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A Powerful Balancing Act: Top 3 exercises to increase balance, mobility and strength in your ankles

Balance and coordination of the feet is an important part of any activity. It is the precursor for power and consistency. A key part is ankle mobility and having a strong stable foot.

The recent trend to wear comfort or more minimalist shoes has changed people from wearing more traditionally rigid shoes. Comfort shoes feel good, however they sacrifice the support and stability of a more traditional rigid shoe. Finding the right balance between comfort and stability is the key to footwear for any activity.

Having a properly fitted shoe is also critical in enhancing the connection between your foot and the ground. Here are some tips in choosing the right shoe.

  • Check the shape of your foot. This will decide which type of last (the shape of the shoe) of a shoe to choose. If you have a larger foot, then a wider or fuller last would be best for you.
  • When you tie the laces of the shoe, if the lace eyelets touch, the shoe is too wide for your feet, if the eyelets are more than 5/8 inch apart then the shoe is too narrow.
  • Walk around the store with the shoe on and make sure there is no bunching of the material in the forefoot or that the shoe slips in the heel. A shoe that is snug, but not tight, is ideal, especially since most feet swell during the day.

Here are a 3 exercises to improve the mobility of your ankle, standing balance and coordination of the muscles in your feet.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Wrap a towel around the middle of your foot and gently pull on both ends of the towel until you feel a stretch in the calf. Hold that position for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Perform the same stretch wit the knee slightly bent to 30 degrees.
  • Stand with you hands on your hips and balance on one leg with the opposite knee bent at 90 degrees. Keeping your big toe on the ground, balance for as long as possible without stepping the opposite foot down. Try to complete two 30 seconds sets per leg.
  • With your ankle relaxed and foot flat on the ground, lift your big toe off the ground while keeping the rest of your toes on the ground. Set the big toe back down and lift the rest of your toes while pushing the big tow down on the ground. Alternate in a smooth, coordinated and controlled way for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. This exercise can be progressed from sitting, to standing, to standing on one leg.
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