4 Ankle Mobility Exercises for Runners

[00:00:00] Today, I want to talk about a little part of your body that’s really kind of ignored in running, but plays such a crucial role and that is your ankles. I want to talk about ankle mobility, why it’s important and what kind of exercises you can do to improve that ankle mobility.

[00:00:28] If you haven’t been with me here before, I’m Jesse Funk, the founder of Solpri.com and the host of this show, Runner’s High where we talk about everything running, including today’s topic about ankle mobility, why it’s important, and what you can do to improve your ankle mobility. Now, if you’re a runner or an endurance athlete, because sometimes we talk about triathlon, as I have a history in that as well. Hit that subscribe button. Stick around for more videos every single week.

[00:00:54] So on to ankle mobility. Why is it important? I mean, this should be somewhat obvious, but we’re going to go into the details here of why. And that is it’s basically the first joint that we use for motion in terms of ground impact on up.

[00:01:15] So I talk about this in other videos on the channel. Where we talk about injuries, we talk about mobility, we talk about strength, all those kind of things that your body is a chain, so you are moving forces from your feet or really from the ground all the way up to your head in every single piece of your chain is important to keep strong and mobile so that you reduce injuries.

[00:01:36] And more importantly, what we’re interested in go fast, right? You can’t have a weak link in your chain. So that’s why ankles are so important. They’re this kind of first stopping place faster foot. But because it involves a range of motion, it’s this first joint in that chain that can be a weak link and cause problems.

[00:02:01] So mobility is important in large part because we want to be able to use all of our muscles. If you have a lack of mobility, meaning that your ankles are tight or inflexible, then you may not necessarily be firing all the muscles you want to use properly when you’re running. So that could be not being able to push off off the back with your glutes or any number of things depending on your particular situation and how you’re running.

[00:02:31] So like if we take a look at this clip of me, this is from like a sprint finish in a race, you can watch me, we’ll slow it down, watch me run through the finish line here, and you can kind of see how you need ankle mobility all the way through from front to push off, not just for the transfer of power, but for stability. So that’s why it’s important. So let’s take a look at my always runner soft hand feet, and we’ll talk about a little bit about how the ankle moves and what we kind of want to look at when we’re talking about ankle mobility.

[00:03:09] So here is my foot, as mentioned, always socked hand here. This is what happens when you run all the time. Although if you’ve been around on the channel, you know that I haven’t been running quite as much this year because I’ve been dealing with this particular thing back here. This Achilles tendon has been a huge issue for me this year and I’ve been rehabbing, but that’s part of the reason ankles are on my mind. I’ll talk about that in different video.

[00:03:33] So there’s really kind of what we would think of as like four […] my fingers, for planes, we want to think about when we’re talking about our feet dorsiflexion, which is when your feet come back towards you. So that’s this motion back towards you, plantarflexion, which is what we’re used to pushing off.

[00:03:56] So this is what happens, like in that video when we’re running and you push off the ground, that’s plantarflexion. Inversion, which is when your ankle comes in, moves towards the midline of your body and then eversion, which is when it goes out farther. So I guess I can do that without my hand. But inversion and eversion, let’s see if I can demonstrate this.

[00:04:21] So when you are running. You’re going to be planting underneath your body for the demonstration of this video and how I’m set up. I can’t quite do that. But so your foot is coming down. We’ll pretend that you’re a heel striker. You’re underneath your body. So everything’s okay.

[00:04:38] You’re here. You’re often going to touch off slightly to the outside, and then as you move forward, you’re going to go from this dorsiflexion position forward into plantarflexion. But not just that we’re from an everted angle with our ankle, meaning we went out where eversion and we go through inversion and as we roll our foot inwards.

[00:05:06] So the first I’ve seen listed is two different exercises, but we’re going to call it one. It’s basically two variations. So you take your ankle, this is pretty easy. Lift your leg up. My leg is straight. You can kind of see what the angle of the camera here and you’re just going to do circles.

[00:05:23] So this is like something I do when I’m getting ready to get in the pool with my head. You do like neck circles. You can do the same thing with your ankle. So you get your foot here and you’re just going to do circles all the way around. You’re going to do ten this direction, and then you’re going to do ten the other direction.

[00:05:43] The goal and you can see I need to work on this vehicle mobility on this side, which has been a point of emphasis for me because of the Achilles tendon problems. The goal here is to be smooth so you can see how like my foot as I work on these, I’ve been trying to improve again because that Achilles tendon issue has reduced my ankle mobility this year, that it’s kind of jumpy or skips a little bit.

[00:06:13] We want it to be relatively smooth around. So that’s what you’re concentrating on. It’s not just like, do the circles and phone it in. You want to try to make it as smooth as possible because then you’re activating all of those muscles. And using them in a coordinated fashion.

[00:06:30] So you do that. Repeat on the other side, you know, same deal. Over and over. Now, the variation on this one is that you then instead draw the alphabet so you know A then you do B. And that’s another way to go about it. I like the circles because it’s a good way to get the entire range of motion without the kind of, I’ll say nonsense, but the silliness of doing the alphabet. 

[00:07:02] That sounds a little complicated. It’s because it’s something so basic, right? We all run. We do this kind of naturally, but we don’t often think about what’s happening and why it’s important to keep that mobility high so we can see we’re basically using all four of those planes through every single touchdown when we run. And in my kind of, for example, that I was just filming, I showed heel to four foot, that kind of motion. It doesn’t matter whether you heel strike, mid-foot strike or fore-foot strike because your heel is going to come down and plant and then roll forward. Even if you mid or forefoot strike or optimally, it’s going to do that.

[00:07:48] So you’re still going to go through that motion regardless. So because we’re using all four of these planes, basically when we are running, if you have reduced mobility, what happens is you, your body. The thing about the human body is it’s great at adapting. This is just a general sense. We’re very good at adapting to poor circumstances or overcoming difficult situations, and that comes from a micro to a macro scale.

[00:08:21] So in this case it’s a very micro scale. Say maybe you’re not very good at the inversion, like your foot doesn’t turn in very well. It’s really tight, so you don’t get that good pronation. So pronation is that outward to inward rolling motion. If that happens, you’re going to put excess strain on the outside of your foot, which can then potentially cause problems with your metatarsals, which are the heads of your bones that attached to your toes, then that can go on up.

[00:08:57] You can end up with IT band issues, glute issues, because you are the amount of pressure you’re placing on the outside of your body is causing excess wear and tear on your chain to make that stable. Because this kind of outward position where you’re just here, you’re not able to roll into a more stable platform, which is the rest of your foot, then you are not allowing all those other muscles to be activated to go through that regular motion.

[00:09:29] So that’s kind of why it’s important. So let’s go over a few things you can do to increase your ankle mobility so that you can hopefully prevent some issues down the line, but also allow, as I mentioned in the beginning of this video, allow the power transfer to be more effective and thus we become a little bit faster.

[00:09:51] Got to jump to the other room. The next one is two different exercises, but I think of them as kind of one because you’re going to do them in a pair. It goes together again. Remember, we have our four planes of motion plantarflexion, dorsiflexion inversion, eversion. So everything basically comes in sets. So I’m going to stand up. We’re going to be doing ankle tiptoes and then heel walks at the same time.

[00:10:16] So let me demo those both straight forward and to the side. So we’re going to start with our kind of calf walks or calf raise walks, so you’re flat on the ground, you go up onto the balls of your feet and just take tiny little steps forward. So from the side you’re here, you come up and then you’re taking tiny little steps forward. This we’re working on our strength with our ankles in that kind of plantarflexion position.

[00:10:53] And then conversely, the other side is where you do dorsiflexion, bring your feet up towards you and then walk on your heels from the side. So feet are flat. Come back towards you, take small, little steps. So those are our two exercises for plantarflexion and dorsiflexion. So you know what’s coming next? Inversion and eversion. We have to help out the other plane of motion. 

[00:11:21] So this one, I’m going to try to move the camera down. It’s a little bit harder to get just how everything’s set up with the camera, but we’re just going to be manually manipulating our feet to turn them in or turn them out. At the end of this video, I’m actually going to show or we’re going to link to another video I’ve done on ankle strength, where we show you some exercises you can do to increase your strength in these ranges of motion.

[00:11:46] But you want to start here and then move to strength exercises so that your mobility is increased before you add the resistance to the exercises. And of course I’m on the ground, so my cat is going to help us out. So let’s try to move the camera down. So here you are on the ground feet here and all you’re going to do, if my cat can get out of the way, is just take your hand. Grab your feet on your toes.

[00:12:18] Come on, Bo cat. And then you’re going to manipulate it inwards and come back to center. You want to relax your ankle and you’re not trying to make it hurt or anything like that, Bo cat going to help us out. So I always call him my look like my little coach. He always wants to be helping out if I’m on the floor. If you’ve got any pets, I’m sure it’s similar for you. So same thing with this eversion you’re going to pull to the outside. And you do both feet. You can do two sets of ten, and that should cover you for that particular plane of motion.

[00:12:57] So that is the why we should be doing it. And what to do. Now, as I just mentioned, maybe 30, 40 seconds ago, I did another video on ankle strength and how to improve that because not is not only is mobility important because we need to be able to transfer that power from the ground all the way to our head in that chain, but our ankle has to be able to withstand all of the forces that we’re putting on at various speeds.

[00:13:26] So it is important to spend some time on ankle strength. So check out that video that’ll be popping up on the screen here shortly. If you haven’t subscribed, do that before. You go check that out and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.

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