FEET & ANKLE ROUTINE
Stiff ankles as well as high ankle mobility can harm you if you are an endurance athlete. Below are some exercises which can help increase mobility (if you are on the stiff side) or strengthen your weak joints if you suffer from joint laxity. But before I tackle that let me briefly identify the primary role and the function of the feet & ankles.
- Your feet are essential for locomotion, they anchor your body’s weight to the ground and can perform these movements: rotation, eversion, inversion.
- The ankle is a stability joint which keeps you in equilibrium when standing or walking. The ankle movements are plantarflexion and dorsiflexion.
- The various foot movements are controlled by tendons like the plantar fascia and and the Achilles tendon which are instrumental for walking, running and moving up on your toes.
- All tendons are held by ligaments whose role is to stabilize the foot. The medial and lateral ligaments around the ankle are such key ligaments.
https://youtu.be/bfBZ3xQjN7w the link illustrates the 1st four points
- seated, knees touching the floor, circle your feet inward and outward
- plantarflexion - seated, knees touching the floor, move the foot down towards the floor
- dorsiflexion - seated, knees touching the floor, move the foot towards the body
- seated, knees touching the floor, keep knees and ankles together, turn your feet outward and let your soles touch
- wiggle toes
- plantar fascia and Achilles tendon stretch - stand with the ball of your foot on the edge of a stool, a treadmill, or stairs and perform an eccentric dorsiflexion allowing your heel to drop keeping your knee straight until you feel a stretch; repeat with the other leg.
- Place a towel on the floor and pull it in with your toes
- active dorsiflexion pushing against a wall (for resistance) try to bring your leg closer to the wall while keeping the knee straight
- active plantarflexion pushing your toes into the floor from a seated position.
- dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, eversion and inversion moves seated with a resistance band around your foot pulling the band in the opposite direction of the foot. The move always starts with the foot in neutral position i.e. centered or aligned with the leg, toes facing the ceiling. .
STATIC STABILITY to strengthen your lateral and medial stabilizer ligaments
- balance on two feet with heel raised as high as possible
- balance standing on one foot heel raised, knee straight, body and spine erect, core in brace, gluteus tight, stretch your arms in front of you (you can hold a ball or a dumbbell) this will shift your general center of mass and further engages your stabilizers.
- balance standing on a disk or wobble board, keep your knee straight and move the board in a circular form.
- stand on a bossu or a mini trampoline on one leg and have someone toss a medicine ball at you from different angles (sideways; overhead; below your waist; at your chest) catch it while still on one foot.
- balance on one leg, close your eyes and pretend your free leg is a pen and write with it an imaginary alphabet without touching the floor. If you have problems staying in balance start initially near a desk or a chair lean on it as you need to, until you are able to do it non-aided.
I normally do this routine before my runs after a short warm up. The last 2 moves help open up and condition my hip joints.
- walk on toes (raising heels as high as possible)
- walk on heels
- walk in eversion
- walk in inversion
- walk normal but with toes in extension (toes off the floor)
- walk normal but with toes in flexion (toes crunched in as if you are holding the towel as in the 1st photo of this post)
- Walk in classical ballet’s 1st position, or like a duck :)
- Walk with feet parallel to your body, if that feels hard limit the move to a pigeon walk (toes in) ~ MFS