Build Bulletproof Ankles With These 10 Exercises!

by | Jan 25, 2019 | 0 comments

Want Bulletproof Ankles?

If you love to get out and cover miles or plan to walk border to border, then having strong ankles will help you keep on the move. I’ve assembled 10 of my favorite exercises that you can implement into your current routine to help make sure your miles are trouble-free.

These are in no particular order, just mix and match to your liking. This can be done as a routine in itself, or just use the ones that seem most helpful for you.

Pro Tip: Mute video music before uploading.

Bonus: If you love Led Zeppelin as I do, feel free to keep the volume on. If you do not like Led Zeppelin, then I cannot help you.


Figure 8 Hops

I start by putting some blue painters tape on the floor, but you could use string or whatever is handy.

Figure 8 hops will help strengthen the muscles in the feet and toughen ligaments as well as tendons. It will also challenge coordination and give you a little cardio blast at the same time.

Start with the two-foot method and then progress to the one-foot version, also shown below. I like to start slow and then work up the speed.

  • REPS: Perform for either 20 seconds or 20 reps
  • SETS: 3x regardless of reps or time.
  • FREQUENCY: 3-5x per week
  • Same for single leg version below


Single Leg Version


Lunge Matrix

These should be done on both the right and left legs. If this seems pretty easy then grab some dumbbells, or throw on a pack. You can self select the distance your foot reaches out and the depth you go to. These are fairly shallow lunges in the video so I could (mostly) keep them in the screen.

Lunges are great for balance, knees and foot strength as well as coordination.

  • REPS: n/a
  • SETS: 5x both directions, switching feet.
  • FREQUENCY: 3-5x per week


Bosu Balance

First off, don’t feel like you need to have a Bosu ball for this. Standing on a pillow or cushion will work pretty well in place of a Bosu.

These are fantastic for overall balance and coordination. In addition, they are wonderful for foot strength as well as tendon and ligament strength.

Bonus for going barefoot, which is more effective for balance vs wearing a shoe.

  • REPS: Perform for either 20 seconds
  • SETS: 3x
  • FREQUENCY: 3-5x per week


3-Way Calf Raise

Grab some hand weights or put a pack on for added resistance. These will blast the calf muscles, so be warned!  First set the feet point straight ahead, the second set is feet pointed out and the third set is feet pointed inward. During the inward set, you may need to adjust to keep your heels “out” as they may drift inward as you perform reps.

I am using 25lb kettlebells for reference.

  • REPS: 15 regular speed followed by 10 fast
  • SETS: 1x
  • FREQUENCY: 3-5x per week


Agility Ladder Drills

Again, no need for fancy toys here; tape, string, floor tile lines, or just imagination will do the trick here. I typically do the full length of the ladder, but for the video, I shortened it up to keep it in the screen.

These are just some really basic moves to help with coordination, strength, and connective tissue strength. There are numerous drills on YouTube or just make your own. The idea is light plyometric (jump) training to help build strong legs and feet.

  • REPS: 3x for each pattern down and back (or 20 feet)
  • SETS: 2x
  • FREQUENCY: 2-3x per week


Jump Rope

Pretty simple tool but darn effective for training strong calf muscles, ankles and cardio at the same time. Mix up your jump pattern by trying single leg jumps, running in place, or jump rope backward. I typically go for time. This makes a great warm-up for workouts too. If you don’t have a jump rope, just pretend and to the hops anyway.

  • REPS: 2 minutes, rest for 1 minute then repeat
  • SETS: 5x
  • FREQUENCY: 3-5x per week


3-Way Lateral Step Down

I like these a lot for ankle motion, quad strength, and hip strength. Take care that your knee doesn’t drift inward during the exercise. If it does, lower the step height and really work on knee control.

I like to focus on pushing through the heel as I stand back up, not the toes. For the forward position, I tap my heel; for the side and backward steps, I land with a soft – flat foot tap.

This step is about 7 inches for reference.

  • REPS: 15
  • SETS: 2x
  • FREQUENCY: 3-5x per week


Soleus Strength

The Soleus is a deep muscle that lives just behind the shin bone. Together with the bigger calf muscle, it forms the Achilles tendon. This is a more specific exercise for the Soleus instead of the calf raise we did earlier, and you should feel the different muscles at work with each.

Place a weight above your knee for resistance and focus on getting the heel low during this exercise to work more of the muscle. Use a barbell, kettlebell, niece or nephew for resistance.

I am using a 45lb kettlebell for reference.

  • REPS: 15 regular speed followed by 10 fast reps
  • SETS: 2x
  • FREQUENCY: 3-5x per week


Short Foot Exercise

This exercise strengthens key muscles that maintain your foot arch.

Sit in a chair with your barefoot on the floor. Keep your toes relaxed as you contract your foot muscles to raise your arch. This exercise is subtle and may take some practice at first. Aim to keep the toes flat and avoid curling them as you raise your arch.

  • REPS: 12-15, holding each contraction for 5 seconds
  • SETS: 3x
  • FREQUENCY: 3-5x per week

For added difficulty, try it while standing.


Well, there you have it! Ten great exercises that will give you robust ankles for miles of happy hiking. Feel free to reach out with any questions!

Download the free article on ways that you can improve your odds of being successful during your through hike!

You can reach me with any injury issues, past or present that you feel will impact your hike. Training questions are also welcome – I am happy to help!

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Lee Welton