Our feet and our ankles are the structures that support our entire body. Their perfect anatomy and distribution among bones, tendons, ligaments, and joints allow us to move efficiently, whether we are jumping, running, turning or simply walking.
The ankle is a joint that, thanks to its mobility and stability, enables the entire body to move correctly. However, many times this joint is most noteworthy for being the focus of sprains occurring in various sports.
Have you ever felt pain in your ankles? Have you ever noticed that your knee no longer bends properly when you walk, or that, when you limp, your spine gradually stoops? Imagine wanting to execute a deep squat, or wanting to jump, while your ankle is in a cast and without any mobility. How do you think such execution would be? Yes, indeed, it would be very poor.
The problem is not only limited to training, since it also affects sports performance. In fact, without correct mobility, the transfer and distribution of strength that you require to shift direction, for technique while moving fast, and for jumping, will also be altered.
There’s a concept known as “Joint by Joint”, proposed by Gray Cook, a physical therapist who focuses on studying human movement, and Michael Boyle, a strength and conditioning trainer. This notion is based on the idea that the human body is a chain of joints, which alternate with each other depending on their primary mobility and stability functions. For example, the primary function of an ankle is stability; the primary function of a knee is mobility; the primary need of a hip is mobility; the lumbar spine’s is stability, and so forth, until reaching your hands.
If a “mobile” joint loses its ability, it will cause a “stable” joint to have to compensate such function and lack of movement. This compensation will affect the entire joint chain. For this reason, if a person complaints of knee pain, the therapist must always assess the mobility of ankles and hips, because they could be the actual causes of pain and disfunction.
There are many simple ways to assess ankle mobility. One of them is in the “semi-kneeling” position (Hald Kneeling Dorsiflexion), where we should attempt an ankle angle of between 35-40°, and this can be measured as follows: in a semi-kneeling position, barefoot in front of a wall, place a metric tape on the floor and put the big toe of your front foot at a distance of 12.7 cm from the wall. From this position, push your knee as much as you can, trying to touch the wall, but without lifting your ankle. If you are able to touch the wall with your knee, then this means that your ankle mobility is optimal.
However, there’s an even simpler way to measure the angle: Move Check by Aictive. To use it, you must access the platform using your computer, stand in front of the camera, execute the same movement described above, and the angle measurement will be performed automatically, thanks to Artificial Intelligence. It is really that simple!
In order to improve ankle mobility, and with it, the mobility of your entire body, it is necessary to understand the cause of the poorly executed movement. Is it tension in your calf and soleus muscles? Is it a specifically joint-related limitation? It could be one or several causes. At any rate, in order to prevent a limitation of your ankle range, you must follow these general recommendations: begin by self-massaging with a foam roll, stick roll, accupoint, or the tool of your preference, to work the posterior muscles of your leg (calf muscles, buttocks, hamstrings), then proceed with mobility work, and finish up with stability work. Don’t forget that you can always improve!