Returning from a recent ankle sprain I have lost movement in both plantarlexion and doriflexion of my right ankle. Prior to this injury I had great dorsi/plantarflexion through my dance training. So anything different feels very odd!
This has limited my training somewhat. For example when returning to squats in the 4th week post ankle sprain I was unable to perform a back squat due to pain and restriction of movement. This caused a change to my movement pattern. Instead of performing dodgy back squats I moved to front squats where I felt no pain and had no change in movement pattern. So over the last few weeks I’ve used this opportunity to work on building up this movement (and I’ve been loving it).
Prior to these sessions and included in my warm up I have been including mobility work for my ankle to increase dorsiflexion.
I’m going to take you through the exercises I perform and why dorsiflexion is so important for athletic performance.
Why is ankle Doris flexion so important ?
Ankle dorsiflexion is important to the optimisation of sport performance, particularly when performing Olympic lifts such as the snatch (overhead squat), clean (front squat) and in acceleration.
If you struggle with dorsiflexion you might find your heels raising off the floor during a squat, a limitation in squat depth and on the football field you might struggle sitting in a comfortable 3-point stance.
Ultimately a limitation in dorsiflexion can decrease the ability to generate maximum force.
What is important to note is that having poor dorsiflexion can have consequences up the posterior change and could put you at greater risk of injury.
Poor dorsiflexion can be attributed to a number of factors. These include:
- Poor flexibility in the muscles that plantarflex the ankle i.e. the gastrocnemius and soleus.
- Ankle joint restriction – possibly due to adhesion’s from previous injury or surgery, tightness in the joint capsule, loss of normal posterior glide of the talus and loss of accessory movements at the tibiofibular, subtalar and midtarsal joints.
- Previous injury – those with a history of ankle sprains have a greater chance of limited dorsiflexion.
Test your ankle dorsiflexion
Barefoot place your big toe a 3 inches from a wall. In a half kneeling position see if you can touch your knee to the wall. If you can do this without your heel rising off the floor, your foot rotating or your knee twisting in/out then your dorsiflexion is fine. If you fail to do this movement then start working on your dorsiflexion.
Techniques to improve ankle dorsiflexion
Soft tissue massage or foam rolling
Loosen the gastrocnemius and soleus through myofascial release. Work on the whole of this area for a few minutes. Roll the bottom of the foot with a hockey or tennis ball.
- Position the band directly below the lateral and medial malleoli (ankle bones)
- Position your self in a half kneeling position. Loop the other end of the band around the back foot or fixed furniture e.g. Squat rack.
- Put tension on the band by moving your front foot out.
- Gently rock back and forth on the front leg.
Eccentric calf raises with stretch
- Stand on the end of the box on one leg with the knee straight.
- Starting on the balls of your toes slowly in a count of 4 lower the heel.
- Hold in this position and gently bend the knee to increase the stretch. Push the knee forward.
- Place the other foot down on the box and return to the starting position.
Denegar, C.R., Hertel, J. and Fonseca, J., 2002. The effect of lateral ankle sprain on dorsiflexion range of motion, posterior talar glide, and joint laxity. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 32(4), pp.166-173.