4 Ways Dancers Can Get Stronger Ankles

Reviewed by Elaine Winslow-Redmond, MS, ATC, EMT, Rockettes' Director of Athletic Training and Wellness

Photo Credit: Kathrin Ziegler | Getty Images

Photo Credit: Kathrin Ziegler | Getty Images

An otherwise striking pose can be foiled by the dancer’s nemesis: wobbly ankles. Strong ankles and feet not only help improve your dance quality, but if the ankle musculature is strong, you’re able to withstand greater force before an injury is sustained.

From rising to the balls of your feet to drawing each letter of the alphabet with your pointed feet, here are some exercises to help strengthen your ankles:

Warm ‘Em Up!
A simple way to begin warming up the muscles in the lower leg and ankle is by drawing each letter of the alphabet with your pointed feet. You can do this while sitting on a table and dangling your lower legs off the edge of the table. This will help to increase the blood flow to the muscles of the lower leg.

Relevé
Rising to the balls of the feet is a great way to improve the overall strength and stability of the foot and lower leg. Practice rising and lowering the heels smoothly with control, making sure to maintain correct alignment with your weight between the first and second toe (metatarsals). Keep your knees straight and work towards 10-15 repetitions with both feet. Once you’ve mastered this move with two feet, you can challenge yourself by trying it with one foot. Again, work towards completing 10-15 repetitions on one foot and if successful, you will be dancing like a pro!

Use a Scarf
The muscles of the foot and ankle can also be strengthened with the help of a scarf. Lay the scarf on the floor in front of you. Place the foot on the scarf and use your toes to grab the scarf and pull it inward toward your heel until you have reached the end of the scarf. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions. You should also reverse the direction, starting inward and moving the towel outward. Do both directions with both feet.

Balance Like a Boss
This may seem obvious but balancing on one foot is a great way to strengthen ankles and train your proprioception.  Proprioception most simply is the awareness of the position of your body in terms of balance and equilibrium. Try to balance for up to a minute on one foot, then the other. If this is easy, challenge yourself by closing your eyes or by standing on a pillow. See if you can move you arms or your head while you maintain that balance.