Yesterday morning I had two clients in and with both I had cause to test their ankle mobility. Why? Well one was completely unable to get into a deep narrow squat with feet together, despite being able to achieve reasonable success with a standard air squat. Clearly hip mobility, although somewhat limited, wasn’t the main problem, so everything pointed to ankles as being the restriction. Sure enough one ankle was totally incapable of dorsiflexion leading to great instability on that side. Before him I had a runner suffering from heel pain – again lack of dorsiflexion was heavily implicated as playing a part at least.
So here are just two consequences of poor ankle range – inability to balance properly or squat to depth and inability to engage the mechanism of elastic recoil required to run, contributing to heel injury and long term inability to run without pain. The causes? Hard to say for sure, but wearing shoes with raised heels locks the ankles into perpetual plantar flexion, making it very difficult to get range in the opposite direction – this dorsiflexion is critical for runners so built up running shoes, whilst acting as a sticking plaster to manage shock in the short term, are crippling you more in the long term by causing this postural deviation. Other causes may include sitting for long periods.
Both clients also presented with little ability to flex both the knees and hips properly (again hyperextended knees and hips are a consequence of this problem) – we have tight fascia all the way up the front and side of the legs. So both knee and hip joints cannot function properly and will therefore be vulnerable as they cannot absorb the shock of hitting the ground properly. Because these are both locked out, it is necessary to tilt the pelvis forwards to retain balance in the lower body, which then causes the upper body to fall back to achieve counter balance and the head and shoulders tend to come forward, again to maintain position.
So not only have we created knee and hip vulnerability, but we also have a mechanism for a rounded lower back and rounded shoulders with resultant pain and injury potential. People in this position are often told to ‘strengthen the core’ but do you really think that doing a load of planks to get better abs is going to solve all these problems? The problem clearly stems from feet, ankles and probably shoes and the rest is just a natural consequence of this. Start by addressing feet, ankles and lower legs so you have a functional base of contact with the ground, because all stability, including core stability, clearly begins here!
Next time, some ways to work on this.
Do you have sufficient ankle mobility to function properly, whether you are an older person struggling to balance, a runner who is frequently injured, or somebody who likes to squat heavy? If not, your performance will be compromised and your injury risk increased, as you can see.
Contact David on 07504439555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.