Ankle Instability

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PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Swanevelder

Being injured is one of the greatest frustrations for any runner and so often we try to push through it, which almost always makes it worse. Trail running has a very high impact on our joints due to unstable surfaces and difficult terrain. Ask any experienced trail runner and they will confirm that a rolled ankle is one of the most common injuries in this sport.

ITB or runner’s knee can be the result of ankle instability as the latter has an effect on all our joints. Ligamentous structures stabilises the ankle joint and aids in proprioception (body awareness), which is needed for balance. Without ankle stability our ability to react quickly, change direction and build speed is greatly affected. As human beings with an upright posture, our balance system takes its cue from the ankle joint.

Exercises that improve ankle stability need to be included in our training programs:

  • Single leg standing eyes open.
  • Single leg standing eyes closed.
  • Single leg squats, taking care not to bend knee over the toes.
  • Repeat all of the above standing on an unstable surface, such as a balance board or bosu ball.
  • Catch and throw a ball while standing single leg on unstable surface.
  • Sideways hops:  start on the left leg, then jump as far as possible to the right, landing on the right leg while maintaining balance. Change sides.
  • Figure of eight running.

Ankle stability is the key to conquering difficult trail terrain and kicking rolled ankles out of the picture!