A Tough Mudder will challenge you with wall climbs, mud crawls, and much, much more: rocks, roots, and adrenaline all add to the excitement. But all those tricky footfalls will also challenge your ankles to stand up—literally—and not roll over on you.
The best way to protect your ankles? Keep them strong and healthy with these tips.
1. Heads Up
“The most important thing you can do to avoid a rolled ankle is the simplest,” advises Claudia Chapel, owner of the Muscular Therapy Center in New York who has worked with the USA Track & Field and Olympic teams. “Pay attention! People get distracted when they’re training and racing, so it’s crucial to be mindful of where you’re putting your foot.”
2. Shoe Sense
Before you head out (with your eyes open!) you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing sturdy, protective shoes. “A Tough Mudder calls for a tough shoe,” Chapel says. “And so does just about everything else! Solid, supportive shoes keep your feet—and everything else—healthy.”
Want extra support and stabilization for your ankles? Strap on an ACE™ Brand Adjustable Ankle Support, too. Made with soft, breathable materials, its adjustable straps allow you to customize your level of support and compression. The convenient design can be worn on either ankle—or pick up two for double duty!
3. Tough Tootsies
Another great way to prevent a rolled ankle is to start from the ground up, with strong feet. Chapel recommends the following mobility exercises, especially when “you’re really, really focused on them—not while you’re watching TV.”
· Calf raises/heel drops
Stand with your feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart. Rise up onto your toes and balance for a moment, then come back down. Then find a stair and stand with your heel just off the edge; slowly lower your heel toward the ground. Repeat each exercise 10 times, and work up to three sets.
· Marble drop
Put an empty shoebox on the floor, and place the lid face up next to the box. Place 10 marbles in the empty box, and move them into the lid—one at a time—with your toes. This exercise probably won’t elevate your heart rate or make you sweat, but it will build muscle in your feet. Repeat three times with each foot.
· Lateral raises
Sit in a chair and wrap a resistance band around the ball of your foot, holding the ends in one hand. Straighten your leg, then turn your foot out to the side, then back to the center, and finally in toward your other leg. Work up to three sets of 10 with each foot.
4. Stretch Out
Enhance your flexibility by stretching after every workout, when your muscles are warm. Chapel recommends a gentle calf stretch: Stand barefoot, facing a wall. Place one of your running shoes upside down on the floor, and put your toes up on the sole. Gently lean toward the wall to stretch your calf and ankle; hold for 30 seconds.
5. Cold, Warm, Cold
And if you do roll an ankle, be good to it! Chapel advises dunking your foot in ice water for a few minutes, and then into a warm salt bath, followed by another icy plunge. “It’s way easier to do it with just one foot than with your whole body,” she says. Afterward, an ACE™ Brand Adjustable Ankle Support can help stabilize your ankle and foot so that you can safely get back to your mud-lovin’ ways.
Daphne Matalene is an NYC-based runner and coach. Her feet are strong, but her calves are always tight.