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Improve your hiking ankle stability with three easy physical therapy exercises

Three physical therapy exercises for ankle stability while hiking in the Washington, DC area are dynamic single leg balances, calf raises, and four-way ankle stretches.

Taking advantage of the great outdoors in the Washington, DC area is a fantastic way to spend the winter months. Hiking allows you to explore nature, get some fresh air, exercise and socialize with friends from a safe social distance, and to get in some fitness. But doing the right physical therapy to prepare yourself for strenuous hikes can make all the difference in your hiking enjoyment!

Depending on the terrain of your hikes and the distance of your hikes it can be difficult on your legs and ankles. In order to prevent any injuries during your hikes, there are a few physical therapy exercises you can start to incorporate into your daily routine. These phyiscal thearpy exercises are quick and will help improve ankle strength and your balance.

  1. Dynamic single leg balance – Balance is important for daily living and very important for hiking as you are walking over uneven ground with lots of rocks and branches that could cause you to get tripped up. Single leg balance can be done anywhere, including while standing in line waiting to get into the store, while standing during a conference call or zoom meeting, or even while petting your pet. To perform, stand on one leg and with the opposite leg point to different points on the ground. Adding in the movement of the non-stance leg adds a more challenging component.
  2. Calf raises – Calf raises are a great exercise to get your calves ready for the increase demand placed on them during a hike. To perform this physical therapy exercise, stand near a wall and place your hands on the wall for stability. Then come as high up on your toes as your can and slowly lower your heels back down to the floor. If you need more of a challenge, you can come up onto toes and then lift one foot off the floor and slowly lower yourself back to the floor with one foot. This is also a great exercise to perform throughout the day when taking breaks from working from home.
  3. 4 way ankle – This exercise requires you to have access to a resistance band. This exercise is great for strengthening all the motions done at the ankle. As the name hints at, there are four directions you will move your ankle in. Placing the resistance band around the ball of your foot the four motions you will perform are as follows:
    1. Plantar flexion – Point your foot down as if you are pressing on a gas pedal.
    2. Dorsiflexion – Bring your toes up towards the sky, you may feel a stretch in the calf.
    3. Inversion – Move your toes towards your other foot.
    4. Eversion – Move your toes out towards the side.

These exercises can be performed everyday once a day and will get your ankle strong for your next hike! If you experience any pain or have concerns about your hiking balance or strength, feel free to give us a call or make an appointment online here on our website. We have physical therapists who can help you at our downtown location between Dupont Circle and Farragut Square, or at our Navy Yard location near to Capitol Hill.