Human Biomechanics for Beginners: the Ankle Joint

This article is part of a series that will describe how various parts of your body move. Knowing these basics will help you become aware of your movements and move better.

The topic today is your ankle joint, which plays an important role in your knee and your foot, balance, and more. Your ankles absorb all the stress of the impact of running, jumping, and walking. They also stabilize your entire body weight.

The Ankle Joint Complex

Your ankle joint is more accurately called an ankle joint complex. It made up of two rearfoot joints, the talocrural joint, and the subtalar joint. The bones of these joints with surrounded by articular cartilage and ligaments. Using the joint-by-joint approach, your ankle joints primary need is mobility.

The talocrural joint consists of:
● The bottom of the tibia—bony landmark: the medial malleolus is the bump on the inside of your ankle.
● The bottom of the fibula—bony landmark: the lateral malleolus is the bump on the outside of your ankle.
● The talus, a wedge-shaped bone beneath the tibia and the fibula.

The subtalar joint is below the talocrural joint. It consists of:
● The talus on top, and
● The calcaneus (heel) below.

Directions of Movement

There are six directions of movement at the ankle.

The talocrural joint allows the up-and-down motion of your foot.
● Dorsiflexion – top of your foot moves toward your knee (Note: Ankle dorsiflexion is greater when the knee is flexed and less when the knee is extended.)
● Plantar flexion – bottom of the foot moves toward your knee.

The subtalar joint allows the side-to-side motion of the foot. This helps your foot to adapt to uneven surfaces.
● Inversion – foot rotates inward and upward (bottom toward the midline)
● Eversion – foot rotates outward and upward (bottom away from the midline)
● Abduction – moving the far end of the foot away from the midline
● Adduction – moving the far end of the foot toward the midline

Pronation and supination of the ankles combine three of the directions of movement.
● Pronation (dorsiflexion, eversion, abduction) – bottom of the foot moves outward
● Supination (plantar flexion, inversion, adduction) – bottom of the foot moves inward

Extreme inward and outward movements may result in an ankle sprain. More than 9 million Americans sprain their ankle each year. Ankle sprains are the most frequent injury in the body! If you want to reduce the risk of ankle injuries, you will want to strengthen and mobilize your ankles. Strong, flexible ankles also reduce the risk of shin splints and Achilles tendonitis.

I have described two moves that can help strengthen your ankles in previous articles. Balancing on One Foot (Balancing on One Foot (11/15/18) and 3-Way Ankle Mobility Stretch (11/29/18)

Here is another movement that will strengthen the side-to-side motion of your ankles. All three moves would make a great ankle-focus home practice!

Seated Floor Lateral Ankle Movements

1. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you, your ankles pinned together, and your feet dorsiflexed.
2. Place your palms beside your hips with fingertips pointing forward. Press into your hands to sit up tall.
3. Breath in. Breathe out. Become aware of your breath.
4. Turn the soles of your feet inward (inversion).
5. Turn to the soles of your feet outward (eversion). (Note: Inversion and eversion are small movements. The range of motion for inversion will be greater than the range of motion for eversion.)
6. Repeat both movements 10-20 times. Listen to your inner athlete.
7. Stop. Ask yourself, “How do I feel.”
8. If it is hard for you to sit on the floor, sit on a blanket, or sit with your back against a wall, or a chair or a sofa.

This movement will also help your posture!

Summing Up:

The ankle joint complex supports six directions of motion of the ankle. Move the ankles in all directions. To maintain ankle mobility, strengthen the ankles and prevent ankle injuries.

Medical disclaimer: This article is for education and information only. It is not a substitute for a doctor’s opinion.

Via Anderson, E-RYT, is a Yoga and movement coach and teaches the Intelligent
Movement Forever system of healthy movement in a weekly online
class, in private sessions, and at Yoga Vallarta during the high season. This
77-year-old grandmother practices what she preaches and teaches. She
is the author of “How to Move Without Pain: A Compendium of Intelligent
Movement”, to be released in 2019. www.intelligentmovementforever.com

yogawithvia@gmail.com

Via Anderson, E-RYT, is a Yoga and movement coach and teaches the Intelligent Movement Forever system of healthy movement in a weekly online class, in private sessions, and at Yoga Vallarta during the high season. This 77-year-old grandmother practices what she preaches and teaches. She is the author of “How to Move Without Pain: A Compendium of Intelligent Movement”, to be released in 2019. www.intelligentmovementforever.com