8 Exercises to Get Rid of Cankles

Thick ankles are commonly referred to as cankles. They got their odd-sounding slang nickname because it looks like there's not differentiation between the calf and ankle. The term was then popularized in the 2001 movie "Shallow Hal," intended as an insult to body shame an overweight woman. Unfortunately, the term stuck.

If you're looking to get rid of you cankles, you can't spot reduce, but you can trim down all over. (Image: Luca Sage/Taxi/GettyImages)

But what if you want to get rid of them to show off slimmer, shapelier ankles? First, it's important to know what causes them. Once you know that, there are dietary changes you can make and exercises you can do to reduce body fat and build definition all over — and specifically starting with your lower body.

What Causes Cankles?

There are four main reasons people develop cankles. First is genetic predisposition. Everyone gains and loses weight according to their genetics, and while you can eat healthy and exercise, you ultimately have no little over which areas drop the fat first. That said, embrace your body and DNA for all its pros and cons.

The second cause is related to the first and that's being overweight. If you're storing excess fat all over, chances are that some of that fat has also settled around your ankles. If that's the case, you'll need to work to lose weight in general (sorry, you can't spot reduce).

Another reason you may notice thicker ankles is fluid retention. If your diet is heavy in sodium, you body may be retaining water. Try cutting out processed foods high in sodium.

And the last reason is pregnancy. Especially later into pregnancy, women start to notice swelling of the ankles due to poor circulation. Generally, this is normal and will reverse itself after pregnancy. Don't expect an overnight difference, but returning to your pre-pregnancy activities (when cleared by a doctor) can help return your ankles to their previous size.

How to Slim Down Cankles

Even though you can't spot reduce for instantly slimmer ankles (sorry), there are things you can do to reduce body fat all over, which will eventually make its way to your ankles (depending on your genetics).

Weight and fat loss is, at its core, a relatively simple equation: Reduce caloric intake by eating nutrient-dense foods, incorporate more cardiovascular exercise into your routine and do some sort of strength-building exercises.

When it comes to your ankles, if you're looking for cardio and strength exercises to do in addition to a healthy diet, here are some of the best options:

Stair Calf Raise

  1. Stand on the edge of a stair with your feet hip-width apart, holding onto the railing.
  2. Slowly raise your heel several inches from the top of the step so that you're on your tip toes.
  3. Hold this position for a second, and then slowly lower your heel back down past the edge of the step.

Single-Leg Calf Raise

  1. Stand on the floor and balance on one leg. Put your hands on your hips for balance or brace yourself against a wall.
  2. Lift your heel off the floor a few inches, balancing on your tip toe.
  3. Slowly lower back down and repeat.

Single-Leg Pillow Balance

  1. Stand on a throw pill while balancing on one leg. The instability will force the muscles and tendons in your ankle to help keep your body balanced.
  2. Hold for 30 seconds or as long as you can and switch legs.

Plie Squat With Heel Raise

  1. Start with your feet wider than hip-distance apart.
  2. Squat down and at the bottom of the squat, lift your heels several inches off the floor.
  3. Hold for a second before lowering your heels, then standing back up.

Narrow Squat With Heel Raise

  1. Start with your feet a little narrower than shoulder-distance apart.
  2. Squat down and at the bottom of the squat, lift your heels several inches off the floor.
  3. Hold for a second before lowering your heels, then standing back up.

Resistance Band Ankle Exercise

  1. Sit in a chair with a door to your right side.
  2. Loop a band around the ball of your right foot and secure the ends in the door so they do not move.
  3. Keeping your heel on the ground and your knee stationary, move your right foot inward to the left and slowly back out again.
  4. Repeat the exercise on your left leg.

Nordic Curl

  1. Kneel and secure your feet under a sturdy object, like a couch, that won't move. You can also have someone hold the backs of your ankles if that is more convenient.
  2. Cross your arms over your chest and slowly lean forward toward the ground.
  3. When you are unable to lower any further without losing control, contract your leg muscles and return to the starting position.

Leg Press

  1. Sit in a leg press machine that allows you to recline to a 45-degree angle (halfway between sitting straight up and lying completely flat).
  2. Place one foot on the foot plate so that it's in line with your knee, and extend your leg so that it is held completely straight. Place the other foot on the floor or hold it in the air.
  3. Without allowing your knee to bend, rise up onto your tip toes and then slowly lower your heel down to the plate.

Jumping Jacks

  1. Start standing, and then jump your feet out to the side a few feet.
  2. Simultaneously, raise your arms above your head.
  3. Next, jump your feet together as you bring your arms back to your side.

Jumping Rope

  • Grab a jump rope (or just pretend) and skip rope for several minutes at a time.

Walking

  • It seems so simple, but the more you walk throughout the day, the more calories you burn. Plus, it's a low-impact way that also tones your lower body.
  • For an added challenge, try walking uphill.

Jogging

Not only does running help burn the fat that can accumulate all over the body (including your ankles), it's also another good way to activate the gastrocnemius muscle because of how active your gastroc is each time your foot pushes off to propel your body forward.

Additional reporting from Tim Petrie

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