To understand the importance of ankle mobility, we need to take a step back and look at the body joint-by-joint. From the ground up, at a basic level, the body is an alternating stack of stable and mobile joints. Lowest to the ground are the ankle joints (mobile), followed by the knee joints (stable), followed by the hips (mobile), then the lower back (stable) and so on. Limited ankle mobility directly affects how well the other joints function.
The longer this dysfunction remains in place they begin to lose their effectiveness in controlling this faulty alignment and now it is just a matter of time for something worse to develop. This is where you see hip problems like Piriformis Syndrome develop and lower back problems from poor hip control.
- Feet – The feet have a tendency to being lazy, and easily losing strength and motor control. From poor footwear, to sitting too much, and even the lack of barefoot walking, the feet need exercises to make them stronger and more stable.
- Ankle – The ankle tends to develop stiffness very easily and needs more focus on mobility and flexibility.
- Knee – The knee like the feet becomes weak and sloppy easily, (VMO for instance completely shuts down with as little as 10ml of fluid present). This in turn creates severe knee injuries and if left untreated eventually chronic stiffness in an attempt to stabilize it. Stability and strength work is needed for this joint.
- Hip – This joint is often the cause of many problems. The hips have a tendency towards stiffness and as a result benefit from flexibility and mobility work.
- Lumbar Spine – The lumbar spine needs stability to prevent unwanted flexion or extension. As you continue up the body each main joint is the opposite to the one below and above. This is very important when trying to work out what is going on with lower limb injuries in finding the original cause.
I have attached video below a tell tale sign of ankle restriction is the if person has restricted dorsiflexion (pulling your toes back towards your shin). You can easily assess your own ankle mobility by performing a basic air squat a few times and have someone watch you. A telltale sign of poor mobility is if your heels routinely come off the ground. Stand straight with your feet together. Can you lift the ball of your foot off the ground without moving your body?
The chain reactions of problems and new injuries begin to develop the minute you need to execute any movement that will require your legs. The body will need to compensate at other joints in order to move due to the loss of ankle mobility. Dorsiflexion is something we all tend to take for granted in daily life and in sport and trust me you can ask the people with walking impairments how hard it is to walk when your foot does not do this. Every time you squat, lunge, and move your legs for almost any daily activity you require it. In sports even more so with high powered multi-directional movement patterns (eg, tennis, football, basketball etc), requiring high levels of ankle mobility to be able to move in several directions all in a split second, while maintaining perfect balance and control. The risk is much higher for this reason which is why any sportspeople who suffers recurring ankle ligament injury must have a strong focus on regaining optimal mobility as fast as they can.
The common chain reaction from loss of ankle mobility is often seen easily with the feet moving into excessive pronation, otherwise known as flat feet. As the person begins to try and move with this excessive pronation and flat feet, a chain reaction of new problems is beginning to surface. Injuries like plantar fasciitis and achilles strain are common at this stage
The next step results in the knee tending to turn inwards on the tibia, producing an exaggerated quadriceps angle (Q angle) that now exposes the knee joint to injury. This is where patella tracking, ITB friction syndrome and ACL injuries happen.
Lastly the poor position of the lower limb then in turn creates strength deficits in glute strength and control at the hip. The glutes provide external rotation of the femur, but like the muscles in the feet and the VMO are a phasic muscle that is prone to weakness and laziness. The longer this dysfunction remains in place they begin to lose their effectiveness in controlling this faulty alignment and now it is just a matter of time for something worse to develop. This is where you see hip problems like Piriformis Syndrome develop and lower back problems from poor hip control.
Although ankle mobility is fairly difficult to improve. but with myofascial release exercise (i.e., foam rolling) to improve tissue quality, a static stretch and another movement that reinforces optimal range of motion. As you see my clients noticeable improvements after less then 20 minutes of myofascia therapy and stretches.
You can’t just do a few stretches and miraculously expect to fix your balky ankles. Instead, he recommends a comprehensive approach like a myofascial release exercise (i.e., foam rolling) to improve tissue quality, a static stretch and another movement that reinforces optimal range of motion.
Whether you have excellent ankle mobility or need work, it’s important to maintain ankle joint health. If you passed the mobility test above, perform the Ankle Reset Series once per week after a workout. If you failed the test, do it twice per week.
Please, contact me if you have any questions about ankle mobility or any body mechanical issues you might have.
Cheers to our healthy body!
GH Fitness LLC – Fitness Geeny