You need ankle mobility.
Hop, skip, jump, run, walk, squat, lunge, carry. What do all of these movements have in common?
If you have issues with your ankles, you’re probably going to suck at most of the activities I just mentioned. Ankle mobility is often the forgotten element when people want to get faster, stronger or go longer. Combining our sedentary occupations and lifestyles with our want to run a faster marathon time or squat a new PB we often leave ourselves in a state that is not ready to perform. The follow on of this is usually described as knee or calf issues or direct issues with the ankle itself.
Quite often just like in the video above, it only takes a simple screen and some targeted work to move the needle in the right direction to keep us on deck and progressing to our goals. Training hard is usually the easy part for an athlete but having a simple system to allow people to recover faster and smarter is an essential component that we sometimes miss. So what are the standards we need to look for when it comes to ankle mobility?
- Dorsiflexion: 2-4 inches is acceptable but 4 inches + is optimal
- Plantarflexion: 20-30 degrees is acceptable but 30 degrees + is optimal
Now let’s break down what you should do based on what you find.
Below Acceptable Range – If you have tested below acceptable range for either test you need to be prioritising mobility work to see if you can improve range. This can be done by a manual therapist or using simple tools like a trigger point ball at home. Ankle mobility stretches like the one’s detailed in the video will also know if you can solve the issue yourself. If these trigger point and ankle mobility stretches don’t move the needle refer yourself out to someone who can take a better look. Try things like this foot release or the calf release below:
Acceptable Range – If you have passed with acceptable range you are cleared to train. You should still focus on mobility and trigger point to see if you can improve range as this will make exercises such as the overhead squat and running more efficient. Be sure to pay attention to prep activities that also look at strength and stability to support your athletic endeavours.
Optimal Range – If we have optimal range, we can focus our training on stability in symmetrical, single and split stance, strength and plyometric/bounding/jumping activities to support our sport or goal. If we run or play sport we need to ensure we are screening from time to time to make sure training load, competition and subsequent stress is not changing function.
Asymmetries – Uneven results? This needs to be a focus to rectify as soon as you can regardless if you have acceptable range. By having asymmetries we increase our injury risk by up to 3.5 times. The body will naturally compensate to maintain function and niggles, issues and injuries may present as a result. Just as the video above, the client was complaining about knee pain, be sure to check up and down the chain when issues present.
A further note, if you have a history or are coming back from an acute ankle injury these standards are a great guide to hit before you return to high intensity activity particularly activities such as running or jumping but make sure you are cleared by your specialist before you begin.
Want to learn how to maintain or improve your ankle mobility? Here’s a full ankle mobility masterclass that tackles everything you need to know about ankle mobility to help you run, squat, jump and avoid any unnecessary injury risks.
Want an easy at home workout plan that applies everything in this post?
Check Unlock Your Movement, it features the mobilise, stability and integration approach that you just learned and will give you the tools to keep performing at your best level.
Check it out here.