Your feet are the most likely culprit!
Your feet are the base of your bodily structure (Let’s stick to bipedal humans who move by foot. Obviously there are exceptions: paraplegics, amputations, etc.). That base needs to be stable. Knowing how to create a stable base is half the battle, it’s just good foot posture! The other half is being mobile enough in the structures to achieve good posture.
There’s a simple way to do this, all it takes is consistent practice and awareness. Pictured below is a postural drill for your ankle to test before and then retest after mobilization.
This first picture (above) is an active ankle. There is a definitive arch in the bottom of the foot, right where it should be (so aggressively pointed at). This is good foot posture! Having your shoulders back and down while standing or sitting is the equivalent.
Above, you can see a collapsed ankle; the equivalent to rounded and forward shoulders with a forward head lean. Not ideal.
Being able to go between these two ankle positions takes practice.
Try going between the two “postures”, barefoot or in socks, while standing on an elevated surface. A plyo box will do. While in an active ankle position, it should feel like the bottom of your foot is going to cramp (the plantar tissue), it’s because you’re contracting it and actually using it!
While in a collapsed ankle position, you should feel, and see for that matter, your middle ankle bone (medial malleolus) jut out. Again, not ideal.
Perform 15-20 reps of going back and forth.
But how do we get there? Sometimes, awareness of body positions isn’t enough to change them. We have to re-mold our muscles to get there, enter the mobilization techniques.
First, we need to address the problem right at the source. All you need is a lacrosse ball and a PVC pipe, two things easily found here at Friction CrossFit. Simply place the ball or pipe right underneath the arch of the foot and slowly shift body weight onto that foot. Start with a PVC pipe for a larger point of mobilization, a lacrosse ball will be more pin point. We want to start large, then get to the finer detail.
Next, we should address upstream, the hip. While performing the ankle posture drill, an active ankle should wind your ankle up (via external rotation), therefore driving your knee laterally (towards the outside of your body), and creating tension in your hip (by your glute). That tension in your glute and hip is a result of torque. Torque is rotational force. In order to effectively create external rotation torque in your hip, you have to be able to achieve a good range of motion.
Picture below is a “pigeon pose” mobilization, great for loosening up the hip in an externally rotated (and flexed hip) position. Give it a shot.
Now, you know how to mobilize the arch of your foot and hip, and you know how to effectively create a stable ankle position.
Next, we can apply this to standing, sitting, jumping, running, and squatting. During these activities, the knee needs to be a stable joint. We make it a stable joint by creating torque (that fun rotational force) in our ankle and hip, the joints above and below it. Dynamic movements like jumping, running, and squatting demand a stable knee position, one that is in line with the toes (jumping and running) or have the knee outside of the toes (squats).
If the knee is out of those positions and thrust inwards like pictured, harmful forces can deteriorate the knee joint over time and thousands of reps.
Clearly it can also damage the ankle, most sprained ankles are “inversion sprains”, when your foot rolls inwards, towards the middle.
When we have properly torqued ankles and knees, both structures should look like this picture, as a whole.
With a purposeful, cognizant rotational force, stability is made in the knee and the ankle.
Through testing ankle posture, mobilizing the arch of the foot and the hip, and by retesting ankle posture we can restore our lower body function. Restored function leads to improved performance and functionality of the body as a whole. This all leads to a better life outside of the gym!
See you in the box,
P.s. Thank you to our wonderful models Bobby Armock and Mike Carr.
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