It's all in the Ankle
Updated: Apr 3, 2020
Our body is an amazing tool that, like any other tool, if we don't take care of it, then it will break down. One place we see it break down and cause issues, which can cascade up the body, is the ankle.
What is the ankle?
The ankle joint allows up-and-down movement of the foot. The subtalar joint sits below the ankle joint and allows side-to-side motion of the foot. Numerous ligaments (made of tough, moveable tissue) surround the true ankle and subtalar joints, binding the bones of the leg to each other and to those of the foot. Truly, we are looking at 2 joints working together to make the ankle move in the way we think it does.
Our body works in alternating patterns of stable and mobile joints. The ankle is a mobile joint, while the knee above it and the foot below it are stable joints. Many times when there is an issue in a joint, it can reverse this and make the knee and/or foot try to give mobility. This is not what we want from a "stable" joint and this can lead to many issues.
The ankle is prone to become stiff and immobile. When our ankle loses its ability to move, it affects the rest of the body. The foot below becomes unstable and therefore the natural arch of the foot collapses. The knee above also becomes unstable. When we squat, an unstable knee will often wobble and fall inwards. These are only the closest effects of an immobile ankle. Eventually, a stiff ankle could negatively impact the rest of the body. Entire movement patterns can be altered due to stiff ankles. (1)
In terms of the golf swing, when you cannot dorsiflex the foot (bring the toes to the shin) you will have a harder time trying to squat. Now you may be asking why does the ability to squat matter in the golf swing. There is a high correlation to the inability to do a squat and loss of posture in the golf swing. 64% of amateur golfers lose their posture during their swing. Loss of posture can lead to many issues including Over the Top and Flat Shoulder Plane.
Are my ankles limited?
There is an easy way to determine how good your ankle mobility is. Follow this video to test your ankles.
How do I fix my tight ankles?
There are many ways to address your tight ankles. Some work can be soft tissue, which is what we will focus on here. You may also have structural issues that may be something you've had your whole life. If it's structural, then this probably won't help as much, but you can still try. The last type of impediment to your mobility could be neurological that would typically occur after an accident. Your brain can be apprehensive to move the foot, so it holds back to protect itself, no matter how hard you try to move.
The first way we work on the soft tissue is to mobilize the calf with a foam roller.
The second way is to stretch the calf.
Try these out, then retest to see if/how much it helped. If it did help, then do these on a regular basis to gain more mobility in the ankle and hopefully your squat pattern and golf swing will be more capable as well.
1. Horschig, A. (2017, June 30). How to Screen Ankle Mobility. Retrieved from https://squatuniversity.com/2015/11/05/the-squat-fix-ankle-mobility-pt-1/