Your workouts can actually be enhanced with stronger feet and ankles. It should come as no surprise that workouts can be cut short quickly with a simple twist of the ankle or misstep of the foot. Often these injuries show up from a lack of strength and support in the ankles and feet. Did you know the majority of balance issues stem from weak ankles? Think about it. If you just recently tore a ligament in your ankle and tried to balance on the one leg, it’s going to be tough! Why? Because your ankle is extremely weak and injured. If you’ve never torn any ligaments or sprained an ankle, thank your lucky stars. Next, realize that even though you stand a better chance of maintaining balance and control when you exercise and workout, you still run the risk of losing ankle strength through muscle imbalances or a lack of mobility and stability in the feet and ankles. Anyone’s feet and ankles can get weak from a lack of use, regardless of previous injuries. If you have hurt your ankle or foot, hopefully a good physical therapy program got you back to a good, strong working condition.

So how can your workout strength be enhanced from having strong feet and ankles? Balance was mentioned earlier. Having good balance allows your other muscles and joints work properly. Strong feet give you good support when you walk, so your back can thank you for that. If you are strolling along on bum feet, the pressure of improper impact is going to affect your back in more ways than you realize. Stronger feet can also help you run faster. Being able to stay on your toes and really get that awesome push off will help you run your best.

Weak ankles and feet aren’t entirely your fault. The shoes you wear do one bad thing and one good thing – and they are both the same thing: keep your feet covered all day. This is good for hygiene and protection, but your feet aren’t asked to do a whole lot during your daily activities. Your feet are completely supported and swaddled inside the shoes and hardly ever used. Obviously this affects your ankle strength, too, as your ankles really don’t do much stabilizing at all.

Here are some tips to strengthen your feet and ankles to make sure you are getting the most out of every workout.

Ditch the braces. Ankles braces are fine if you are nursing an injury, but only wear them during a game or during a workout (if your doctor instructs). Otherwise, let your feet and ankles breathe and allow them to use and strengthen the tiny stabilizer muscles as they were intended to be used.

Balance. Without any braces on, work on balancing on one leg. Lift the other leg to hip height and extend your arms out to your side. Practice until you can stabilize on each leg for a good minute. Repeat 3 times.

Isolate one leg. If you are doing a leg press or other weight-bearing strength training machine, lower the weight to little less than half your bilateral leg weight and lift with one leg at a time.

Practice your ABCs. When you wake up or before you go to bed, lift one leg and write the alphabet with your foot. You’ll be surprised how much your ankle starts to burn at about “J”.

Change directions. Try some side-stepping exercises or diagonal lunges to introduce some different angles to your feet and ankles.

Jump. Plyometric training like jump squats, jumping jacks, or lateral hops will train your feet to get used to impacting the ground. As your feet get stronger, your ankles and legs will get stronger and your workouts can become more powerful.

It’s obvious that strong feet and ankles really add a boost to your workout strength, so start working on their strength today!