Daily Mobility Exercises by Dr. Kelly Starrett Forums General Ankle mobility radically different straight legged vs. bent


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    • #71237
      AvatarNoor-Allah Noorani


      I’ve been working on my ankle mobility and doing all the ankle mwods for about 6 months now and have seen a large improvement in my ankle mobility when my leg is straight (can put my knee 10 inches in front of my toes), however it has not improved (knee max one inch in front of toes) when my legs are bent at the knee. Is there something obvious that could be causing this?
    • #75685

      Good to hear you are seeing improvements with your ankle mobility.
      Not sure of the second part.
      Could you explain it differently?

    • #75691
      AvatarNoor-Allah Noorani

      Yep, sorry, wasn’t very clear.

      Basically, if I do this:

      I can get my knees a fair bit in front of my toes with a decent amount of ankle dorsiflexion. I’d estimate 8-10″ in front of my knees.

      But if I do this:

      I can only get my front knee about one inch in front of my toes. If I stretch out straight as in the first picture and then try to bend my knee, I feel a pinch of tightness in my ankle and just can’t go lower or retain the amount of forward position. Also if I do the second stretch in a way that’s not dependent upon the hip, that makes no difference.


    • #75739
      AvatarKatie Hemphill

      Hey Brewinz,

      My guesses would be that either:
      (A) You are overestimating your ankle mobility with the knee straight (are you just glancing down, or have you taken picutres of yourself?)
      (B) You are letting your knee drop inwards doing the straight knee stretch, which essentially creates the illusion of ankle mobility when it simply bypasses all the restriction.
      Anatomically, it wouldn’t make sense that, if you were using the same ankle movement for each position, you would have better dorsiflexion (toe-to-shin ROM) with your knee straight vs bent. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Allow me to elaborate.
      Your soleus muscle, the deeper of the big movers in your calf, only crosses the ankle. This means your knee position doesn’t really affect your ability to move your shin forward over your foot. Your gastrocnemius muscle, however, crosses both the ankle AND the knee. This means that if your knee is straight, it puts more tension on the gastrocnemius which may limit your ability to bring your shin over your foot.
      So yeah, I have to guess that there is an inconsistency between your positions when doing each stretch. Your best bet would be to take pictures of your lower body from the back and sides when doing each stretch and post them so we can confirm that.
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