Body Weight Foot and Ankle Exercises


By Rick Morris


The two major lower leg muscles involved in running are the gastrocnemius and soleus, which are primarily ankle extensor muscles. They provide much of the force when you run. But there are many other muscles in your lower leg that provide another very important purpose. They stabilize your foot and ankle. Your feet go through a lot of motion when you are running. They pronate (roll to the inside), supinate (roll to the outside), dorsiflex (pull your toes up toward your lower leg) and plantar flex ( toes down position). There are also some rotary motions involved.

The stabilizing muscles in your lower leg are under a lot of stress during a normal running stride. If your lower leg muscles are strong and properly conditioned they can handle that stress with no problem. Unfortunately, many runners have weak lower leg muscles for two reasons. They have not had the proper conditioning and the high tech shoes they have been wearing are so supportive that their lower leg muscles never need to work hard. The result - poor lower leg conditioning and a higher incidence of running injuries. This series of exercises are designed to improve your lower leg strength, increase your performance and raise your injury resistance level.
























Basic Level


Alphabet Drill - All you need to perform this drill is your A,B,C’s. This is a very simple beginning level exercise that will give you a surprisingly strong burn. This exercise is a great starting point in building the strength in your lower legs.


Towel Pull - I know this is supposed to be an equipment free strength training guide, but you will need a towel for this one. Sorry about that! This is a very good exercise for your plantar fascia.


Intermediate Level


Heel Walking - You always want to avoid heel striking when you run but in this case you want to stay on your heels. This exercise will help strengthen your anterior shin muscles and reduce your chances of suffering from many shin splint type injuries.


Lateral Foot Walk - You may look just a bit silly when you perform this one but just think of all the good it’s doing you. This exercise will strengthen your lower legs and your lateral foot agility and strength.


Medial Foot Walk - This exercise should always be performed at the same time as the lateral foot walk. You always want to keep your muscles in balance.


Box Drill - This is a common agility drill used for many sports  that is great for improving your lower leg strength. You don’t need an actual box, just use an imaginary one. It will make this a  mental exercise as well as a physical one.


Barefoot Strides - This is not only highly effective at increasing lower leg strength but it also feels great. Running barefoot forces your foot to work the way it was intended. It will use and strengthen all of the stabilizing muscles in your lower leg.


Advanced Level


Lateral Hill Drill - A more advanced drill for improving lateral foot strength. You don’t need any equipment for this one but you will need to find an appropriate hill.


Bench Drops - A advanced exercise that will do wonders for preventing shin splints and related injuries. Don’t attempt this one until you have adequately strengthened your lower leg muscles with the basic and intermediate level exercises. This one places a lot of strength building stress on your anterior shin muscles.



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