You probably know how important your hips and knees are. But we need to pay attention to our ankles, too. They require mobility and stability, just like all joints. If an ankle lacks either, it could cause problems up the line – at the knee, hip, and back.
If the ankles are stiff, you can’t effectively transfer force through the body. With every step, instead of the ball of the foot rolling smoothly to propel you forward, the foot hits the ground with a thud. That sends jarring forces up the chain, possibly all the way to the neck.
Some people also suffer when their ankles lack stability. If you’ve had sprains, you’re more likely to have one in the future. When that ankle isn’t stable, you can’t generate the same amount of force into the ground. So you’ll struggle with balance, your walk becomes less efficient, and you’re not as strong.
A Few Moves to Help
Ankle rolls. Lie on your back with legs extended. Raise one leg about 12 inches. Roll the ankle clockwise, counter-clockwise, and then flex it back it forth. Do this 20 times on each foot. Try to keep your leg still while drawing the circles as big as you can.
Kneeling ankle dorsiflexion. Kneel on one knee with the front foot a few inches from a wall. Keeping that foot flat, try to drive the knee to the wall. Don’t let the heel rise.
Try balance exercises on one foot. Add movement, weights or use a balance pad.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.