How to get Trail-tough An­kles

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - By Brid­get Pyke

To say that most run­ners have an affin­ity for the out­doors is an un­der­state­ment. That these peo­ple are then drawn to trail run­ning is no sur­prise, be­cause trail run­ning gives run­ners an op­por­tu­nity to es­cape the con­crete jun­gle and truly be present in the out­doors. Run­ning be­tween rooty trees, up and down hills, and on gnarly paths can turn an easy run into an epic ad­ven­ture. Un­for­tu­nately, with all the vis­ual stim­u­la­tion of nat­u­ral sur­round­ings, run­ners may spend less time watch­ing their foot­ing, where roots, rocks, and even a for­est crea­ture can turn a smooth stride into a face plant. An an­kle sprain is a com­mon in­jury in trail run­ners. One cause of this in­jury is rolling over the out­side of the an­kle af­ter step­ping onto an un­even sur­face and los­ing bal­ance. A sprain oc­curs when the lig­a­ments sup­port­ing the side of the an­kle are over-length­ened or torn. Ad­di­tional struc­tures, such as mus­cles, ten­dons and bone, can also be dam­aged. When we choose to run out­side, we must ac­knowl­edge that we have lim­ited con­trol of the en­vi­ron­ment in which we run. Run­ning on trails makes us more vul­ner­a­ble. This un­cer­tainty is part of what makes trail run­ning ex­cit­ing. But when a quick step to avoid squish­ing a chip­munk ends with you hob­bling out of the woods, you may find it hard to re­mem­ber your pre­vi­ous pleas­ant feel­ings. How­ever, run­ners can re­duce the risk of an an­kle sprain by main­tain­ing healthy an­kle mo­bil­ity. Mo­bil­ity refers to the full range of mo­tion in a joint. An­kle stiff­ness can de­velop in run­ners due to the com­pres­sive forces placed on the joint each time the foot con­tacts the ground, and from the tight lower-leg mus­cles sur­round­ing the an­kle. A stiff an­kle has lim­ited move­ment, par­tic­u­larly dor­sif lex­ion, which is when the top of the foot is clos­est to the shin. An an­kle with de­creased mo­bil­ity is less able to adapt to un­even ter­rain, and by virtue of be­ing stiff in dor­sif lex­ion, it spends more time in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, which is plan­tar f lex­ion – a bal­le­rina-style an­kle. The plan­tar-f lexed po­si­tion makes the outer lig­a­ments of the an­kle more sus­cep­ti­ble to sprain when sub­ject to stress.

A mo­bile an­kle is a health­ier, hap­pier joint that is not so rigid in its ways that it can­not adapt to dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments. Here are some ex­er­cises to im­prove your an­kle mo­bil­ity be­fore you hit the trails this sea­son.

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