What’s causing my lack of ankle mobility?
ankleHaving a good range of motion in our joints is something we all know by now to be a good thing for the health and longevity of our bodies. The ankle joint is no exception. In fact it might be one of the areas you want to focus on first and foremost when it comes to increasing your performance, or just living comfortably day to day.
Any time we are in motion we are relying on the ankle to support us along the way. The force on the ankles varies based on the activity performed. Just walking, the ankle sustains five times our body weight. If we run.. this force is increased to 13 times our body weight. Even if this joint is in a static position, it still provides some level of support for the rest of the body.
Ankles with less mobility, a general weakness, or some type of dysfunction will definitely impact performance and potentially our day to day routines. So taking the time to assess your ankles and connect with what it going on down there will surely be worth your while.
Lets look at Dorsiflexion specifically.. The action of flexing the foot, or think of the angle of the ankle when you go into a downward dog, or a squat.
Are you someone who has never been able to get their heels down in Downward Dog even if you have pretty open hamstrings? Or you’re heels always lift when you lower into Malasana or a squat?
Is this due to a lack of flexibility / strength / mobility? Or could it be something different?
Keep in mind that there are a number of reasons that can contribute to limited ankle mobility.
-Lack to flexibility in the calf
-A chronic condition like osteoarthritis
-Lack of strength
-Even over use..
But another contributing factor that is less spoken about is compression (or a bone block) which would actually be a genetic cause.
In this instance the bones that form the ankle (talus and tibia) can restrict ankle joint range of motion. Whenever the foot moves into Dorsiflexion the tibia hits against the talus limiting or stopping our range of motion. People with this often experience this as pain at the front of the ankle versus someone who is restricted by lack of flexibility in the calf and achilles who would experience discomfort at the back of ankle.
So if this is you.. is there anything you can do about it?
Compression is great for our bones, it strengthens them and allows them to keep offering the support the are designed for. Therefore, continue to train your range of motion, mobility and flexibility of the ankle, but it might also be helpful to understand that your limitations is actually happening at a bone level not a muscles level so you can stop scratching your head as to why you are not making the gains you are after..
Other things to take into consideration are -> Activity modification, introducing props like heel wedges or rolled mats / blankets under the heel, can provide a really supportive way to work WITH your body.
Strengthening/Isometric loading. It is important to address strength for this condition so the area can tolerate more load. This is initially done with isometric loading in a pain-free way.
How Do You Know If Ankle Mobility Issues Exist?
Here is a test you can do to check ankle range of motion. Stand so your big toe is roughly two inches from the wall. Keeping your heels on the floor bend your knees and try to make contact with the wall. If you cannot make contact or it causes pain or tension in the ankle or calf muscle, there is limited mobility in the joint.
Keep in mind an average range of motion for ankle dorsiflexion is somewhere between 10 and 20 degrees.
Oh how we love the amazing complexities of our bodies
Practice on - YogaKoh