Daily Mobility Exercises by Dr. Kelly Starrett Forums Foot/Ankle Lack of ankle dorsiflexion (joint or bone issue)

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    • #70968

      Hi everyone, 

      I´ve been working on the 10 min squat test, trying to be able to sit comfortable without hanging on to something. I´ve made some progress, I can squat down with feet decently narrow without falling backwards if I reach forward as much as possible with my arms. Though I get lots of “the-burning-shins” that Kelly talks about, my real problem is this:
      I lack dorsiflexion. I´ve done lots of posterior and anterior soft-tissue work below the knee (calf, shin, heel cord etc). Also banded distractions of the ankle joint. The thing is if I, when standing, press my knee forward with a collapsed foot arch I have lots of dorsiflexion. But trying to do the same thing with my feet screwed into the ground and a good arch it then feels like I get totally stuck in the front of my ankle, feels like my tibia just runs into the bone of my feet so to speak. I don´t feel any restriction in the posterior compartment, just a “bone-on-bone” feeling.

      I´ve looked through most of the videos here on mwod relating to ankle restrictions but can´t really find anything that has given me change in this area. I can´t really figure out the exact problem, but I ‘ve read something about the talus being jammed into the tibia or maybe that the tibia and fibula can´t spread enough around the talar wedge .

      Does anyone have any suggestions on what I should go after to fix this?

    • #74711

      Sounds like a situation to see a doctor to find out what is going on.

    • #74716
      AvatarSteve Stoll

      I have a similar issue. When i flex my ankle i can feel bone hitting bone. I’ve been working on my ankle almost as long as ive been crossfitting. A bit over a year now.

    • #74718
      Yes Kaitlin, it seems like the appropriate thing to do.

      Have you seen any change since the start Taylor? Do you also experience more dorsiflexion if you collapse your foot?

    • #74719

      Check out this thread and see if it is the same thing

    • #74720

      Collapsing your foot creates slack in the system which allows for more dorsiflexion.
      Going around the issue and poor positioning with a collaspsed foot.

    • #74730
      AvatarSteve Stoll

      Ive made progress but its come to halt and seems like im hitting a wall in my foot.

    • #74733
      AvatarNathan Richer

      Chris, how are you flexing your foot?  Working good ankle movement means going slightly to the outside. If you are moving over the foot too much to the center or inside, you’ll probably go bone on bone as well as collapsing your arch which is bad.  Have you checked out the latest webinar on the ankle and foot, and the latest Roop and Jami’s Excellent Ankle adventures in Episodes?

      Often I will do ankle DF with a pole standing straight up right to the inside of my foot at the arch. when i move the knee forward, i will go to the outside of the pole to clear it which prevents the foot from collapsing and moves the lower leg over the foot where there is room in the ankle….forgive me – my anatomy is fuzzy on the exact mechanism.
      Your ankle may also be compacted. A good chiro or PT will know how to release it. Of course, it is the muscles and structures that are probably yanking the foot tight against the ankle, so it needs good mobilizing work to support the release and ultimately maintain it over time.
    • #74741

      In the ankle webinar, the positions Kelly puts that girls ankle in look like it would help accelerate the process of cleaning up range of motion.  All the daily rx’s would just help maintain the new range.

      I think in the webinar he also explains what the kettle bell smash is really doing as well.  I do the kettle bell smash on the calcaneus and I feel relief on the medial malleolus.  
    • #74786
      AvatarKatie Hemphill

      Hey Mike,

      An important thing to consider, as Kelly has emphasized in a lot of ankle vid’s, is that stiff calves are horrendous bunches of grisly tissue that have seen tons of loading. It takes a lot of consistent work to restore ankle range of motion, as I myself have found. Only by working on it diligently daily, using a combination of approaches have I made any headway.
      If you’re experience a lot of this bone-on-bone blocking in the front of your ankle, the banded versions of the ankle mobs will be key (band pulling backwards towards your heel). This encourages the tibia to glide backwards as it rolls forwards against your talus. I’m a big fan of throwing the band on with my foot up on a bench, then grabbing the sides and pushing my chest into my knee to apply tension. Make sure you don’t allow your foot to collapse or your heel to rise, as either will compromise the position and your results. Don’t be afraid to do a little contract/relax here either.
      You might find that, in any ankle mob, two minutes is not nearly enough time. I’ve had to put in 5-10min per side in some sessions just to feel like I made a dent. Just make sure you’re not experiencing any pain during the mob, take the longer sessions in doses (or even chunk it up throughout the day), and use a combination of soft tissue work, banded flossing, and banded stretching with an emphasis on position.
      Let us know how it goes!
    • #74855

      Thanks for all the advice.

      iron_tiger, I will try out your instructions and give my ankles some seriously attention and see what happens.
      But the thing is, I went to the chiro the other day and it turns out I have more important issues to take care of before my ankles;-)
      I have bad posture (which I´ve been trying to fix before, but haven´t REALLY resolved completely) which means forward head, rounded shoulders, weak core, tight hip flexors etc. Also a L5 subluxation that she is trying to fix.
      So I’m going to fix my posture once and for all this time, and then go after everything else that is wrong…
    • #74859

      As you get somethings in a better place/position. Other issues start to resolve because there aren’t compensations for the other things.
      Start chipping away at it.

    • #75004


      On my left foot I feel like I am getting bone on bone action with my medial malleolus when I create an arch and move my knee forward.  
      I’ve been smashing my medial and lateral parts of my shins.  Banded distraction etc.  
      One mystery I have is that my big toe feels stiff  and I was wondering if thats an sign of anything that I am missing.  It seems as though when I create an arch/torque in the left foot my big toe is straining to keep down.  Is this a sign of a weak left foot?  I also have a hard time balancing on it as well.  
    • #75010

      You just have to keep working at it. This includes areas you don’t think are relevant. You are going to have to do all the heavy lifting yourself, but I highly recommend seeing a highly qualified physical therapist. Someone who deals more with sports injuries than occupational therapy/post-surgical type rehabilitations. There is only so much a therapist can do in a once or twice weekly 40 minute or so session. 

      I’ve been working on my gimpy right leg for over two years now, including two rounds of physical therapy. MWod is a great resource, but Kelly and gang can’t cover everything. You really need someone who can do a hands-on assessment and keep you pointed in the right direction. Your physical therapist will have exercises for you that Kelly doesn’t demonstrate, including some strengthening exercises. You’ll find that what you learn from MWod will help you understand what your physical therapist is doing, watching what your physical therapist does will help you better understand what Kelly is talking about in his videos. Maybe your back being out of alignment is inhibiting some muscle from firing properly. This was the case with me. My therapist did some manipulations and just like magic I had much improved strength in the glute medius. It was like flipping a switch. There are a lot of possibilities. 
      When I first started I couldn’t do the 10-minute squat test to save my life. My foot would turn out and I would fall over backwards just about when my thighs got to parallel. I can now get all the way down and keep my feet parallel. I get just a little big of crackling in my right knee. I used to have major impingement in the front of my ankle, that “bone-on-bone” feeling, along with something going on around the medial maleolus. I find increasing hip mobility also improves hip mobility. 
    • #75037
      AvatarJoyce Lee

      I used to have that bone on bone feeling.  Turns out it was….bone on bone.  Finally saw a legit (after about 5 decent but not great PT’s) who said something was up and i should go get an xray.  It was bone spurs.  The doctor removed them last week and I am still in a boot but whenever i take it off i can already feel that my ankle has more dorsiflexion than before.  

      I had all kinds of soft tissue work done on it by professionals and myself and it would get better for a couple days and then go back to how it was.  If it really never gets better it’s worth getting an xray i think.  Wish i had gotten one 4 years ago when i first noticed this and not waited so long.
    • #75048


      What were your circumstances to get surgery?  I am not officially competing or anything — I’d just like to have a healthy body.  I’d like to squat when I am 60 etc.  
    • #75054


      you wrote that you pretty much couldn´t do 10 min squat test before, but now that has improved. What drills have you been doing?
      David Green, did the doctor say anything about how you got the bone spur in the first place? Is it because of any past injuries? I´m also wondering if you experienced any pain in the front of the ankle before the surgery, or was it just bone-on-bone?
      To all, I´m a bit curious how much dorsiflexion you guys have? Not exactly sure how to measure properly, but I measure with a ruler from the wall to the foot, at the point where I can get my knee to the wall without collapsing or that the heel comes off. I get around 11 cm (or 4,5 inches) before my “bone-on-bone”-feeling occurs. 
    • #75086
      AvatarJoyce Lee

      I didn’t have any pain.  It was just bone on bone.  I would try a bent knee calf stretch on that side and i didn’t feel any stretch in the the calf at all.  Really just felt blocked and wouldn’t move/improve.  He said the bone spur was just from repeated inflammation.  I think it’s because i’ve rolled that ankle 23958729 times and eventually it built up scar tissue/new bone.  I don’t know for sure how it happened though because i actually have felt that bone spur for like 5 years and i don’t know exactly when i first noticed it or what i was doing around that time.  

      The doctor said i didn’t need to get surgery if i wasn’t going to be super active but whenever i ran i would feel issues in my knee and hip and i couldn’t squat or pistol correctly on that leg.
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