How Dorsiflexion Optimizes Your Running

Dorsiflexion occurs when you lift your foot toward the front of your leg. For proper dorsiflexion, you should move your foot toward your shin 10 to 30 degrees.

While you might consider this a basic movement, dorsiflexion plays an important role in efficient running and many runners fail to achieve this valuable component of their sport.

Why dorsiflexion is important for running

Dorsiflexion can help runners be more efficient in the following ways:

Decrease Injuries: A bad kick in a repetitive motion like running can expose runners to all kinds of injuries because the body begins to compensate. As everything moves up the kinetic chain, runners should always look to improve dorsiflexion to avoid short- and long-term injuries to the legs, hips, back, and neck.

Reduce the chance of falling: poor dorsiflexion can increase runners' risk of falling because the foot does not land where it should; for this reason, dorsiflexion is also known as "foot drop." This is especially true during running, as the tapping of the foot is vital for speed and strength.

Reduce arrival times: With efficient dorsiflexion, runners can increase speed by limiting the time their feet hit the ground. The more flex runners create in the ankles, the lighter they become on the feet and the more air time they generate. This can reduce finish times to seconds and even minutes in longer races, such as a marathon.

Increase Power: By simply lifting your foot 10 to 30 degrees, you can land more in the middle of your foot. This is beneficial because you will land in the center of your mass. This gives you the extra weight you need to push harder than you could land further towards your toes.

Causes of Poor Dorsiflexion

It can affect your dorsiflexion and make running difficult for any of the following causes:

Nerve damage: One of the most common causes of poor dorsiflexion is compression of a nerve in the leg. Also, a pinched nerve in the spine can alter your gait.

Muscle weakness: Lack of strength in abduction of the hips, buttocks, thighs, and legs can lead to compensation of movement, especially if one side is weaker than the other. Runners with the dominant left or right side tend to hit the ground harder and lift weights more firmly on their favorable side.

Lower Body Injuries: Injuries to the feet and legs, such as ankle sprains and plantar fasciitis, to the hips and back can transform the way you move. Your body makes improper adjustments when any of these connective tissues are damaged.

Genetics: Your genetics can predispose you to dorsiflexion problems, such as leg length and structural discrepancies. Seeking the help of a chiropractor can help.

Flexibility Issues: If you have tight calf muscles or hamstrings or a buildup of lactic acid from intense cardio or weight lifting sessions, your ability to run may be restricted.

Ankle restriction: Scar tissue in the joint can cause movement problems. A joint acts like a natural hinge for your foot and when that joint cannot function properly, it can decrease the degree to which you lift your feet.

Disorders: Any spinal cord disorder, muscular dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis can cause your foot to drag on the ground when you move.

Surgery: Hip or knee replacement surgery can cause unusual gait. Working with a physical therapist can help make this a temporary problem rather than a permanent one.

How to tell if you have improper dorsiflexion

You can self-assess your dorsiflexion through a series of the following assessments:

  1. Record your footprint. You can do this with your smartphone in a local lane and on a sidewalk or asphalt. This will give you a view of the foot strike on various types of surfaces. You should watch how far you move your foot from the ground. If you have a flat foot and are pushing hard, then you can consciously work to raise your feet at least 10 degrees with each stroke while running until the movement feels natural.
  2. Crouch down several times. If this movement seems difficult, your dorsiflexion needs to be corrected. This is probably due to the weakness of the gluteal muscles. Inadequately activated glutes and dorsiflexion restriction are directly correlated.
  3. Thrust. You don't need to do lunges as you walk, but instead take a step forward and then back. As with the squat, if this move seems like a challenge, your dorsiflexion needs help.
  4. Do a wall knee test. To do this, take off your shoes. Move your feet so that the big toe is about three to four inches from the wall and bend the knee of that same leg forward. If you can touch the wall with your kneecap, you will have good dorsiflexion. If you can't touch the wall, your dorsiflexion is limited.

How to improve dorsiflexion

You can work to improve dorsiflexion using manual techniques. The first and easiest way is to keep dorsiflexion in mind whenever you go for a run.

Each time your foot hits, work on moving it toward your shin. You can also add independent exercises to your exercise routine. This includes the following:

Ankle circles. Stand on one leg and move your ankle freely in large circles. You must make an effort to push hard, especially when your foot moves toward your shin. You may hear a click or click while doing this. This normal sound means that you are stretching your ankle. Repeat 20 times clockwise and counterclockwise. Change foot.

Foam roller. According to the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, foam padding has short-term effects on increasing the range of motion of the joints without negatively affecting muscle performance. You can buy a foam roller at sporting goods or racing stores.

To start, sit on the floor and roll your calf on the foam roller in slow motion. When you get to a hot spot, a place where the calf burns, hold the foam roller in place for 30 seconds to loosen the muscle. Wrap the entire leg and then change it. You should do this after each run to keep your calf muscles as relaxed as possible.

The heel walks. Keep your heels firmly on the ground and point the ball of your foot toward your head. Make sure to keep your knees slightly bent to avoid locking them. Now walk on your heels with your toes still pointing up. Shake your arms at the same time. Do three sets of 20 meters.

The heel lifts. Keep your toes firmly planted on the ground and lift your heels. Do three sets of 20. According to the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, the heel lift helps improve range of motion for dorsiflexion of the ankle joint.

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