4 Ways to Strengthen that Ankle
Want killer ankle strength for that upcoming trip? Check out these loading drills to ensure you can control that ankle on the wall... Don't forget, the devils in the details. Slow down and pay attention to detail to get the most out of them.
Arch Raises: Works THE Controlling Muscle of the Arch
WHY: A simple concept that is often forgotten, control the ankle and you hold the power of foot stability. This simple exercise strengthens the arch creating muscle- the Posterior Tibialis muscle. This muscle runs from the back of your shin bone all the way down under your inner ankle to attach on the foot. Used as a secondary stabilizer in heel hooks, this muscle is VERY important when balancing on that edge with any nasty foot placement.
HOW: Drop your arches flat onto the floor, trying to touch that inner edge of the foot to floor. Now go the opposite direction, lifting up the inside of the foot until you are standing on the outer edge of the foot. If done correctly, your foot looks like a fin. It might take some strengthening and some control work to get into this position. If unable to do it, you might see a local physiotherapist or chiropractor to mobilize that joint!
REPS: 30 reps per day, a great warmup to edge walking…
2. Edge Walking: Work that Edge!
WHY: The normal gait process uses the outer edge of the foot to transfer weight and momentum to the ball of the foot (at this zone, the force is then designed to be transferred towards the bodies center line medially across to the inside and then off the big toe).
Strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the foot and beef up the muscles supporting creating power while climbing on maximum angles, it also creates a powerful stance when standing on the outer edge of the foot.
HOW: Beginning with the lifted position created in arch raises, we now pause with the foot weighted along the outer edge and now begin walking with weighting the knifelike outer edge as our goal.
REPS: Begin with a goal of 60-90 seconds daily. This exercise is designed to be then transitioned to edge walking up to toe walking.
After 1 month, you can begin edge walking and then from the ball of the foot lift up on your toes. Walking around the house or the gym might look a bit weird, but believe me, it strengthens this area while providing balance and reinforcing the proper weighting of the feet.
3. Balance Drill: Think you can balance on one leg correctly? Think again.
Think you have what it takes to correctly balance on your foot? First, it's smart to practice your arch raises until you can tell if your arch is held high and now try to stand on your foot in a high arched position. We still want the ball of the foot on the ground, we just don’t want that arch collapsed.
WHY: Balance drill is exceptionally hard for one major reason. Multitasking of the ankle and knee at the same time. 95% of people when asked to do the balance drill are doing it incorrectly because they cannot control their ankle without thinking about it. On the wall and on a run, we have other things to think about.
HOW: This is the perfect drill to teach this multitasking. And the task is this… Hold UP your arch while keeping your knee over your second toe. Not easy, one causes the other to go catty-wompus. Both muscle groups are on the inside of the leg, the adductors of the thigh (groin) and the Posterior Tibialis muscle just inside of the shin bone. Together they fire as a set to correctly stabilize the leg.
REPS: Try for 10 perfect reps at first, it might take you 1/2 an hour to do as you to work these two as a set. Have it? Now add in keeping the hips straight ahead (no twisting to the side) while we load them. Have this final step? Its time to move to a wobble board to start over and learn on unstable terrain!
4. Motion based Loading on the Wobble Disc or Board.
WHY: We are not unmoving beings. Exercises done without motion are a starting point to make you the badass athlete that you want to be. But we have to start with the basics and build from them (not doing so will mean a high predisposition to foot injuries).
One you have the balance drill, we are now upping the ante to begin doing this in a non-controlled environment. The wobble board is perfect for this.
Side steps (10 perfect reps per side)
Front Step (10 perfect reps per side)
45 degree forward step (10 perfect reps per side)
Side HOP onto the wobble board
(10 perfect reps per side…)
Remember, Positioning is everything with foot drills.
We want the foot pointed forward (not out to the side like a duck)
We want your arch held high, not collapsed. Practice putting your fingers under your arches and press down upon them until the arch is pancake flat. Now go the other direction, seeing how much room your fingers have to wiggle. Arch position is everything in foot rehab.
Knee alignment over the second toe. If you were to drop a plumb line (a line with a weight below it) down from the center of your kneecap (patella) you want this to fall right over the second toe (the one next to the big toe).
Load with this in mind and you will have a highly functioning human foot. Just remember, most feet are atrophied so keep this a game and don’t force your feet to follow these rules 100% of the day. Start small with flip flops and begin noticing your foot moving on the outer edge of the arch as you walk, you are getting it!!
Final Injury Diagnosis Notes:
Many have heel pain that they just can’t shake. A tender sore bony knob of a heel bone that just won’t heal. If this is you, check to see where the sore spot is, it just might be on the inside of the heel (towards the midline of the body) and not actually in the center of the heel bone itself. If this is you, we really need to focus on these gait drills to ensure you are correctly loading the area.
HotSpots in the Ball of the Foot:
If you have foot pain in the ball of the foot (and its not from standing on tiny sharp little feet all weekend) you might have a loading issue- Grab a mirror and watch your foot move, checking for each of these drills to see if they are hard or easy.
No problem? Have these down? Don’t waste your time with them, on to slack lining or something fun!!