By Miguel J. Ortiz
Some of us tend to neglect our feet and ankles more than others. There are those who find time to get pedicures or a massage, but that may not be enough. So, how often are we actually taking time to stretch our ankles or taking care of our calves? Neglecting ankle mobility can have a huge effect on how every other joint moves and functions. For example, if you’re not properly pushing off your toes and walk “flat footed”, you will remain “flat footed” and risk proper hamstring and glute development. This can lead to muscular disfunction and potential hip mobility issues. So, let’s take a look at some ways that we can start to reverse the “flat foot” syndrome, mobilize the ankle and take pressure off joints like the knees and hips at the same time.
First, let’s start with the bottom of the foot. Regardless of your currently mobility, I think this should be practiced 5 to 10 minutes a day. While seated take a lacrosse or golf ball and gently roll it up and down the bottom of your foot. I recommend doing one at a time so you can concentrate on pressure and loosen up the muscles that tend to have first contact with the ground. When working any tight spots on the foot, try and lessen the pressure but hold the spot longer (about 20 seconds) to ensure quality release and lengthening of the muscle.
Second, standing calf stretches and simple ankle rolls really help blood flow. This will help get you moving and have your ankles feeling good through the day. To save time, try doing this while brushing your teeth or do some small ankle rolls before you get out of bed. Incorporating more standing ankle stretches against a wall before you get ready for the day, or even before exercise, along with some quality foam rolling will relieve some pressure off the knees and hips. Try to spend a total of three minutes or longer on each side when stretching. With each stretch, continue to try and go deeper or hold the stretch longer to have continuous progress.
Third, as you continue to focus on ankle mobility and stretching your calves, start to also look at your other movement patterns like walking, squatting or even how you go up the stairs. By releasing these tight muscles that are connected to the ankle, we are starting to undo and relax these over active muscles. But that doesn’t mean the work is all done. You want to focus your attention not only on stretching, but also on correcting the improper movement patterns. We do that with proper movement and activity, whether it’s exercise or simply how you walk, focusing on a proper gait cycle and pushing off the toes appropriately is very important. With every step you take, you have an opportunity to correct your posture, fix your gait cycle, relieve some knee and hip tension. The good news is that a real commitment can have you feeling better in no time.
Miguel J. Ortiz is a personal trainer in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the National Personal Trainer Institute and a Certified Nutritional Consultant with more than a decade of professional experience. He can be found on Instagram at @migueljortiz.