Ankle sprains are a common injury for serious athletes, weekend hikers, and everyday walkers. A simple misstep off a curb or stumble over a rough patch on the trail can roll your ankle enough to stretch or tear the tough bands of tissue (ligaments) that hold your ankle bones in place — and now you have a sprain.

Because one sprain often puts you at risk for a repeat injury in the future, Dr. David B. Glover and our team of foot and ankle specialists here at Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute take ankle sprains seriously.

Our top-rated specialists take great care in designing personalized treatment and rehab plans that are tailored to fit the extent of your injury, your activity level, and other pertinent factors. However, they’re happy to provide five general tips for strengthening your ankle after a sprain.

1. Follow directions

The treatment goal with any ankle sprain is to give your injured ligaments time to heal, and then put them through a strengthening/rehab program that helps prevent future injury. Each step in your plan is closely connected to the one before, and much of the work is done at home between office visits. Doing too much too soon or too little too late can negatively impact the outcome.

2. Move your foot

Depending on the severity of your sprain, we typically ask you to start moving your foot, and by extension your ankle, within a day or so of the injury. These non-weightbearing, range-of-motion exercises help keep your ankle joint moving freely. To keep things balanced, put both ankles through the routine.

We’ll give you precise instructions on which exercises to perform and how often, but a favorite is tracing the alphabet with your toe. Lift your foot off the ground and “write” the alphabet in the air three times with each foot. This exercise moves your ankle in all directions.

3. Stretch like you mean it

Many of the stretching exercises we recommend are intended to prevent your Achilles tendon from tightening up. The Achilles connects your heel bone to your calf and can quickly become painfully constricted, which interferes with your ankle strength. So it’s important to stretch as directed.

4. Add in the strengthening

When the time is right, usually when you’re able to stand without increased pain or swelling, we’ll ask you to begin exercises that are designed to build strength. The timing for these types of exercises is critical since they place a measured amount of strain on your ankle. So again, following directions carefully provides the best outcome.

5. Find your balance

Balancing exercises help restore the balance you may have lost by favoring your ankle during your recovery. They also help improve your ankle control. Start these after you can stand without pain. Try a simple one first: Stand in a doorway and place your hands on the door frame to steady yourself. Lift your healthy foot slightly off the ground. Start with balancing all your weight on your injured foot for 30 seconds and move up to 60.

Sticking with your rehab program and continuing the stretching, strengthening, and other exercises we provided — even after your ankle has healed — can help prevent future sprains.

If you’re having problems with ankle pain or repeat injuries, schedule a visit at Mountain View Foot & Ankle Institute. Call our office in South Ogden, Utah, or request an appointment online.