Expert Ankles

Just out today is a great article on Livestrong for which I was the expert: 12 Easy Anytime Moves to Strengthen the Feet and Ankles. I’m especially proud of the pillow walking. I was asked to modify my rock walking recommendation so that people could do the entire program at home. THE PILLOW WALKING IS COOL, RIGHT? TELL ME THAT IT’S NOT LAME!

The article is very user-friendly and full of stuff to do but I’d like to make a few adjustments (to stuff that is out of my hands in the post-writing editorial process, as all I get to do is create the moves).

During the gastroc calf stretch, the front knee should not be bent. Both legs should be straight like this:

G22 Figure 12

It’s ok if the front knee bends a little with the back knee (see the soleus stretch in the article) but to a lesser degree than what is pictured.

The “Wheelies” are not an exercise created by me; I forwarded the writer a the link to Yoga Tune Up®‘s Jill Miller’s video demo. I’d like to give Jill a shout out here! You should do some Wheelies right now, in your living room.

Here’s a general tutorial on “standing on a single leg” exercises for both the article as well as anything else you do one-legged:

When I recommend standing on one foot for the purpose of ankle strengthening, it is standing on one leg with two fully extended knees that I am recommending. You can do the one in this article (with the front knee bent) as long as you are actually listing with the standing leg. But it is even more effective if you keep both legs straight. WHY IT MATTERS (aka Isn’t All Single-Leg Standing the Same? No.) has to do with a complex action of the hip muscles through which the hinge action of the ankle complex in maintained.

We love to bend our knees and flex our hip when we stand on one leg because bending our knees and flexing the hip (as found in sitting) is the most-frequent position we put ourselves in. We keep defaulting back what is comfortable (knee flexion/hip flexion) when we do everything (like walk, exercise, stand on one leg…). It is the sitting and the chronic knee-hip flexion that comes with that tends to  lead us to weak lateral hips in the first place — a weakness that knocks the ankle (and knee) off its axis in three different planes.

Play with standing on one leg with and without bending your knee to get one foot up. Now apply the straight-leg single leg balance to the exercises in the article. Double the fun.

So, anyway, I just wanted to share a cool article with you. And P.S. I hope you enjoyed the 5 takes of the listing video. I think it’s HILARIOUS when you guys comment that you’re shocked at my kids being stressed or me being frazzled. Please do not confuse my love for geometry with a love for perfection. Those are two entirely different things. We live in well-aligned, well-loved, joyful disarray here most of the time. You and I are entirely the same, which is the symmetry I’m most appreciative of.

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23 thoughts on “Expert Ankles

  1. Thanks so much for the pelvic list explanation, Katy. I have read your book and have the video, but I could never seem to quite get it until I watched this. Appreciate all of your helpful advice. And your kids are quite entertaining, too!

  2. The pillow walking IS cool. I invented something similar, proof that I have actually learned something from you!!! Walking on bubble wrap. We folded over bubble wrap and taped it with duct tape, to make a kind of balance beam. You can use different kinds of bubble wrap, or if some has already popped or been stomped on – its all good. Now there is a kind, where the air moves from cell to cell – this kind is especially great for walking on. Kids love it.

    But….if you just never picked up the toys, would that work too?

  3. Loved Jill’s cameo on your blog and somehow her demo did not make me as dizzy as Finn’s camerawork but then again I am lurching along in the back of a NYC taxi cab imagining standing on one leg and racing in tilted circles.

  4. You know what I love most about this post and the link to the livestrong piece? I tell my folks in class all the time that just because they see an exercise credited to an “expert” in a health and fitness magazine, if it betrays what they know about alignment, they should not do it. I have heard too many stories about editing or photography where the expert ends up feeling really misrepresented. This post today really illustrates that beautifully and I plan to refer to it.

    (Oh, and the ankle stuff is good, too. I am so teaching wheelies.)

  5. A little scared to do the Wheelie thing ‘cuz I think I’ll get dizzy but I think I’ll try them before bed! 🙂

  6. Loved the pillow walking, did it tonight. But I also found a “rock farm” (that is what my son calls it) to walk on today at a local park. It has been hot and humid all week, so at lunch I found a park that I could take my shoes off and walk in the creek, walk in the grass, while staying in the shade. Lots of barefoot exercise. I even hung on the monkey bars. :))
    I get some odd looks, and directives to put my shoes on. They are well meaning I guess…

  7. I tried one leg standing for the first time a few weeks ago after seeing it from another post/video that you made. I thought “No problem, I can do this!”. Wrong! My right leg, that was/is affected by an L5/S1 disc herniation, forgot how to move that way. My hip and knee kept flexing even though my brain said to stay straight. After a few tries I am good now. Wheelies look scary to try! I may get my boys to try it first-they love a good challenge like trying to get across the living room without touching the floor. Boys are so cool!

  8. Thanks for another awesome informative article. Are you not concerned about over recruiting contralateral quadratus lumborum as opposed to hip abductors? I see my clients often hip hike using the opposite QL as a compensation when they can’t figure out how to recruit their abdcutor in single leg stance. Just wondering…


  9. I appreciate the tips and videos, and the parts that I can actually see and hear are helpful–Yay and thanks!

    It would help if they weren’t interrupted as much. It’s hard to learn new things when there’s distraction from sound competition or jerky POV filming.

  10. I played soccer growing up and sprained my right ankle a few times in high school. I recall twice but I think it was close to three times in a row before my coach told me I needed to strengthen my weak right ankle.
    She said for me to stand barefoot on a hard surface and pick up my good foot- and close my eyes. Every night before bedtime I’d stand on my weak bare foot and close my eyes and the constant correction of balancing and catching myself helped. I didn’t sprain my right ankle again.
    I wonder if this exercise may be helpful for other people.

  11. I love both of these exercises and the article. I am going to put all of this into practice today. My outer legs and hip are always trying to cheat the system and as a result, they are weak. “Please do not confuse my love for geometry with a love for perfection. Those are two entirely different things. We live in well-aligned, well-loved, joyful disarray here most of the time. You and I are entirely the same, which is the symmetry I’m most appreciative of.” The disarray and joy in chaos is one of the reasons I love this blog!! Keep on, keepin’ on!

  12. My two year old loved the pillow walking! She also thought running around in circles (while I was Wheelie-ing) was fun, but it’s a challenge when we are running in opposite directions! We had a few wrecks. 🙂 Thanks for the post!

  13. Great exercises! We all did them as a family this evening (to one extent or another!). I was wondering if these are useful for those with osteoarthritis in the ankle, brought on after injury. A relative of mine has been told he’ll probably require a fusion in the not too distant future, and is (obviously) keen to avoid it and maintain his active lifestyle.

  14. I love it that you have your kids with you. Kids and their parents should always be together. I do workshops with moms and their babies come too, I tell them it’s OK because I’m a mummy too so I know how to make the ‘interactions’ work for all of us!

  15. Inspiring work Katy! I get thrilled by your alignment posts and I love the chaos of your family and friends. While in college a professor once shared with us about a tribe that would stop conversation to answer their children because they believed children deserved the immediate interaction and affection. It worked wonders for my children and I’m proud that it works the same in your blissfully frenetic world! Quite frankly it’s the real world atmosphere that keeps me coming back.

  16. Love the pelvic list exercise, but doesn’t referring to “lateral hip ms” cause confusion, since we’re talking about gluteal ms?

    1. Well, the glute group isn’t the only muscle I’m talking about when I say “lateral hip” musculature though, I also include TFl here, which is why knee position is so essentially for a list during gait.

  17. Last fall I was going to run a half marathon with a friend and I found your blog as I was searching for ways to help support my weak pelvic floor and to keep myself from, well, you know, peeing all over myself during the race. I had to drop out anyway because a) I kept spraining my ankle around mile 8 of my long runs (sprained it first in high school basketball) and b) I got pregnant. Now the little bundle of joy is here and I am starting to walk more and eventually want to ease myself back into the running so I can do it without injury, and I hope these exercises will help. I always get shin splints when I run too, so I’m trying to get in lots of calf stretching. Thank you for all the info you share on this blog! I am slowly working on changing my habits for the better.

    As a side note, shouldn’t it really be called ‘donuts’ instead of wheelies? Aren’t wheelies when the front wheel of a bike is off the ground? whereas donuts are going in circles? Good exercise either way, the name just made me scratch my head as I have always heard it as donuts in the parking lot.

  18. Thanks for the good writeup. It in reality was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to more added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how can we keep in touch?

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