Ankle Flexibility – Crucial to Body Positioning and Injury Prevention

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Ankle Flexibility – Crucial to Body Positioning and Injury Prevention

Today we spent a whole class working on ankle flexibility; 75 minutes and nobody noticed the time passing. Why?

As often happens the catalyst was somebody arriving fresh from a visit to the podiatrist, with a new pair of orthotics, and sharing the news of their diagnosis.

Our ankles are often ignored or taken for granted, but their flexibility is key to body positioning, athletic performance and injury prevention.

As stability joints, they must absorb force, transfer and stabilise weight as you walk, run, or simply get up out of a chair. This must happen quickly, and if you consider the average person takes 5,000 – 10,000 steps per day, you begin to realise the potential impact of learned movement patterns.

The ankle is a hinge joint and on it’s own it can only move through one plane of motion; there are two movements in this plane:-

  •  Plantarflexion– pointing the toes downwards
  •  Dorsiflexion– pointing the foot up towards the leg

Plantarflexion is usually accomplished without too much trouble. Dorsiflexion, however, is often limited.  Increasing dorsiflexion allows the shin to move forward, relative to the position of the foot, which is crucial for correct body positioning, and the transfer of weight across the ball of the foot/ application of force.

Test Your Ankle Flexibility

  • Stand against a wall with about 10 cm between feet and wall
  • Move one foot back a foot’s distance behind the other
  •  Bend the front knee until it touches the wall. Keep the heel on the ground.
  •   If the knee cannot touch the wall without your heel coming off the ground, movethe foot closer to the wall and repeat.
  •  If the knee can touch the wall move further away from the wall and repeat.
  •  Keep changing the distance between the foot and the wall until the knee can only just touch the wall and your heel stays on the ground

Measure either:-

  1. a) distance between wall and big toe (<9 – 10 cm is considered restricted)


  1. b)the angle made by the anterior shin to the vertical (<35 – 38 degrees is considered restricted)

Change the front foot and test the other side.

Causes of Poor Dorsiflexion?

  • Flexibility Issues – Tight fascia, muscles and tendons, particularly in the calf area
  • Ankle joint restriction – prior injuries, surgeries or a tight joint capsule
  • Bad Posture – for example, slouching at your desk (this one deserves it’s own blog-post)
  • Killer Heels – vary the heel height of your shoes to avoid progressive loss of flexibility

 What can you do about it?*

If the limitation isn’t within the joint (eg arthritis) and is soft tissue based (tight fascia, muscles and tendons) then regular stretching and mobilisation will improve your range of motion. This can happen quite quickly, as we found out during today’s Method Putkisto class.

 * Please consult your healthcare provider before starting any form of exercise


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