Ankle Strength and Mobility for Runners

Rocky, rooty terrain. An unexpected dip in the road. A lapse in focus. Whatever the cause, 20% of runners have experienced a foot or ankle injury.

And even for those who haven’t, improved strength and mobility in your lowest of extremities will do nothing but improve your game and gain. Stronger feet means you’ll better adapt to terrain. It means you’ll have better muscular endurance. And it means you’ll have better single-leg balance.

For those of you questioning: Single-leg balance, what’s that have to do with me?  Well, running is nothing more than a series of single-leg propulsions. Every time you lift one foot from the ground to stride forward, you’re balancing on the other foot.

So you get the point, right — runners need strong feet and ankles. And there’s no better way to achieve that than with a little yogic work, in which we are constantly using ankle muscles in both static poses and dynamically while transitioning between them.  For example, think of Crescent Warrior. You plant into one foot, while you rest on the toes of the other foot. This statically works and strengthens your front foot, while stretching the underside of your back foot. Take this pose into deeper balance work by loading up your front foot and rolling off your back toes to take off into Warrior 3. Now the ankle of your standing leg is working all of the tiny muscles around your ankle to improve its strength.

While we encourage you to take a full Cleveland Yoga class, here are a few other poses you can extrapolate from the practice for when you only have a few minutes to dedicate to working foot and ankle mobility.

EAGLE POSE

Gain: hip and ankle strength

  • Stand at the top of your mat, pressing your feet down into the mat and extending tall through the crown of your head
  • Wrap your right arm around the front of your body to place your right hand is on your left shoulder; wrap your left arm the opposite direction
  • Wrap your right leg over your left; drop your right set of toes to the outside of your left ankle
  • Bend your left knee 90 degrees, and sink your hips toward the mat
  • Pull your belly button up and in, and pull your shoulders back, so you are not leaning backward or forward
  • Squeeze all muscles to the center of your body
  • Hold for 5 breaths; switch sides
  • Perform three Eagle Poses on each side

 

GENTELMAN’S POSE

Gain: improved dorsiflexion for ankle adaptability; more mobility through your stride

  • Start in a chair pose
  • Place your right ankle on your left knee
  • As you pull your right knee down toward the ground, bring your hands to prayer at your heart
  • If you have the hip mobility, hinge forward at your hips and place your palms on the mat
  • Pull your belly button in and shoulder blades together around your spine
  • Hold for five breaths; switch sides
  • Perform three poses on each side

CHILD’S POSE

Gain: increased plantar flexion range of motion

  • Take your knees to that mat, as wide as your mat, and bring your big toes together so they touch
  • Lower your chest toward the mat, forehead resting on a block or the ground
  • Reach your hands to the top of your mat, or reach them back for your feet — whichever is most comfortable
  • As you settle into the pose, you’ll feel your body’s backside, front of your ankles and hips begin to stretch
  • Hold for 10 breaths