March 7, 2022
By Mary Rose Strickland, PT, DPT, OCS
Having good movement, or mobility, in your ankles is knee for a variety of tasks such as walking, squatting, going up/down stairs, running, and a variety of other life activities. If you lack mobility in your ankles, your body will “borrow” or even try to “steal” the movement from other areas. This may result in added pressure or stress on your knees which can lead to pain and problems.
Think about it – when you walk, what is the first part of your body to hit the ground? It’s your foot (then ankle!). Not having proper mobility in your ankle can impact how our foot reacts when it hits the ground and translate to greater force being sent up to our knee, hip, or even low back.
Many people lack ankle movement and don’t even realize it. It can be result of past ankle sprains, knee or hip injuries, choosing improper footwear, or quite simply the fact that as a society we tend to SIT too much and don’t MOVE enough. It’s sneaky because most times there is no pain in the ankle, but rather in other areas. Not moving properly can cause things such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinosis, shin splints, hip and knee injuries, and back pain.
TEST your ankle mobility. To do this, take your shoe off and move your toes a few inches away from the wall. Can you keep your heel down on the ground and make your knee touch the wall. Compare to the other side. Similar to different? Do you feel a stretch in the back of the calf? Or pinching in the front of the ankle? Pinching in the front of the ankle may indicate limited ankle motion because of a joint mobility problem. Stretch in the back of the calf indicates a muscle that may be tight or restricted.
The great news is the TEST becomes the EXERCISE. To work on this, perform the test above where you drive your knee to the wall about 20 times. Repeat 2x per day.
Improving your ankle mobility will decrease your risk of injury, improve your walking pattern, allow you squat better, and give you better overall motor control and balance.
Dr. Mary Rose is a Physical Therapist, President, and Co-Owner of New Life Physical Therapy. She is board certified in Orthopedic Physical Therapy through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties, and is board certified in Lifestyle Medicine through the American College & Board of Lifestyle Medicine. She can be reached at DrMaryRose@newlifept.com