One of the most common faults I see is the tendency to only stretch the calf in one plane. Most people have been told to stretch the ankle with “the knee going straight over the toes.” This is great for mobilizing only SOME portions of the calf and ankle joint. In many cases, you think you are going directly over the foot, but you are actually brining the knee to the inside portion of the ankle joint. This is typical when the foot is pointed outward while you are stretching. The next time you stretch the ankle make an effort to work into the outside portion of the ankle. Feeling as if your knee is traveling toward the outside portion of your foot, while keeping your heel down.
Why Does This Matter For Resolving Knee and Ankle Pain?
Our bodies like to travel in the path of least resistance. If you are missing motion in the outer portion of your ankle you tend to see the foot collapse with walking, running, squatting and going up and down stairs. If plantar-fasciitis isn’t your main complaint it is most likely inner knee pain. Where the ankle goes the knee tends to follow. When the foot collapses the knee goes with it. Putting increased compressive force on the knee joint and strain at the muscles and nerves that run along the inner knee and thigh.
If you have ever heard the cue “knees out” while squatting, understand that this isn’t possible without adequate ankle motion in the outside portion of the ankle joint. Creating this motion takes stress off the knee and allows the muscles above the ankle to work more effectively with most exercises and daily movements. No matter how many clamshells you do, your glutes aren’t working without good alignment.
Check this for yourself using a mirror. Where does your knee cap point in relation to your foot when stretching, squatting and lunging?