Flex and point Do your ankles rankle?
This month, podiatrist Nicola Blower (walkrite.co.uk) outlines the benefits of ankle flexibility.
WHY DO IT? If you lack ankle flexibility you may compensate by rolling your foot in or out more, or lifting the heel off the ground earlier, says Blower. This can lead to pain in the ankle and foot, and overuse or deactivation of the peroneal tendons (which run behind the outer ankle bone) and the tibialis posterior (which runs down the leg and under the foot), as well as the Achilles.
THE TEST Sit on the floor, legs straight. Testing one leg at a time, keep your knee straight and dorsiflex the ankle (draw foot towards shin) as far as you can (a). Get a friend to hold your foot while you bend your knee slightly (b). Will the ankle bend further with a little pressure?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR 1 When the knee is straight, your ankle should bend to 100 degrees. If you have to bend the knee, you have tight upper calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. 2 If you can’t reach 100 degrees even with the knee bent, you have tight soleus (lower calf) muscles. 3 If dorsiflexing with the knee bent causes pain at the front of the ankle, you may have a bony impingement at the ankle joint.
HOW TO IMPROVE For tightness of the gastrocnemius, do calf stretches with straight knees. Hold for 30 secs and repeat 3-5 times per side. To improve soleus flexibility, calf-stretch, but keep the knee bent to about 40 degrees, heel down. Reps and sets as above. You can’t stretch a bony impingement, but Blower advises opting for running shoes with more of a heel raise.