What are the Best Exercises for a Sprained Ankle?

Dan Cavallari

The ankle is the most commonly injured part of the body, as it is weight bearing and responsible for motion in several directions. A sprained ankle occurs when the ankle twists or takes an impact that strains the joint beyond regular use. After sufficient rest, icing, compression, and elevation, it is time to start doing exercises for a sprained ankle that will encourage mobility and help build strength in the ankle again. Mobility exercises for a sprained ankle should be attempted first, well before any strength building exercises. This will get the muscles of the joint ready for more strenuous exercises in the near future.

A man with a sprained ankle.
A man with a sprained ankle.

Mobility exercises for a sprained ankle should be done in such a manner that the exercise stops if a significant amount of pain is felt. One example of a mobility exercise is the toe lift, in which the injured person will stand on one foot — the one that is not injured — and raise the injured ankle several inches off the ground. He or she will then raise the foot so the toes point upward, bending at the ankle. After holding this position for several seconds, the foot can drop to the neutral position. The injured person should not bend too far past the point of feeling discomfort in the ankle. The converse to this exercise is the toe drop, in which the toes point downward instead of upward.

Raised leg ankle stretches may help heal a sprained ankle.
Raised leg ankle stretches may help heal a sprained ankle.

Once mobility exercises for a sprained ankle have been done several times, the injured person may begin strength exercises for a sprained ankle. Simple exercises include pushing the ankle outward and pulling inward against stationary objects such as a door or wall. One should start by pushing outward or pulling inward lightly and then building up until no pain is felt in either direction. Combining such exercises with mobility exercises will give the ankle basic strength and mobility that prepares the body for more strenuous exercises.

Resistance bands can be used as a step toward exercises in which the injured person will put full weight on the injured ankle. Before full weight can be placed on the ankle, however, strength and mobility must be sufficiently restored. Resistance bands can be looped around the ball of the foot, and the mobility exercises mentioned above can be done again, this time with the band providing resistance against the movement. One end of the resistance band can also be attached to a stationary object, with the other end looped around the foot. By positioning the body with the band behind, one can pull the ankle forward, improving strength in the ankle. By standing with the body facing the band, different muscles in the ankle can be strengthened.

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Discussion Comments


@talentryto- Once you have been cleared by your doctor following an ankle sprain, taking short walks is also a great exercise that promotes healing. Just make sure that you do not overdo it, and that you start out with just a few steps at a time. You can also combine walking with other exercises for a sprained ankle, such as lifts and stretches. The combination will get you back on your feet and feeling like yourself again.


I think that ankle stretches are also good exercises for a sprained ankle. By stretching the ankle muscles and tendons, you will be able to help increase the mobility of your ankle following this type of injury. Stretches are often the easiest and most effective exercises to begin with following an ankle sprain because they do not put too much pressure on the ankle during the healing process.

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