Balance Exercises for Runners

Strengthen your feet, ankles, hips and glutes with these 4 balance exercises for runners.

This post in sponsored by prAna in partnership with FitApproach.


I spent the majority of 2015 in physical therapy from my partially torn FHL tendon and Posterior Tib Tendonitis. A huge part of my rehab was doing single leg exercises that focused on building up my ankle stability and balance. With a big toe that couldn’t even curl, it made even the little things, like balancing on one foot, difficult.

Balance exercises are huge for runners. If you think about it, running is essentially hopping on one leg over and over again. But it’s a little more graceful…hopefully. To build on your balance, you need to start from the ground up. The foot and ankle are your foundation. When you have a strong ankle you are less likely to be injured and much more likely to keep your balance under uneven surfaces. Your ankle never relaxes in running. It’s constantly working so you need it to be in tip top shape.

One of the orthopedic doctor’s that I saw last summer recommended I try Hoka’s. He’s a serious runner so I thought why not? At that point I would have done anything to run again.  So I bought a pair and they have been in my running shoe rotation along with my Saucony Guide’s and Triumphs. I will admit, I do like the cushioning. It’s funny, that even with all the cushioning, I still feel like I can feel the ground below me better than with other shoes. I know exactly if I’m heel or mid foot striking.

Last week, Amanda wrote a fantastic article for Competitor. But after reading Amanda’s article, I know that I can’t slack off on my balance training. It is one tool in my tool belt to running strong and injury free. Here are four balance exercises for runners that I are in my weekly rotation.

Toe Stand with Arms Overhead

This exercise is super basic but really makes me think about using my toes to help stabilize my balance. All you need to do is stand with your feet hip width apart and rise up onto your tip toes. Once there, raise your hands up overhead. Hold this posture for as long as you can without moving your feet to steady yourself. I try for 5-10 slow breaths. If you want to make it harder, close your eyes.

Toe Raise with arms overhead

Single Leg Balance on BOSU

The BOSU is great for building balance. If you don’t have a BOSU, any unstable surface will work. A pillow or couch cushion works great. To do: Stand on the center of the BOSU and raise the other leg off the ground. Be sure to not let your hip sink – they should be even. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds.

Single Leg Balance on BOSU Ball

Single Leg Dead Lift with Med Ball

This exercise makes me WORK. I have no problems with a regular dead lift but doing it single leg with a med ball takes concentration and so much balance. To do: Stand holding a med ball. Begin to lean forward with your upper body as your left leg lifts out behind you. Slowly lower the med ball and touch it to the ground. Return to starting position. Repeat 12-15 times before switching legs.

Single Leg Dead Lift w Med Ball

Single Leg Squat and Reach

If you are looking for an exercise that works your balance and fires up the hip and glutes, look no further. My PT had me to do this exercise with small cones to my left and right sides and one to the front. To do: Stand on one leg. Squat down and touch the floor (or cone if using) to your left side. Repeat the squat/touch sequence to the front and right side. Return to the left side repeating squat/touch. Traditionally, the opposite hand from the leg that is squatting down is used to touch the ground. However, my PT had me do it both ways. I think the same hand, same leg is much harder especially when you have to cross over. If this becomes to easy, you can progress to an unstable surface like a BOSU or foam pad.

Single Leg Squat and Reach

Note: I like to do all of these exercise without shoes to really make my feet work. With shoes, it’s way to easy to get “comfy” and not have my whole foot/ankle doing the work.

Switching gears from workout to workout clothing.

Last month, I had the opportunity to combine three of my favorite things  – yoga, prAna and an Instagram Challenge. How could I pass that up? I am loving my new prAna Prism Capri’s. It’s my third pair and I honestly want to buy every single color. Hands down the best capri for yoga, strength training and hanging out.

Learning how to do handstands lately. |

I’ve been a huge fan of prAna for a few years. I not only love the form and function of their clothing, but also how well made it is and with thought. They source their clothes from sustainably conscious material and energy sources and make sure that working conditions are good for all of their employees.

The cool thing with prAna gear is that you can breathe easier when you wear it. They have been using bluesign® systems since 2012 to make sure that the manufacturing of their products don’t contribute to air and water pollution. There is no use of harsh chemicals so their fabrics meet environmental and human safety standards.

Yoga in prAna |

You can check out all of prAna’s spring gear and get 15% off your total order when you enter code PSSS16HFM at checkout.

Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday for sweat inspiration!

Do you incorporate balance exercises into your training?

Do you own the same piece of workout gear in multiple colors because you love it so much?

19 comments on “Balance Exercises for Runners

  1. I could not agree more!! I used to teach a “functional strength” class and so many people would say afterward – “I had no idea my balance was so bad!” And I was like – when is the last time you stood on one foot?? But, they would improve very quickly and then see improvements in everything!! So, so important. Great post!

  2. Love all the exercises you mentioned, I incorporate them all the time and they really do make a difference! Pretty sure I need these capris, by the way! Thanks for the discount, might have to treat myself 😉

  3. Yes! Love these exercises and I’m definitely going to try that technique your PT taught you with using each hand in the reach exercise! I read that maximalist shoe article too and it also reminded me I need to up my balance work in strength training. Thanks for sharing these.

  4. I started adding more balance exercises into my training a few years ago when I was having some issues with muscle imbalances and such. My Physical therapist (also a Personal trainer) had me working hard on single leg and balance work. It definitely makes a difference!

  5. These are great exercises! And those PrAna capris look great on you. I try to incorporate single leg exercises, or even just stand on one leg at a time while doing stuff like cooking dinner. My PT taught me years ago when I had an ankle injury to sneak in balance training like that, and my family thinks it’s hilarious how I stand like a flamingo.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted..How I Improved My Fueling and Hydration for Racing {Part Two}My Profile

  6. These are such great balance exercises, and a great reminder that they can be really simple… you just need to fit them in. I’m working on these this year more than ever… don’t want to get hurt!

  7. YES!! Balance work is so important, right? It’s been a big part of my rotation right now (and I make my poor yoga students suffer through lots of balancing poses haha). It’s funny though because I feel the same way about the Hokas – I can kind of feel my feet and ground better despite all the cushioning.

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