Ankle Mobility – Why do we need it?
Our ankle is naturally a fairly stable joint, however It is prone to become stiff and immobile. For this reason, the role of the ankle is movement or mobility. When our ankle loses its ability to move, it affects the rest of the body. The foot becomes unstable and therefore the natural arch of the foot collapses. The knee also becomes unstable. When we squat, an unstable knee will often wobble and fall inwards. These are only the immediate effects of an immobile ankle. Eventually, a stiff ankle could negatively impact the rest of the body. Entire movement patterns can be thrown out of whack due to stiff ankles.
In order to perform a full depth squat, our bodies require a certain amount of ankle mobility. The knee must be able to move forward over our toes. This forward knee movement comes from the ankle and is called dorsiflexion. You can measure dorsiflexion by drawing a line with the shin and another line with the outside of the foot. The smaller or more closed the angle is, the more ankle dorsiflexion the athlete has. A restriction in this motion is where most athletes run into trouble.
Stiff ankles are often the culprit behind our squat problems. Do your feet point outwards when you squat even when you try your hardest to keep the toes forward? Can you remain upright in the bottom of your snatch or clean? Do your knees constantly fall inward when you perform a pistol squat? All of these movement problems can be related to poor ankle mobility.
Today I want to introduce our very own Dr. David Tilley’s DPT way to assess our ankles. This screen will tell us if we have full mobility or if our movement problems are a result of a problem somewhere else in the body. This test is called the half-kneeling dorsiflexion test. This specific test has been used numerous times in research to assess ankle mobility.
Find a wall and kneel close to it with your shoes off. Use a tape measure and place your big toe 5 inches from the wall. From this position, push your knee forward attempting to touch the wall with your knee. Your heel must stay in contact with the ground.
|Knee can touch the wall at 5 or more inches||Knee Unable to touch wall at 5 inches|
|Heels remain firmly planted||Heels pull off from ground|
|Knees Aligned with Feet||Knees collapsed inwards to touch wall|
|No Pain noted||Pain noted|
Did you have checkmarks in the ‘pass’ column? If you could touch your knee to the wall at a distance of 5 inches while keeping your knee in line with your foot, you show adequate mobility in the ankle.
However if you had any checks in the ‘fail’ column for this screen, you have a dorsiflexion mobility restriction. This restriction could be either a soft tissue restriction or a joint mobility problem, or both! By addressing ankle mobility issues, we can improve the overall quality of our movements.