Running is a repetitive activity by nature, with the foot striking the ground and going through to the next cycle of push-off.......
......but there's more to it than that
The body DOES NOT land exactly the same way every single time the foot hits the ground. This is not a bad thing either because if there are no small variations, we wouldn't be able to make the turns and be as athletic as we are.
The traditional "rolled ankle" happens when the foot does not turn over enough upon landing as weight is being displaced on that side. If the foot cannot get into position in time, the hip will try to rotate ahead and transfer the force in the ground in a different fashion.
If the hip can't overcome the position or if it fails at distributing force, the ankle will roll.
Having looser shoes with a flat foot can predispose the foot to being placed in a poor landing position as there is not enough control while striking the ground. Same for a high arched foot with rigid shoes, you may find that you land too far on the outside of the foot.
The ankle is a small joint, but rarely is it a “weak” joint.
Some may say when they’ve rolled their ankle multiple times it’s because they have “weak ankles”.
What really happens is that the ankle and foot are put in poor positions to succeed. Mainly this is due to poor control of the limb as you swing the leg thru from push off. It also, can be from insufficient hip stability as well, as the hip should take on most of the force coming from the ground up.
Keys to restore stability in the ankle and the hip would be to start by having the foot flat on an elevated surface and learning how to control the knee going over the ankle while the foot stays flat.
A front-foot elevated split squat would be a good choice in this case.
Once you can learn how to control the hip and ankle in a split stance, move towards lateral stances with lunging or chopping patterns that force the body to shift side to side. The foot should not roll up on the outside/inside as you transfer your weight.
Gaining control in structured manner with the above exercises is the start,
Once this is established, increase the speed at which the joints are loaded, while maintaining control, as this prepares you for the dynamic and more chaotic nature of running (remember when I said we don’t land exactly the same every time).
This means you want to perform step-ups with a high knee (aka a sprinter step-up), lateral hop and sticks, and pogo hops to increase the tissue tolerance for repetitive landing and push-off.
As you can see, solving the “weak ankle” problem that could happen with running is not at all about focusing on just ankle strength.
It is about learning how to control the limb in different facets of the gait cycle and learning how to progress it with increased rates of speed.
If you still have trouble figuring out how to solve your ankle problem, write a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be more than happy to answer it.
Dr. Peter Dionisopoulos is the owner and founder of Dynamic Performance & Rehab. He has worked with many high-level athletes and military personnel, but his true passion is to help active adults maintain their lifestyle by providing information and potential solutions to their aches and pains so they can continue with the activities they love.