Trail runners: How to build bulletproof ankles

img_7800How is it that seasoned trail runners can seemingly glide across the most technical of trails, without looking where they are going and not hit a rock, tree or other runners along the way? It’s the same way we can walk down stairs at night when the lights are off……. Proprioception. describes Proprioception as “the body’s ability to sense movement within joints and joint position. This ability enables us to know where our limbs are in space without having to look. It is important in all everyday movements but especially so in complicated sporting movements, where precise coordination is essential. This coordinated movement is a result of the normankle-sprain-ligsal functioning of the proprioceptive system.”

A good proprioception system can turn a tentative runner into a confident, aggressive, controlled landslide of a runner. And the good news is we can train this system.

Some of the kinds of proprioception training include;

-Balancing exercises

-Strengthening exercises

-Closed eye exercises

-Plyometric movements and drills

We have put together a list of do-it-yourself proprioception strengthening exercises to help with ankle strength/stability to help us tackle the most uneven trail terrain and keep us upright.

Balance Exercises

Single-Leg Balancing
Balance on one foot for 1 minute with your hands on your hips, then switch sides. To make it more difficult, close your eyes.

Single-Leg Hops
On one foot, hop forward, stabilise, and hop backwards. Keep your hands on your hips the entire time. Repeat hopping backwards and to each side, then switch legs. Complete 10 repetitions in each direction.

Single-Leg Squats
With all of your weight on one leg, maintain balance while performing 10 single-leg squats on each side with your hands on your hips.

Single-Leg Reaches
On one foot, bend the weight-bearing leg slightly as you point your toes on your other foot and reach forward, to the sides, and backwards. Keep your hands on your hips. Repeat 10 times and switch sides.

We can workout using a  Thera-band, which can be purchased from most sports stores. These portable, soft, elastic bands allow strength building resistance using the elasticity of the band.

Use the below diagrams and video to perform 3 sets of 20 movements in each direction.


the video

Or if you want a bit more stimulation and challenge you could always try a balance board like one of these:



By regularly incorporating these exercises into our training, we may help to improve our proprioception system, strength, trail ability and confidence and our resilience to injury. Now let’s get out there and #getitdone

Happy trail running



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