It is extremely important to first review what the impairments are when an athlete wears a poor pair of “every day shoes.” Last week, we spent a lot of time focusing on the domino effect that happens when athletes wear shoes that have a high heel lift or a cushioned sole. Here is the big picture of what tends to happen after prolonged periods of wearing these types of shoes.
Shoes with heels —> Center of Mass that is Forward —> Tone in Calf Musculature —>
Tight Calfs —> Improper Squatting and Walking —> Walking with a Vault or with foot out —>
Tight Hip Flexors and Hip External Rotators —> Inability to Extend and Internally Rotate Hip —>
Decreased Accuracy and Velocity When Throwing For Quarterbacks
There’s a lot going on with this isn’t there? This might seem a little farfetched, but it is absolutely not. Today, we want to give you solutions on how to fix the local issue at the foot/ankle, but also strategies on how you can go about fixing the global problems that exist elsewhere in the body. Let’s get started!
If you haven’t read last week’s post, start by doing that right now so you can follow along today!
Start With Changing Your Shoes
This might seem like common sense, but there are so many athletes out there that will read this and then not do anything about it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! This could not be more true when it comes to just changing your shoes. By doing so, you will prevent injuries traumatic injuries such as ACL tears or fractured ankles. You will also prevent all the nagging types of problems that athletes experience such as plantar fasciitis, patellar tendonitis, hip bursitis, and low back pain. The minimalist shoe will prevent the anterior lean of the body which will keep the proper balance between the flexors/extensors of the body. This will decrease tone that becomes prominent in the extensor musculature, therefore balancing the body back to a homeostatic state.
The minimalist shoe will also provide a lot of sensory feedback to the foot, which is needed for the brain to give proper output during movements such as cutting, running, jumping, and throwing. The cushioned heel limits sensory feedback, therefore limiting the input to the brain for motor output. This is not a good thing for athletes!
There are many minimalist shoes out there, but we recommend the shoes that vivo barefoot puts out. They use science to build a shoe structure that not only prevents injury, but also promotes performance. Above is a picture of a pair of their athletic shoes, but below are two more pictures of shoes that they provide for more professional settings. We won’t wear another brand of shoes. (reach out to us if you want a discount)
Starting With the Ankle
So once you get your shoes changed, we now need to reverse the effects on the joint capsule of the ankle and also teach the musculature to relax since it has the ability to do so now. When going into a deep squat or during or at the end of terminal stance during the gait cycle, the ankle needs to get to maximal dorsiflexion in order to perform properly. We need to teach the ankle to do this. In the video below, we give you a great exercise that is working on moving the joint capsule of the ankle better, along stretching the gastrocnemius/soleus complex that makes up the calf.
It’s important to try and do this exercise with no shoes on so you can place the band in the right place. It’s also important to pay close attention to the foot when you drive the knee forward to get the stretch. If the foot is collapsing while driving the knee forward, then we know that we are going too far. Maintain the arch while keeping the foot straight! This is super important.
The Relationship of Ankle Dorsiflexion and Hip Extension
When talking about ankle dorsiflexion during the gait cycle, it is also super important to talk about hip extension. There two motions have to go hand in hand. You can’t have one and not have the other for proper gait. This is also true when thinking about the quarterback throwing motion. A lack of hip extension will cause the foot to turn to the side during the acceleration phase of throwing which we refer to as “trailing hip syndrome.” For a review on what that is, please follow the video below.
Since we are trying to fix the ankle dorsiflexion impairment, we will also need to fix the hip extension deficit that is most likely present. 95% of the football players that we work with present with decreased hip extension and ankle dorsiflexion. This is just the nature of the beast right now when it comes to the modern athlete. Below, we have provided an extremely thorough video on how to increase hip extension THE RIGHT WAY. The set up for this mobility exercise is crucial. Please pay close attention!
The Other Hip Motion
One of the most overlooked ranges of motion in rotational athletes is hip internal rotation. SO many athletes lack this due to the compensations that we have talked about previously. A poorly positioned pelvis will cause a lack of internal rotation, but poor movement will also cause it. Either way, below is a 2 step process on how you can increase hip internal rotation. The first step includes giving the posterior capsule of the hip the head of the femur more room to move in the joint. The femur will shift back in the socket when going into hip internal rotation. Without laxity in the capsule, the femur will have nowhere to move, therefore causing a lack of range of motion.
The second video includes a great exercise that athletes can perform while incorporating proper breathing with the movement. As you go into more internal rotation, you will also want to exhale at this point. Inhale when holding the static position, exhale when trying to increase the range of motion. Repeat this process during the extent of the whole exercise.
The last video we want to provide is one that every human being needs to perform every day. This is once again increasing ankle dorsiflexion and hip internal rotation, but is also working to get the pelvis to a properly oriented position while breathing on top of that position. There are many incredible benefits from this exercise.
Now that you have done all this mobility work that will last between 10-15 minutes, it is extremely important to follow it up now with some actual movement so the neuromuscular system can pick up on the fact that this new range of motion is available. I love what Grey Cook says about this phenomenon. He explains that the exercise that is performed after mobility work is like clicking “save” on the document on the computer. If you just perform the mobility work with no exercise after, then the restrictions will just go back to where they were before. Athletes can do lunges and squats after performing these specific mobility exercises. If players have extremely decreased ranges of ankle mobility, don’t be afraid to elevate the heels on a pad or a weight when squatting. There’s nothing wrong with this! Click save on the document.
Some of these concepts are very complex, so please feel to free to reach out with questions if you have any! We expect that. You can reach me by phone/text at 812-343-4226 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.