Ankle mobility is one of the most important factors in musculoskeletal health, as it allows the knee, the hips and the spine to do their job, without having to compensate for lack of proper movement in the ankle. To achieve good mobility in your ankles, there are good stretches and lovely images to help you, but sometimes you need just a bit more; either to get you started, or to give you that little bit extra. Here are some self-treatment options for you to develop your ankle mobility to its maximum potential.
Free the ligaments and tendons
One possible restriction of ankle mobility is slight adhesions between the layers of tissue (mostly ligaments and tendons) around the malleoli (the bony bumps on either side of the ankle). This is an area where tendons coming from the lower leg go into the foot, passing around bony grooves, and where ligaments link the bones of the leg (tibia and fibula) to the heel bone (calcaneus). Freeing this area will likely improve your mobility significantly.
We will slide the skin over the underlying tissue (similar to skin-rolling), once along the ligaments and once across them, along the tendons. So first, take your foot in your hands so that your thumbs are resting between your Achille’s tendon and your tibia, and gently press into the skin, just to get some nice traction. Then slide them towards the arch of your foot, dragging skin with you. Release the skin when you’ve definitely passed the heel region, when you reach the arch.
In the other direction, make a fist, but leave the index finger out a bit. Fold it id rest the last phalanx on your thumb.
With this tool, engage the skin close to your malleolus, and drag it towards the heel, like you did with your thumbs in the previous exercise.
Note that this can be a bit painful, depending on the state of your tissue. Start gently.
To treat the lateral (oustide) aspect of the ankle, we’ll use the same tool we used on the last stroke. First engage the skin between your Achille’s tendon and your fibula, and drag it towards the middle of the side edge of the foot. A good landmark to aim for is the base of the 5th metatarsal (explore your foot to find where it is). Again, release when you’d clearly left the ankle area; that’s quite close to the edge.
In the other direction, engage the skin just infero-posterior (below and behind) to the malleolus, and drag the skin towards your heel.
Free Achille’s tendon
Another place where light adherences can hinder movement is around the Achille’s tendon. To remedy that, gently grab the area between it and the tibial an fibula (leg bones) with your thumb and fingers, and “floss” this gap.
Ideally, this area should feel like a bag of water. If it feels more like a bag of sand, try and intorduce more movements in your life that demand ankle mobility, especially dorsiflexion (for instance walking up hills or squatting).
Want more like this?Check out the following blogs from massage therapists I know from around London:
- On The Run Health and Fitness on running, nutrition and sports massage.
- The Soma Room on sports massage and exercise.