Feet have feelings too!
Our feet and ankles need to both be flexible and stable so they can adapt to the various surfaces and forces they encounter every day.
Imagine that when the weight of your body lands on the ground that same weight hits you back! Stability and mobility are essential in avoiding injury and building sound movement patterns from the ground up.
Test for ankle restriction:
You may see these compensations if ankle mobility is restricted.
- Valgus Knees (knees caving in) and collapsed arches
- Excessive forward lean and elevated heels
- Externally rotated feet are also indication of ankle restriction (not pictured above)
That said, these restrictions can also be due to a lack of hip mobility, so if you’ve been working on your feet and ankle and not seeing an improvement it’s probably worth looking at the pelvis as well. Healthy hips and feet/ankles will also keep your knee, which sits right in between the too, pain-free.
Roll it out! Place one YTU ball (or tennis ball) under the sole of the foot. Start by rolling up and down having a feel around and noticing any particularly tender or sore areas (stripping). Don’t forget to breathe to encourage your tissues to relax.
- X Fibre – Dock the ball in the arch of the foot and swipe side to side so it moves from the inside to the outside of the foot, going against the grain of the muscle. Apply as much pressure as you can tolerate – keep the sensation interesting without crossing into pain! Swipe back and forth 5 – 10 times, then reposition the ball anywhere along the foot and repeat.
- Skin Rolling – Start with the ball on the medial arch of your foot. Apply pressure and slowly drop the pinky toe side edge of the foot down towards the floor to encourage slide and glide between your skin and the fascias beneath – this is called shearing. Redock the ball and repeat 5 times.
Stretch it out!
- Toes stretch with fingers -Get out of our shoes! Toes are supposed to spread, they help us distribute weight correctly and maintain balance – don’t keep them crunched up! Weave your fingers in between your toes, really get them in there, hold in place, breathe and start to bend the toes back and forth. Repeat on other foot holding for about 1-2 minutes each. When this becomes easy you can move on to do the full toe hug (toe stretch 2.0) by weaving your toes into each other and seeing if you can free them one at a time.
- Heel Sits – Excellent for stretching plantar fascia and improving mobility in toes and ankles. Wrap a strap above your ankles to bring them snug together. Shift yourself forward onto your knees, tuck your toes under and sit back onto the heels. Breathe (you’ll need it!) as you relax into the stretch in the soles of the feet and toes, keep the spine lifted and ribs in. Stay for about 5 – 10 breaths then release and repeat once more. To reduce the intensity hands can be rested on the ground in front. To stretch the ankles, untuck the toes and sit back on the heels. To intensify the ankle stretch lean back an peel the knees up while keeping the chest lifted.
- Ankle strength & mobility – Sit with your legs in front of you, using your hand by your sides for support, lean back a little so that you are comfortable. Start to fold your pinky toes towards each other letting your ankles roll out (inversion) so both pinky toes come to touch, then go the opposite way so the ankles roll in (eversion). Repeat 10 times in each direction.
In order to build stability and strength in the feet and ankles we must be able to distribute the weight correctly. Often we see compensations where weight is placed on the outer edges of the feet causing unstable arches and heels that roll out, making it hard to balance.
- Heel raises- Recruit the stability and strength of your feet by practicing heel raises! Focus on pressing down through the big toe mound to prevent the ankles from collapsing outward. Lifting and lowering should be slow and controlled so you can feel the muscles stabilising you, with a 3 second hold at the top. This can be done in front of a mirror to check the ankles don’t roll out; a wall can also be helpful for a bit of support as you build strength in this exercise. Repeat 10 – 15 times.
***Practicing how to correctly distribute weight to the big toes and keeping the ankles stable and centred is a great way to improve the balance in one leg standing poses such as High Lunge, Warrior 3, Half Moon and Tree pose.
- We hope you enjoyed this feature and giving your feet and ankles some TLC! Look out for a new sequence each week for you to try. We welcome feedback! If you’d like to address a pose, a part of the body or if you have a question, reach out to us in our contact form and we will answer! BREATHE. MOVE. FEEL.