5 Signs You Need To Improve Your Ankle Mobility
There are countless workout regimens for losing weight, building muscle, and improving endurance. However, far too few people focus on strengthening their joints as part of their daily routine and not many know about the importance of improving their ankle mobility.
Ankles specifically are one of the most important joints in the entire body. They affect every aspect of our daily lives and hold up our entire bodies. If your ankles become weak and inflexible, it can cause serious injury and keep you from doing the activities you love. Keep reading to learn why ankle strength matters and the signs you need to improve your ankle mobility.
Why ankles matter
Both our feet and ankles are full of ligaments and tendons that are integral to our daily functions. They hold us upright and control weight distribution when we move. When our ligaments and tendons are strong, we can confidently move without strain or fear of injury.
Ankle mobility is especially important for seniors. As humans age, neglected joints and muscles become more fragile and prone to injury. A younger person could turn their ankle when stepping off a curb and merely strain or sprain their joint. However, the same misstep made by a senior could cause tears, fractures, or even a dangerous fall.
However, seniors aren’t the only people who benefit from having strong and flexible ankles. Anyone who focuses on their joint health can enjoy improved stability in their strength training, more power in their movements, and less pain during recovery.
If you want to add joint health to your list of fitness priorities, there are plenty of ankle mobility stretches and exercises that can be easily added to your daily workouts. Improving the flexibility in your ankles can lead to improved dorsiflexion, which is attributed to how accurately your body moves. Simply put, if your body has a strong foundation, it will be much more likely to do what you want it to do.
Wearing the proper shoe
In our modern world, ankle stability has a lot to do with whether or not we are wearing proper footwear. Both men and women can suffer greatly if their shoes are improperly fitted or of poor quality. No, ladies, this doesn’t mean you have to stop wearing heels altogether. However, if you work in an office or other environment that has a more formal dress code, make sure you are prioritizing comfort and stability over aesthetics.
That being said, it isn’t enough to simply “wear sneakers.” If you don’t know your proper foot size, the most expensive pair in the world can’t help you. It is imperative that you know your proper shoe size and not guess. This means going to a sports store and getting fit, trying on both whole and half sizes.
Here are warning signs that your ankles are stiff and weak…
If you played a rough contact sport in your early years or otherwise wore down your joints, you may attribute that to your current aches and pains. However, even for those who weren’t or aren’t athletes, having poor ankle flexibility can greatly affect your everyday life. See warning signs to look out for.
#1. Ankles twisting inward
If you have had weak ankles for quite some time, it’s very likely that your feet turn in when you walk. This can show up as being slightly pigeon-toed or by your ankles rolling out each time you take a step.
Either way, this can cause unequal weight distribution when you walk, which can lead to serious issues over time. It can cause knee pain and even destabilize your hips. You can go to a chiropractor to realign your hips, but there’s only so much they can do if your feet aren’t distributing your weight properly.
#2. Sore ankles and feet
One of the benefits of having flexible ankles is that they strengthen the bones, ligaments, and tendons in your feet. This is what makes it possible for you to confidently walk on concrete, sand, grass, rocky shoreline, etc.
If you walk on adverse terrain and find yourself needing to take breaks due to sore feet and/or ankles, chances are the terrain isn’t to blame. Uneven ground can force your ankles and feet into different angles and positions with every step, and if your ankles are weak, they won’t be able to handle the dynamic pressure.
#3. Frequent balance problems
If you find yourself frequently tripping, running into things, or generally clumsy, it might be more than just bad luck. Experts have attributed clumsiness and a lack of balance to core strength, and they’re generally correct.
However, if you have the hardest six-pack in the world but have neglected your ankles, you will still have problems with your balance. Dorsiflexion is the act of lifting your toe upward, while plantar flexion is the act of pointing your toe downward. If your ankles are weak, either one or both of these functions can be hindered, which can lead to balance problems.
#4. Frequent ankle injuries or sprains
Constantly turning or spraining your ankles is a tell-tale sign that your ankles are stiff and weak. Strong ankles will be able to bend and extend under your body weight without giving out.
Sprained ankles are very common in popular sports such as football, soccer, and basketball. If you experienced frequent minor sports injuries in your youth, chances are you have weak ankles as an adult. Whether or not you noticed, all those little injuries over time likely caused permanent damage to your ankle ligaments and tendons. This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to future pain and injuries. However, it does mean you need to pay extra attention to the strength and mobility of your ankles as you age.
#5. Persistent trouble walking in heels
Since men’s formal wear has minimal heels and men’s work shoes/boots generally go above the ankle, having weak ankles can sometimes not be as obvious. However, it can be particularly apparent for women who wear heels.
This doesn’t mean that all women should be able to confidently walk in four-inch heels. However, if you find yourself constantly stumbling or turning your ankles while wearing shorter heels, lifts, or even platform sneakers, chances are your ankles aren’t strong enough to hold your weight properly.
Don’t be discouraged
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t be discouraged by thinking you’re doomed to injury and lofty hospital bills. Adding simple exercises to your gym routine can do wonders for your balance and strength. Many exercises, like ankle circles, can even be done while you’re brushing your teeth. Implementing simple exercises and habits may seem pointless now, but over time they will decrease your risk of injury and help you live a long and pain-free life!
Featured image: PeopleImages/iStock
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