The gym is packed with the New Year, but a few weeks in the numbers drop down drastically. For many, pain or injury prevents them reaching their New Year’s goal. Moving and exercise are always good, but sometimes if we aren’t moving well, this increase in activity can cause pain. The list of movement compensations that can cause pain is long, but let’s first focus on the foot as a potential source of the problem.
When the foot is on the ground during walking, running, or many strength training exercises the ankle needs to flex to allow the leg to advance over the foot. This needs to happen for weight to transfer properly through all the joints of the leg. If the ankle cannot flex properly, the leg has to skirt around the ankle in order to move forward. This causes the foot to flatten, the knee to fall in, and the hip to shift out during weight bearing which increases the risk for injury to the back, hip, knee or ankle. Restoring full foot and ankle mobility before starting any exercise program is essential to preventing injury.
To tell if you have proper foot and ankle mobility, kneel on the floor in front of wall with the foot you are checking on flat in front of you. Place a fist at the base of the wall and move your foot to touch the other side of your fist. This puts the foot at the proper starting distance from the wall. Now shift forward while keeping your heel down. If you cannot touch your knee to the wall, if the heel comes up, if the arch of your foot flattens, or if the knee turns in then you need to improve your mobility.
To improve your foot and ankle mobility, check out this video from Dr. E of Modern Manual Therapy: