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Pain-Free Running: Ankle Mobility and Knee Pain

ankle knee pain running Jun 10, 2020

The ankle joint (talocrural joint) has two movements: dorsiflexion (bringing toes up towards the knees) and plantarflexion (pushing toes down - pressing the gas). But how can ankle mobility contribute to knee pain? Despite being two different joints entirely, the ankle’s ability to move within a normal range of motion affects our knees’ ability to maintain correct alignment while running (and walking). If an ankle is lacking motion, the knee will be compromised.

The most common limitations seen in ankle mobility are with dorsiflexion (DF). Normal DF ranges are between 0-20 degrees of active movement and research indicates that runners need at least 15 degrees of DF for proper running mechanics.

Adequate DF range of motion helps ensure that your body is able to absorb the shock of landing during running. Adequate shock absorption leads to a decrease in the potential for overuse injuries of other joints or muscles involved in running.

But what happens when we don’t have enough ankle DF? To get a bit more specific, a lack of DF while running may result in poor positioning of the foot as it strikes the ground.  This in turn results in poor force distribution through the foot and positional compensations of the foot. When the ankle lacks adequate DF during running, the tibia (shin bone) beings to rotate internally too much. This increased internal rotation of the tibia results in increased knee valgus (collapsing inward). This creates excessive stress through the knee joint and may cause pain. Every joint in the body is connected; if there are limitations in one specific joint, the joint above and below will be affected. Thus, poor ankle mobility can result in knee, hip, or even low back pain.

Limitations in ankle DF may be a result of muscle stiffness (Calf: gastrocnemius/soleus), muscle weakness (anterior tibialis), or poor talocrural joint mobility. Fortunately, these limitations can all be directly addressed through physical therapy, with exercises, stretches, and manual therapy.

Below are links to our YouTube channel with exercises and stretches that can help improve ankle DF range of motion.


For Muscle Stiffness: Self Myofascial Release with Lacrosse Ball


For Joint Mobility: Ankle Dorsiflexion Mobilizations


For Joint Mobility: Ankle DF Mobilizations with Band


To get a full evaluation with specific measurements and assessments, schedule today!


Get in Touch:

(949) 409-1339
Alyson O’Connor, PT, DPT, CSCS
Owner – Impact Physical Therapy and Performance
Physical Therapist – Laguna Niguel, California
[email protected]




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