to make sure everything checks out.
Step one in strengthening your ankles is being mindful that it can take some time and new routines to heal. Neglecting these facts can leave you frustrated, risk re-injury, and skip crucial treatment components to feeling like yourself again. Do not risk further issues by putting pressure on your ankle or foot in the early parts of your recovery- resting your ankle is important. Take it easy by limiting your walking and adding any weight to your injured ankle. If you’re an athlete or have dealt with these issues before, you are familiar with adding the RICE routine. What does the RICE routine involve? Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Medical professionals and athletic trainers recommend RICE to reduce swelling and improve flexibility and strength.
Rest. Rest and protect the injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
Ice. Cold will reduce pain and swelling. Apply an ice or cold pack right away to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day. After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat to the area that hurts. Do not apply ice or heat directly to the skin. Place a towel over the cold or heat pack before applying it to the skin.
Compression. Compression, or wrapping the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, because this can cause more swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight. Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain, coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72 hours; a more serious problem may be present.
Elevation. Elevate the injured or sore area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
During recovery, test your ankle strength and increase movement with simple exercises and stretches. You should be given a regimen by a sports medicine specialist, or there are many resources you can find online.
Here are a few great ankle strengthening exercises that we recommend.
Ankle Strengthening Exercises
When you can begin adding more weight to your ankle and foot, try a few weight bearing exercises as well. These movements will test the resilience of your injured ankle and improve your balance for returning to normal activities.
Ankle support is critical to performing at your best, and getting through an injury. There are many options for ways to provide more ankle support during athletic activity. Many athletes continue to use tape, only wear high-top shoes, and shop around to look for an ankle brace that’s right for them.
Choosing the right footwear and additional gear will go a long way in providing the right support for your ankle. When choosing an ankle system, remember a few key considerations - stabilization, comfort, custom support, and style.
What is Exo-Performance™?
As the first exo-performance company, ARYSE® has worked with the best engineers to create a system to mimic the body’s natural movement, provide functional stability, and are made with superior design and materials.
How to Tell If You Have a Strained, Sprained or Broken Ankle - Campbell Clinic Orthopaedics
Ankle Injuries: Causes and Treatments - WebMD
University of Michigan School of Medicine - Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE)
Cleveland Clinic - Best Way to Support Your Ankles During Exercise