Limited dorsiflexion can lead to functional and athletic limitations in many activities. Inadequate ankle range of motion is a risk factor for knee, ankle, shin, and hamstring injuries among athletes and has been associated with increased knee valgus during squatting as well as greater ground reaction forces when landing from a jump. People often perform squats with a compensatory heel rise if they have limited dorsiflexion. A quick fix for this may initially be to put plates under your heels, but it will never improve the limitation until you address the CAUSE of this limitation. Addressing the cause of the limitation will help you improve your dorsiflexion range of motion, which has been shown to reduce injury rates.
In order to address the cause of your limitation you should first perform a quick assessment to check if you have adequate dorsiflexion range of motion.
-Start with your toes about a hand’s width (approximately 5 inches) from the wall.
-While keeping your heel on the ground, drive your knee forward toward the wall(make sure you DON’T allow the arch of your foot to collapse as this is a compensation).
- If you can’t touch the wall with your knee, then your Dorsiflexion range of motion is LIMITED. This is most likely due to the joint (talocrural) or soft tissue (calf muscles)
If the joint is restricting the movement, refer back to episode 69 and 70 for other ways to mobilize the talocrural joint to improve dorsiflexion range of motion.
If soft tissue is limiting you, foam rolling your calves is a great way to increase their extensibility and improve this range of motion. To increase pressure while foam rolling, bring the contralateral leg on top of the leg you are rolling out on. Focus on trigger points or tender spots within your calf to decrease tone and allow further extensibility of the calf muscles.
-After each intervention—joint mobilizations or foam rolling—it is important to REASSESS your range of motion to make sure you know which intervention works for you!
“Roller Massager improves Range of motion of Plantar Flexor muscles without subsequent decrease in force Parameters” By: Israel Halperin et al.