Rolling ankles often occur by pronation or "rolling-in" of the ankle. Normal feet divide the pressure of your weight evenly, but feet prone to rolling distribute too much weight to the inside of the foot. This can lead to a sprained ankle, back pain and sore joints. Exercises that strengthen your calves and stabilize your ankle will greatly reduce the chances of ankle rolls in the future.
Dumbbell Calf Raise
Calf raises strengthen the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle responsible for supporting the ankle and heel. Feeling a burning sensation in your calves for the last few reps of each set indicates you are using enough weight. Holding two dumbbells, stand on a ledge or step with your back upright and eyes straight-ahead. Raise your toes fully, then drop down so that your heel is slightly below ledge level. Exhale during raise and inhale during the drop.
This exercise improves your joint stabilizers and your nervous system balance function. Stand near a wall and bend one knee so your shin is parallel with the ground while keeping the standing leg close to your balancing leg. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds. With practice, attempt to hold your balance for a longer duration without holding the wall. Never balance yourself to the point of becoming extremely unstable. A wobbly ankle can stretch the tendon and weaken it further. Complete three sets for each leg.
Once you have perfected the beginner exercise, use a rocker-board to stabilize your ankle further. Use a wall or chair to balance yourself until you can balance free-form. Stand on the board with knees slightly bent and body upright. Spend equal time balancing with your feet pointed out and to the side to strengthen all areas of the ankle. Balance each position for 10 to 30 seconds. Your ultimate goal should be to sustain balance for at least one minute. Completing this exercise will strengthen the ligaments and muscles of your leg, while improving your neurological sense of balance.
The uneven surfaces and broken rock found outdoors forces the muscles and tendons of your legs to stabilize you, while burning more calories than ankle isolation exercises. If you're not sure your ankles can support a long trek, use high-top boots stiff enough to prevent the ankle from twisting, but flexible enough not to restrict ankle movement. Walk winding trails with declines and inclines to ensure you are strengthening all areas of the leg and ankle.
Matthew Demers is a certified personal trainer based in Windsor, Canada. He is also the co-founder of YourSpace Fitness.