The Ankle

The ankle joint seems to be overlooked until it isn’t. One poorly placed step can ruin a day or much longer. In my world, knees, hips and shoulders get more attention. I did a workshop over the weekend that focused on the importance of strong feet and ankles. The bottom line is that happy feet and ankles mean everything above them is better.

The ankle joint is made of 3 bones. The tibia and fibula of the leg, and the talus of the foot. The true ankle joint is a hinge joint. It only moves up and down. The side-to-side motion comes from joints of the foot, like the subtaler joint. All of this is connected and protected by a bunch of tendons and ligaments. That is the extent of our physiology lesson for today. Now we’ll move on to the important information that may be useful to you.

I have always believed in wearing good shoes. That was until Sunday’s workshop. Since then (4 days ago) I’ve been wandering around barefoot, and I am amazed at how much better my knees are feeling. I am fortunate that I haven’t experienced a serious knee problem in my life, but at this time last year I was in physio dealing with an annoying irritation in my knee that wouldn’t go away. My problems usually stem from being out of alignment. Once that is fixed, I am better. Not perfect, but better. I’m experimenting now to see if changing my long time, fully ingrained belief is the key to greater mobility for me. I’ve taken off my shoes and got to work.

This is what I am up to:

  • When possible (if it’s safe to do), I am wandering around barefoot.
  • As much of that time as I can, I am standing and walking with my heels raised slightly (.5 cm will do), this forces my weight forward.
  • For a few seconds at a time I stand with heels raised, and focus on what’s happening with my feet. The goal is to ensure the big toe is involved in keeping me upright. Give this try. Chances are you will roll to the outsides of your feet. Baby toes are not meant to have that kind of responsibility.  Get that big toe involved.
  • I am also getting into a squat position with my heels on the floor a few times a day. Not for long. Right now I’m working on improving that range of motion. This is an ankle strengthening exercise.
  • Lastly, I get into a squat position with my heels raised slightly. This strengthens my feet.

The goal in all of this is to improve strength in the part of my body that is the first line of defense against the terrain I cover on a daily basis. We have evolved into walking with our heels striking the ground first. This may be contributing to our knee problems. The impact from the heel strike runs directly up our legs to the next available joint. That would be the knee. By training to even out my foot step the idea is that impact would be absorbed through the foot and the ankle. That’s the plan anyway. I’ll keep you posted.

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