By: Stephanie Ruopp
Do you ever consider the importance of mobility in your ankles?
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give it much thought. It’s something you simply take for granted.
Unless – or until – that mobility becomes compromised in some way.
At that point, you understand just how crucial it is to keep your ankles moving and functioning in a healthy way.
It makes no sense to wait until that happens though. You can make ankle mobility a part of your fitness goals.
Keep Focus on the Importance of Mobility in Your Ankles
Ankle mobility is more than just being able to move your feet. It’s vital to whole body health.
During the cold winter months, it’s all too easy to forget about your feet -imprisoned in boots as they are. Such footwear is especially detrimental to freely moving the joints of the ankle.
But with warmer weather coming, you can focus on those joints once again. After all, moving those joints is key to their continued functioning.
A little work on improving flexion in your feet can go a long way. In fact, it can help you avoid injuries in the knees, hips and lower back.
That’s why maintaining healthy ankle mobility is a focus in Pilates.
How the Ankle Works 101
The ankle is a hinge joint. It’s able to move through one plane of motion called the sagittal plane. Within this plane, there are two movements the ankle executes – plantar flexion and dorsiflexion.
Plantar flexion happens when you point your toes. You’ll see this commonly in both Pilates, as well as ballet. There’s a deep stretch across the top of the foot in this case.
On the flip side, dorsiflexion happens when the foot is flexed. If you were to stand on the ground with the heels rooted and then lift the ball of the foot away from the earth, this would be dorsiflexion.
While both are important, dorsiflexion is the primary focus when it comes to maintaining ankle mobility. That’s because the action of dorsiflexion allows for the shin (the tibia) to move forward, relative to the position of the foot.
And why is that important?
Because such movement is crucial for correct body positioning, as well as efficient production and application of force. And if the movement can’t be executed properly, the feet will begin to over pronate.
Soon other areas of the body will compensate.
The Problem with Pronation
The foot’s main job is to absorb impact and distribute shock. In doing so, there is some natural pronation that occurs.
Meanwhile, it is the objective of the ankle joint to ensure that a foot doesn’t experience overpronation.
But when someone doesn’t have enough ankle flexion, here’s what happens:
1. The lack of flexion will cause the foot to begin to over pronate just during a regular gait pattern.
2. Over pronation creates muscle imbalances in the lower leg. This can cause tightness which will further limit ankle mobility.
3. There is also a tendency for the knee to rotate internally. When this happens, the patella (knee cap) doesn’t track correctly and can lead to wear and tear of the cartilage in the knee.
4. Damage to the knee is going to affect high impact activities like running and could lead to the onset of hip dysfunction. And once the hip is impacted, the next stop is the spine.
All of that from just a lack of ankle mobility.
How Is Your Ankle Mobility?
Wondering the status of your ankle mobility?
There are a few things you can do get a baseline feel for how well your ankles are doing:
Perform a basic air squat a few times with someone watching you. Ask them to notice if your heels routinely come off the ground. If so, that’s a good sign that there are some mobility issues.
Another way to test your ankle mobility is to stand up straight with your feet together and lift the ball of your foot off the ground – one foot at a time. Can you do this with little to no movement in the rest of the body? If so, you’ve got good ankle mobility.
Still another method is to face a wall, kneel down on one knee and step your other foot forward toward the wall. Line up the planted front foot 5 inches from the wall and lean in towards the wall while keeping your heel on the ground. If the kneecap can touch the wall from that distance, your mobility is good.
Finally, you can always seek an assessment on your ankle mobility from a qualified Pilates instructor. There are a number of movements during Pilates that can help to assess and improve ankle mobility.
Keep Your Ankles Strong and Healthy
Now that you recognize the importance of mobility in your ankles, it might be time to make it a focus in your fitness goals.
After all, there’s a strong correlation between motor control and ankle mobility. So don’t take it for granted. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you maintain ankle mobility for a healthier life.