How to Prevent an Ankle Sprain

How to prevent an ankle sprain
By Fara Rosenzweig

Here's a shocking statistic: About 1 in 17 high school athletes suffer from an ankle sprain. It's estimated that 25,000 people sprain an ankle daily, according to American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. An ankle sprain can really put a damper on your day-to-day activities.

Whether you're recovering from an ankle sprain or you're active and want to avoid ankle injuries, there are a few tricks and exercises you can do to keep your ankle healthy.

Warm Up

Walk, jog, bike or do dynamic movements to warm up the muscles. Don't force a stretch as this can cause ligaments and muscles to tear.

Wear Proper Athletic Shoes

Many people pick out shoes that are trendy, but don't look at the arch support. You should wear shoes that fit your foot: pronate, low arch, high arch, etc…

You should also invest in sport-specific shoes. Running shoes are designed differently than cross-training shoes. Cross-training shoes are good for overall training, but may cause foot and ankle problems if you opt for a 3-plus mile run. Speak with a shoe expert to make sure you are fitted properly and it’s for your activity.

Replace Old Shoes

Shoes lose support over time, which can cause ankle pain. A rule runners follow: six months or 500 miles. It's suggested other sports follow similar guidelines.

Wear Tape or a Supportive Wrap

Any one who's had a previous ankle injury can benefit from a wrap or tape. The compression and extra support will help stabilize the ankle.

Avoid Uneven Surfaces

If you're running, walking, hiking or playing a sport outside, keep an eye out for rocky terrains, loose gravel, pot holes, twigs and tree stumps. One wrong step on an uneven surface can cause major ankle pain and sideline you for a while.

Do Ankle Exercises

Ankle exercises make the muscles stronger, which can protect the ligaments and prevent injury or re-injury.

Ankle Circles

Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Move your ankle around in circles, side to side, and up and down. Do 5 to 10 circles, side to side, and up and downs in each direction two times a day.

Heel Raises

Stand next to a wall, table or chair for support, with your feet a few inches apart. Slowly lift your heels off the ground, hold for two counts, and then lower back down. Repeat this motion for 10 to 15 reps. Do three sets.

Modification: If it’s too much load on your ankle, then sit in a chair with your feet planted on the ground. Then slowly raise your heels up, pause, and then lower down.

Toe Flexion With Resistance Band

Sit with one leg extended and place the other foot on the ground with your knee bent. Place your foot that’s extended on the center of the resistance band, holding the ends with your hands. Point the toes and pause. Make sure you pull the band with your arms to give your foot a challenge. Then flex the toes and pause. Repeat 10 to 15 times and then switch sides. Do two to three sets.

Balance Exercise

Standing next to a wall or table, stand with your feet a few inches apart. Shift your weight onto the uninjured foot and lift the injured foot off the ground a couple inches. Use the wall or table for support, but don't put all of your weight onto it. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides. Place the injured foot on the ground, use the table or wall for support, and lift the healthy foot slightly off the ground. Try to hold for 30 seconds. If you can only hold for 15, that’s fine. You’ll want to work your way up to 30 seconds.

Once you are able to do this exercise without holding onto the table or wall, then close your eyes. Work your way up to 30 seconds and beyond.

Remember, it's always important to speak with your doctor before engaging in any new exercise program.