By: Katherine Mullen
Why do we need ankle mobility and how is it important? The ankle is one of the most ignored joints when it comes to athletic performance, but it is one of the most important. It is an integral part of our performance because it is the joint that contacts the ground the most and absorbs the force when we jump, run, squat, swing a golf club, etc. Long story short, if it is not functioning correctly, the absorbed force can become poorly distributed up the chain, leading to pain and dysfunction in our knees, hips, and even low back. So that knee pain that you get while running may not actually be coming from the knee, it could potentially be coming from the lack of motion in the ankle. Moreover, if range of motion, whether active or passive, is limited in the ankle, you won’t be able to achieve proper biomechanics, and your speed is what takes the biggest hit. This is because your foot is not landing underneath the hips during your stride. It is common for runners with mobility issues/limited dorsiflexion to land too far in front during the stance phase of the running cycle, which causes the force to become improperly absorbed when traveling up the chain.
There are many ways to help improve ankle mobility and even overall running performance. This includes both exercises that can be incorporated in a warm up routine or even visiting the chiropractor for an adjustment. An adjustment can have an effect on the kinetic chain and ultimately make a difference in performance and mobility. I’m not talking a drastic change, but when you adjust a joint, you affect the joint by changing the mechanical load, such that the mechanoreceptors are stimulated in a way that it resets the neuromuscular connections to that joint. In other words, it’s like a reset button. A few exercises that can help with improving dorsiflexion are: squatting with heels elevated, being in a lunge position and touching knee to wall without ankle popping off ground, triplanar calf stretches and oblique lunge rocks.
Katherine Mullen is a Doctor of Chiropractic student from University of Western States in Portland, Oregon. She is also pursuing her Masters in Sports Medicine in conjunction with the Chiropractic program. She will graduate in September of 2019. She plans to specialize in the treatment of athletes through chiropractic and rehabilitative care. She also plans on expanding her knowledge in pediatric treatment.