Runners need an efficient gait to stay injury free and perform at their best. A relatively minor imbalance of joint motion is enough to cause a big problem after thousands of footfalls. On the other hand, the same problem may be completely irrelevant for someone who only plods from the couch to the refrigerator. That’s why so many people develop “running injuries” after starting a new program.
It should be clarified at the outset that any kind of foot injury or problems should be looked at by foot care podiatrists as they are specialized in the field that deals with foot care. For runners though, they might need to consult a physiotherapist who specializes in rehabilitative therapy.
There are several self checks that every athlete should use to periodically audit and their joint motion balance before developing an injury. I’ll discuss them in a series of posts.
- The foot stability audit
- The ankle mobility audit
- The knee stability audit
- The hip mobility audit
- The lumbar stability audit
- The thoracic mobility audit
- The shoulder blade stability audit
- The neck stability audit
- The shoulder mobility audit
- The wrist mobility audit (elbows are boring)
Does anyone see a pattern?
Ankle mobility. To be able to properly perform any standard of athletic movement (eg. squat, lunge, Turkish get-up) a certain amount of ankle motion should occur. Dr. Greg Rose at the Titleist Performance Institute suggests having 4″ of travel of the knee over the 2nd toe. This 4″ standard for ankle dorsiflexion is easy to measure and consistent with what we know about biomechanics.
You can audit this with your toes 4″ from a wall and lunging the knee toward the wall and directly over the 2nd toe. Bad compensations include foot flattening/ rolling in and the knee arching inward.
If you don’t have 4″, then you need to get it. Stretch the calves and mobilize the ankle. Once you get the 4″, perform a movement audit as a warm-up before training(eg. squat, lunge, Turkish get-up).
Mobilize the ankle as demonstrated in the pictures below.
What other techniques are helpful for ankle mobility problems?