Helen Clare barefoot running on a beach

How to Improve Foot and Ankle Mobility

Good mobility of our toes, feet and ankles plays a huge role in great running technique. In this post and video I’ll explain why, and give you a few ways to test and effectively increase your range of motion in the feet and ankles.

Why is foot & ankle mobility important for runners?

How much movement you have in the feet, toes and ankles affects your push off. This is the moment that your toes, specifically the big toe, pushes back up off the ground as you run. An effective toe push off will drive you forward in a really natural, efficient way.

To achieve this, the toes need to be strong and mobile – mobile enough to flex and strong to push off. The ankle also comes into play here – with good dorsiflexion needed on landing (mid-foot should land first, followed by the heel dropping) and good plantar flexion necessary for the push off.

Without good range of motion your whole gait is going to be affected and compromised. Stiff feet and toes won’t allow for a great push-off (and the propulsion this offers!) and stiff ankles won’t enable the foot to be in the right position for optimal toe push off.

How to test and increase foot and ankle mobility?

Start in any seated position. Point the toes away and lengthen the tops of the ankles as much as you can; then, flex the toes back towards you contracting the front of the ankle. See how much movement you have here in either direction. This is a great way to test and also useful to do regularly throughout the day if you need to improve your ROM here.

Sun Salutations for Runners

Simple Sun Salutations are such a great way to move the toes, feet and ankles through their full range of motion. Watch the video for my example and explanation in Sun Salute A. For my Runner’s Sun Salute, which is slightly longer but incorporates a few more key areas, find the link in the notes at the bottom of this 🙂

Post run toe stretch

As a post run stretch, or at the end of your day, sit back on your heels with the toes curled under. Lean forward as you need to, to take some weight out of the feet, otherwise sit upright and breathe calmly! Follow this dorsiflexion with plantar-flexion, by releasing the toes, sitting back on the heels. Watch the video for more explanation, including how to use a blanket to make this easier. I also have another video which is linked below, offering more ways to release foot tension.

Whole body integration is vital – what to do next

If you’re new to yoga, and you can see/ feel you need to work on this area, these three things are a great place to start!… But we should never only focus our attention on one area, even if we think it’s the main/ only problem. It won’t be! Our whole body is intrinsically connected. We must work on our whole-body, treating our muscles as a connected community. So work towards a whole-body yoga practice, that ensures you’re mobilising and strengthening all the key areas as a runner – to optimise your running body for potential, and minimise chance of injury. This is what my programmes are designed to do, which are linked below, please check them out!

I hope you enjoyed this and found it useful. Please leave me your thoughts, questions and comments!

Till next time, run with joy, Helen

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Useful Resources

Runner’s Sun Salutes
Release Feet & Lower Leg Tension
My Get On Track Program for Runners

ankle mobility, foot mobility, mobility for runners, natural running form, sun salutations for runners

Helen Clare

Helen Clare, founder of Helen Clare Yoga and Run Better with Yoga, is a trail runner, senior yoga teacher and yoga for athletes coach, living in Cornwall, UK.

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