Weak ankles may be a result of previous ankle injuries, but in some cases, they are a congenital (at birth) condition. The ankles are sore, and “give way” easily while standing, walking, or doing other activities.
When an ankle is injured, it may take a few weeks to many months to fully heal. Often, the injured ankle remains weaker and less stable than the uninjured one. A foot and ankle surgeon can assess ankle stability and may obtain medical imaging studies to evaluate the ankle for further damage.
Treatment for weak ankles usually includes physical therapy and bracing. Surgery may be recommended depending on the degree of instability and the response to non-surgical approaches.
See also Chronic Ankle Instability and PTTD.
What is ankle weakness?
The ankle is a complex joint that allows the foot to move in a variety of directions. It is held in place by a number of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Ankle weakness occurs when these structures are not strong enough to provide adequate support for the joint.
Causes of ankle weakness
There are a number of factors that can contribute to ankle weakness, including:
- Previous ankle injuries: Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in the body. They can damage the ligaments that support the ankle joint, leading to weakness and instability.
- Poor posture: Poor posture can put stress on the ankles and contribute to weakness.
- Muscle imbalances: Weak muscles in the legs and feet can contribute to ankle weakness.
- Age: As people age, their muscles and ligaments tend to weaken, which can lead to ankle weakness.
- Certain medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes, can weaken the ligaments and muscles around the ankle.
Symptoms of ankle weakness
The symptoms of ankle weakness can vary depending on the severity of the problem. Some common symptoms include:
- Pain in the ankle
- Swelling in the ankle
- Instability in the ankle
- Difficulty walking or running
- A feeling of the ankle giving way
Treatment for ankle weakness
The treatment for ankle weakness will vary depending on the severity of the problem. In some cases, simple exercises and stretches may be enough to improve strength and stability. In other cases, more aggressive treatment, such as physical therapy or surgery, may be necessary.
Exercises for weak ankles
There are a number of exercises that can help to strengthen weak ankles. These exercises can be done at home or with the help of a physical therapist. Some common exercises include:
- Calf raises: Calf raises help to strengthen the muscles in the back of the lower leg. To do a calf raise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Slowly raise up onto your toes, keeping your heels on the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down.
- Ankle circles: Ankle circles help to improve the range of motion and flexibility in the ankle joint. To do an ankle circle, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly circle your ankles clockwise, then counterclockwise. Repeat 10 times in each direction.
- Toe taps: Toe taps help to improve balance and coordination. To do a toe tap, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward. Slowly lift one foot off the ground and tap your toes on the ground in front of you. Repeat with the other foot.
Tips for preventing ankle weakness
There are a number of things you can do to help prevent ankle weakness, including:
- Wear supportive shoes: Shoes that provide good support can help to reduce the stress on the ankles.
- Warm up before exercise: Warming up before exercise helps to prepare the muscles and ligaments for activity.
- Stretch after exercise: Stretching after exercise helps to improve flexibility and range of motion.
- Avoid activities that put stress on the ankles: If you have a history of ankle injuries, avoid activities that put a lot of stress on the ankles, such as running and jumping.
If you have any concerns about ankle weakness, be sure to see a doctor or physical therapist. They can help you to determine the cause of your weak ankles and develop a treatment plan to improve your strength and stability.