4 Exercises to Build Trail-Worthy Ankle Strength

These moves will help you make an injury-free transition to lightweight hiking shoes without risking a sprain.

Photo: Maria Fuchs / Getty

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Four-way Resistance Band Stretch

Sit on a chair or the floor with your right leg straight, wrap a resistance band around your right foot and hold it in both hands. Maintaining resistance in the band, rotate your ankle inward and outward for one rep. Do one to three sets of 10-15 repetitions on each foot daily. Challenge yourself: Increase the resistance by shortening the band or switch to a higher resistance band to test your strength.

Alphabet Range of Motion Exercise

Sit on a chair, cross your right leg over your left and imagine your big toe is a writing instrument. Flex your ankle and begin tracing the letters of the alphabet from A-Z. Repeat on the opposite ankle and perform twice daily. Challenge yourself: Create a sling using a loop of 1-inch webbing and a 5-pound dumbbell. Hang the sling from the base of your toes to add resistance and trace the letters of the alphabet backwards.

Balance Leg Lifts

Tie a large resistance or elastic band into a loop and slip the loop onto the leg of a sturdy, four-legged chair. Stand alongside the chair and put your left foot inside the loop, move away from the chair so that there’s light tension in the loop (it shouldn’t give resistance, but shouldn’t flop around). Use the chair to steady yourself and cross your left foot in front of your right leg as far as the elastic permits. Do two sets of 15 to 20 repetitions on each leg. Challenge yourself: Add more resistance and increase the repetitions to 25 to 30 on each leg.

Calf Raises

Keeping your knees and back straight, stand with both legs shoulder width apart. Raise your heels up off the floor as high as you can and hold for 30 seconds. Return to the floor and repeat. Do 15 repetitions twice daily. Challenge yourself: Perform on a step with your heels unsupported. Allow your heels to drop below the level of the step without letting them touch the floor and slowly rise back up. Do three sets of 20.