What Exercises Help if You Have a Sprained Ankle?

After an ankle sprain, it’s important to start doing exercises again as soon as you can. You might be stiff and sore, but the sooner you get it moving, the quicker you’ll recover and better you’ll avoid further injury.

Start with range-of-motion exercises and basic stretches. Then move on to strength, balance, and stability exercises. Let pain guide you and help you set limits on how far to push. A little discomfort is OK, but if you have questions about what you can and can’t do, check with your doctor.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

You should be able to start work on your range of motion 2 or 3 days after your injury.

For these exercises, support your leg but let your foot and ankle hang freely. You can sit in a chair, then use another chair to support your leg, with your foot and ankle hanging over the side.

  • Alphabet. Draw the letters of the alphabet in the air with your foot. Do lowercase and uppercase letters, and make sure to move from your ankle, not your hip. Run through the alphabet at least 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Circles. Move your ankle in circles: five to 10 circles in one direction, then do the same in the other. Repeat at least 3 times a day.
  • Flex. Flex your foot toward you as far as you can, as if you’re trying to get your toes to point to your face. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat 10 times, twice a day.
  • Extend. Extend your foot so your toes point away from you. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat 10 times, twice a day.
  • In and out bends. Turn your foot inward as far as you can. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Then do the same with your foot turned outward as far as you can. Repeat 10 times, twice a day.

Towel curls. Sit in a chair, with your injured foot flat on a towel on the floor. Curl your toes to grab the towel and pull it toward you. Keep going until you reach the end of the towel. Now, curl your toes and push the towel back in the other direction until you reach the end of the towel. Do this 3 to 5 times a day.

Continued

Seated calf stretch. Sit on your bed or the floor with both legs stretched out in front of you. Wrap a towel around the ball of your injured foot and pull it gently toward you so you feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do this 3 to 5 times a day.

Standing calf stretch. Once you can bear weight on your sprained ankle, do this instead of the seated calf stretch. Stand facing a wall with your hands against the wall about shoulder height. Move your injured foot one step back. Now, push your hips toward the wall as you bend your front knee. Keep both feet flat on the floor. You should feel a stretch in the calf of your injured leg. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Do this 3 to 5 times a day.

Strength Exercises

When your range of motion gets back to normal, you can start on strength exercises.

You can do these exercises 3 to 5 times a day:

  • Flex. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Put your other foot on top of your injured one. Flex the front of your injured foot up while you resist with your other foot. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Extend. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Push into the floor with the ball of your injured foot. Hold 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Inward bend. Sit in a chair, feet together and flat on the floor, so your big toes and heels touch. Turn your injured foot inward while resisting with your other foot. Hold 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Outward bend. Now, you’ll move your foot outward. Use a nearby wall or even a couch to provide resistance. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Once you have those down, you can move on to using a resistance band, which is like a giant rubber band. You can get one at a sporting goods store or from a physical therapist. Do these exercises 3 to 5 times a day:

  • Flex. Sit in a chair and tie the band around something that won’t move, like a heavy table. Extend your leg and wrap the other end of the band around the top of your foot. Flex your foot toward you, with the band resisting the motion. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Extend. Sit in a chair. Take one side of the band in each hand, wrap it around the ball of your injured foot, and stretch your leg out in front of you. Extend your foot away from you. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Inward bend. Tie the band around the leg of the chair on the same side as your injured foot. Wrap the other end around the inside of your injured foot. Turn your foot inward. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
  • Outward bend. Tie the band on the leg of the chair opposite your injured foot. Wrap the other end around the outside of your injured foot. Turn your foot outward. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Continued

You can also try these exercises:

  • Step-ups. Start with your injured foot on the bottom stair and your good foot on the ground below. Straighten your knee so you lift yourself up on the injured leg, then lower down. Repeat 3 to 5 times, at least 3 times a day.
  • Heel raises. Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Raise your heels up slowly, but keep your toes on the ground. Lower your heels back down. Repeat 10 times, at least 2 to 3 times a day. As you get stronger, do this standing. When you’re stronger still, do it standing on just your injured foot.

Balance and Coordination Exercises

The final step is to work on balance and coordination. You might want to try these exercises:

  • Balance. Do this one near a chair, table, or in a doorway so you’ll have support if you need it. Stand and balance on just your injured leg for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times a day. Try to work up to 3 minutes. To make it harder, close your eyes.
  • Heel walk. Walk forward and backward as far as you can on your heels.
  • Tippy toe walk. Walk forward and backward as far as you can on your toes.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on May 17, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Arthritis Research UK: “Ankle Sprain Information and Exercise Sheet.”

U.C. Berkeley, University Health Services: “Ankle Sprains.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine, Journal of Athletic Training: “Rehabilitation of the Ankle After Acute Sprain or Chronic Instability.”

American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: “How to Stretch Your Ankle After a Sprain,” “How to Strengthen Your Ankle After a Sprain.”

FamilyDoctor.org: “Ankle Sprains: Healing and Preventing Injury.”

University of North Carolina Sports Medicine and Family Medicine: “Lateral Ankle Sprains.”

© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination