Couch to 5K

Ankle related question

Thought the running community might know a thing or two about ankle problems! :)

I was born with a twisted ankle and, although it looks fine from the outside, it is a bit weak. I can walk for miles quite happily, but anything that requires balance, even just standing still, makes it ache. It also doesn't really absorb shock very well (which is why I have found I have to run on a machine rather than pavement). I'm not sure how common this problem is, but I assume probably those who have broken or badly sprained their ankle will understand what I'm talking about. I just wondered if anyone had any idea of ways to improve its strength? I do a lot of standing on tip toes but that's about all I can think of.

10 Replies

Hi there

Having broken my ligaments before why oh why!? I spend my life trying to make my ankle strong

I did rehab where I used something similar to a small beach ball but stroger to put my foot on it and push and work on that balance

Also walking on uneven surfaces help, instead of road or pavement, so the muscles on your ankle have to work all the time

I also used a silicon insole to give some unstability so muscles work

And a yoga streching band to make it work left and right and circles with some resistance

Here a link with someone using that inflatable thing

Just google phisiotherapy ball ankle

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Hi, DO know about ankle problems,DONT know much about running.i will be so glad when the days comes and I can discuss how well a run went! So far,and 11 weeks into the programme, I have completed 2 weeks of running and 9 weeks on the injuRy couch with a sprained ankle! So I know about ankle pain,and I am like you, I can walk for hours on it but bearing weight with ruNning is different altogether.i found a lot of ankle strengthening exercises on the internet. Heel raises,standing on the edge of a step and lowering heels down,rotating ankle in all directions,hopping on it,jumping up and down, lunges and squats, I found stretch the ankle.hoping all these are going to help when I relaunch the programme in the next week or so.if not ,I am going to see a physio which is perhaps more professional advise for weak ankles. Good luck and hope you have many happy running days ahead.


Do you mean you were born with talipes? And was there any surgical correction at that time or just exercises (obviously passive movements as you were a baby) which may or may not have been done?

Probably worth getting some professional expert input on this and not just for the sake of running but your whole well being.

You could consider running off road. Having had to spend so much of my life in bed due to illness, I was not about to mess up my joints by slamming down on tarmac, so I almost never do (I certainly ache pretty badly on the rare occasions I've run on tarmac)... but I do have the luxury of being able to get in a car and go to lots of different places close to home. I feel all the different surfaces (sometimes leaves, sometimes bogs, sometimes rock... I try not to run on the harder rock or trail surfaces more than twice in succession) have strengthened my ankles without being a challenge too far. It also has the bonus of being good for my soul!

It is a tricky thing sometimes to determine whether an ache is a part of the journey or a warning sign. You may need to start thinking of your ankles as needing training rather than as being weak.

You could have a look at the NHS Strength and Flexibility podcast programme (Laura again!) - it would be quite tough. Or some beginner yoga, especially warm up activities which often involve passive ankle movements.


I had to look that up. Im not sure about it, "talipes" and "club foot" are not words that were ever used to describe it. In a fit of prenatal wiggling I got my foot stuck under my mums rib and there was nothing to be done about it until I was born, so my foot grew flat against my shin, not sideways as is typical of talipes. After I was born, my dad spent a lot of time doing physio on it for me to correct it, so no surgery.

I suppose I think of them as weak because I have always been sporty, (gymnastics, badminton, swimming, any ball game I can find) so it's not like the ankle doesn't get the opportunity of a workout, but it stays... Wobbly. I do a lot of rock climbing at the moment which uses insane balancing skills and even that doesn't strengthen it up! I just thought there might be someone who has gotten further with the doctor side of things - mine refuses to believe there's a problem even though it hurt so badly as a teenager that I couldnt walk.


Is that a specialist or a GP? A physio (you can self-refer to the NHS in some areas) might be the most appropriate, or a private physio or sports therapist.

It's possible that it is a matter of accepting that is what it is like - clearly you do just get on with stuff! And maybe some kind of permanent support when you are running would be appropriate in your case. As I say, I avoid road running and although it might be counter intuitive, I have found having a lot of cushioning is actively *un*helpful for me and minimalist shoes are what work for me.

Good luck!

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I broke my ankle about 25 years ago. It only gave me problems when my distance got up around 14km. I then started to get pain at the fromt of the ankle and I had to drop my runs to 1 per week for a month or so. During that time a kind person on here posted a link to some ankle strengthening exercises which I found really worked for me, as I can now manage 18km without problems.


Sorry I can't find the link, but the exercises were pretty much the following :

1)In a standing position, raise yourself up on tip toe then lower your heels back to the ground. Repeat 15 times.

Do that each day, and when it becomes easy move on to 2 :

2)Stand on one leg. Raise up on tip toe and then lower your heel back down again. Repeat 15 times. Then repeat with the other leg.

When that becomes easy do 3)

3) Do as 2, but instead of standing on the floor, stand on the bottom stair tread so that your heel is below the ball of your foot. As before raise up on tip toe then lower your heel down again.

I found that those exercises made a good difference to my ankles

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My wife has a dodgy ankle and she was told that she should do strengthening exercises at every opportunity. This ranges from balancing/standing on one foot whilst brushing her teeth to gently pushing against a resistance whilst sitting. A little and often was how she was advised.

As for shock absorption, there are many, many insoles out there which can be fitted by a GOOD running shop (sorry, NOT SD) or by a podiatrist.

My best and final advice is to listen to your body. Pain/discomfort is there for a reason. If your body if uncomfortable with the level of exercise your ankle is getting, take a step back, or stop and wait. Better a little late/slow than to be on the injury couch!

Good luck, and try and avoid concrete and tarmac. Go for grass and made-up tracks ~ they give a small amount of cushioning.


I have a weak ankle form a bad sprain years ago and do a lot of strengthing exercises.

1. While sitting, circle your ankle and draw the letters of the alphabet.

2. Stand on tip toes and then roll back on your heels.

3. Stand on stairs and let your heels drop. Hold for 10-20 seconds.

4. Turn around and let the front of your feet drop (you'll need to hold onto something to begin with). Hold as above.

5. Try standing on a wobble board (you can get them in a gym) or pile of cushions on one leg. The wobble board should absorb the hardness of the floor so you might be able to do this. Hold for as long as you can and build up slowly.

Also, compression socks are supposed to be good for weak ankles. I haven't tried them yet but maybe worth a go.


Thanks, yeh I've heard about the compression sock thing. I used to wear an elastic ankle support when it was painful during my teens and that really helped, maybe there's something to it.


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