After spraining my ankle last week (I stepped in a hole during a 5k), I decided to feature foot and ankle health this month.
There are 26 bones, 31 joints and 20 internal muscles in the foot. Lots of actions coming from the lower part of your body. Performing complex side-to-side and forward-and-backpickleball movements requires both strength and flexibility of not only feet and ankles, but also lower legs. If your toes don’t bend or your ankles don’t work, this makes getting to the ball difficult. Without getting highly technical, I offer suggestions and exercises to strengthen this area of your body.
First, do you have arches, or do you need arch supports? The older we get, the more we probably need some kind of support. If your foot rolls inward this is called pronation. Pronation pulls your knees and hips downward, causing back pain. Good tennis shoes (not cross trainers or running shoes) have arch support, or you can get an inexpensive slip-in support at sports stores. But if you really have problems like I do, go to a podiatrist who knows foot mechanics (not all know this information) and have custom orthotics made. I don’t play anything, run anywhere or work out without them. Next, do your ankles still move up and down and can you do ankle circles in both directions? If not, other problems are on the way. When your ankles stop working so do your hips. You cannot swing your leg under your hips without using your ankles. With no ankle flexibility and strength you have to shuffle around.
Finally, how strong are your lower legs, the calf and shin area? Have you noticed your calf muscles are getting smaller? Your calf muscles help to maintain standing up straight and tall. If the calf muscles get weaker you have a tendency to lean forward. Check your posture in a mirror to see if your head hangs forward and your shoulders also lean forward; then check your calf muscles to see if they are smaller.
The following exercises will improve all of these problems.