Susceptible to wear and tear, your ankle joints take a beating. As you stand, your ankles help endure most of your weight. These little joints, connected to your deltoid and lateral ligaments, are prone to sprains, strains and fractures. However, strengthening surrounding muscles, such as your calves, provides protection. Calf exercises shouldn't cause discomfort, but check with your doctor if you have a chronic condition or are new to exercising.
Ankle instability can be due to mechanical instability, such as joint laxity; functional instability, from problems with muscle weakness, balance or posture control; or reflex issues with your peroneal muscles. According to orthopedic specialists Meir Nyska and Gideon Mann, ankle instability causes an altered gait, which will affect how you walk. In their book "The Unstable Ankle," they blame repetitive injuries, such as recurrent ankle sprains, for ankle instability, especially when the instability is chronic. Because of weak supporting muscles, your ankle may also feel weak and be prone to give out. Exercising the calves helps strengthen the ankle joint, reducing functional instability in the area.
The towel stretch further elongates the gastrocnemius-soleus complex, so you'll feel a tug in your heel and calf areas. You'll need a hand towel for this exercise. However, if you have access to an exercise band, your calves will benefit from the added tension. Sit down with your legs stretched out. Loop the towel or band around the ball of your left foot. Grab on to the ends and pull them to you while keeping your leg straight. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, or until you feel a gentle tightness in your calf and heel, then release it 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch on each leg at least three times.
Targeting those best supporting actors the calves and shins, the standing dorsi-flexion is an exercise you can perform on the go to aid ankle strength. Place your hands against a wall as you face it, spreading your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms higher than shoulder height, then step back with your right leg while tightening your abs. Bend your body toward the wall, letting your left knee and elbows to do all the work. Keep your back and hips straight and your right heel on the floor. Hold the inward stretch until you feel tightness in your calves and shins. Then release, do another two to four repetitions, then switch legs and repeat.
Standing Calf Raises
Standing calf raises tone that gastrocnemius-soleus complex, further supporting your ankles. Stay at that wall, with your hands against it and your feet still at hip-width apart. Keep your toes forward throughout the exercise, and your hands at shoulder height. Exhale and come to your toes, bringing your heels off the floor. Don't bend your knees. Hold this position for a few seconds before lowering your heels. Repeat until you feel tightness in your calf muscle.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.