I inherited many traits from my grandmother. Her hazel eyes, her inclination to let her husband do all the cooking, and, without a doubt her weak ankles. Or so I thought. While not particularly klutzy (although it’s probably no accident that my competitive sport of choice growing up was swimming), I used to fall down. A lot. Seriously. I could be walking, slowly, in flat shoes on flat pavement and wipe out. In every case, I fell because my ankles rolled to the outside. While I may be my grandmother’s granddaughter, this was not an issue of inheritance—I was a chronic inverter. The wear patterns on the heels of my shoes confirmed it—I walked on the outsides of my feet.

Our feet are designed to bear our weight and propel us, thanks to three cleverly designed arches (see related blog for more detail). When walking most efficiently we slightly pronate our feet so our toes will all land at the same time and our big toe is best positioned to push off. In this case, the medial arch is doing what it does best—absorbing shock and springing us forward. People who over-pronate roll to the insides (medial aspect) of their feet and can wind up with distortions in their knee and hip alignment. Those of us who supinate (or under-pronate) land on the outsides (lateral aspect) of our feet. There is far less spring and movement available in the lateral arch than in the medial arch. It is an incredibly rigid and inefficient foot strike, which explains why my running stride always felt more like a jackhammer and less like a pogo stick.

Unlike some family characteristics, this one was easy to change. By strengthening my Fibularis Brevis through foot and ankle flexibility exercises (posted below, and also on the 10 Minute Quick Fix for Feet & Ankles) I have been able to correct how my foot lands, balance my stride and I don’t fall down much anymore. Although I still let my husband do all the cooking. Some family traits are worth preserving.

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Christine Jablonski

I believe most people who end up in the fitness profession are trying to heal themselves. Fifteen years ago I sought out SPIN to rehabilitate a full knee reconstruction. Ten years ago I started Pilates to help me recover from a horseback riding accident. More recently, as still-young age and old injuries caught up with me, I began a restorative and Kripalu yoga practice. In every instance, with every discipline, I've experienced a moment of “ahhh....I want to make everyone feel this good.” And so began my path toward fitness studio ownership where I could keep my classes small and focused on my client's journeys from injury, through healing, and on to strength. In addition to figuring out how my clients and I could feel even better (as well as look better in our jeans), curiosity about human biomechanics led me to study with Helena Collins of Life in Synergy, Sadie Nardini of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, and of course, Jill Miller. Combing the knowledge from these tremendous teachers with my strong Pilates background has enabled me to create exceptionally effective programs for my clients, who range from joint replacement patients needing post-physical therapy help to the “uninjured” wanting stronger, better aligned bodies so they can experience life to the fullest.

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Amie Alapeteri

Nice reminder to be aware of your feet and what’s happening there. The reference to the YTU ankle stretch is awesome, and I intend on using this with my students!

Marin

What a great little piece. Way to teach some anatomy and self-care amidst an engaging short-and-sweet personal story. I think I might just roll out my ankles tonight!

Kim Cordova

These foot exercise are great, can’t wait to try them out to strengthen my ankles from old volleyball injuries. Is it bad if my ankles are crunching everytime I move them though?

Yvonne Duke

It is really interesting that we don’t pay attention to our feet or ankles, especially since they are so important to our lives., I will be using more ankle awareness exercises in my classes.

Leslie Van Schaack

I am glad to hear that you have been able to correct how your foot lands from such simple exercises. I posted on an earlier blog how I wear down my shoes and my instinct is that something I’ve been doing for years will take just as long to correct, but maybe not! And it certainly will be shorter time to correct than doing nothing! 😉 but honestly, my feet really woke up with the barbie doll exercise. WOW FOOT CRAMP! and when something like that happens I know I need to do it MORE!!! And I had considered myself… Read more »

Heather Lindsay

Ahhh, you and I are lucky girls. My husband also does all the cooking around here. I tell him he is priceless often. 🙂
I just noticed the other day that our 18 year old daughter over pronates while walking. I will give her this as homework when she comes home today along with standing apanasana. I love this exercise with toe isolations to get people to connect with their foundation. The very thing that supports them is often never thought of until there is a problem. Thank you!

Dawn McCrory

So many find it amazing that something so simple as strengthening your fibularis (or peroneus) brevis can eliminate or at least minimize lateral or inversion ankle sprains. I also find that Tune Up Tadasana can help reset your foot position in relation to the ground. Great blog!

Alex Ellis

I’ve tried a few variations of Ankle/Feet Tune Up Exercises with my family and clients recently – amazing to see how many people are completely disassociated from their feet! So glad to have the tools now to reintroduce people to their foundation =)

Ann Taylor Lashbrook

I absolutely connect with a klumzy heritage and growing up as a competitive swimmer. I have high arches, really high, and a huge amount of plantar flexion (from years and years of ballet, although I was never great). While doing the propeller feet I have noticed that I have very little dorsi flexion. I have also spent the last year working on keeping my ankles touching as I lift my heals and come onto the transverse arch, also thanks to ballet I have had the hardest time executing this move in parallel and my ankles will be sore for days.… Read more »

Angela

In the last couple of years I’ve began to notice patterns in how I wear my shoes; more pronation on my right foot, a wearing down of my right big toe into my sandal. Now I realize that I over pronate on my right side and now I actually have tools to correct this thanks to Yoga Tune Up. I spend so much time on my feet and least amount of time stretching my feet! I’m actually inspired to integrate more foot work into my Yoga teaching too!

Jennifer

I, too, suffer from an imperfect but had mostly focused on artificial helpers like orthotics and on loosening the muscles in my foot to relieve pain (using the YTU Therapy Balls). I never thought to improve strength in my ankles to help begin to correct my gait but will absolutely be trying this now. Thank you!

Amanda

I have dealt with this problem for a while too! I sprained my ankle about a year and a half ago, and I really think my tendency to over supinate was partially to blame for the weakness in my ankles. Through physical therapy and a lot of strengthening work my ankle is much better, but recently I was just reminded of this issue and I’m currently working on bringing a little more pronation into my life! Thanks for sharing your story Christine!

Charmaine

I feel down a flight of stairs causing a level 5 sprain 9 years ago. I have less range of motion in my ankles, so this advice is great! Thanks, Christine (and thank you for a great Yoga Tune Up in Anatomy during my teacher training)!

Lisa Salvucci

Great workout for ankles, especially when they are so often neglected. Some students think it isn’t important until they step off of a curb and either sprain or break their ankle.

Johanna

I also have weak ankles, although I tend to pronate more. I will be giving these ankle exercises a go right away!

Jamie Gaskins

Thank you for this article! My husband has complained of weak and unstable ankles for years. He is certain that it cannot be corrected, to which my response is there is always a reason and there has to be something you can do to help your body realign itself. I’ll be sure to share!

Carol Klammer

Well Said Christine! Well Written! NICE Practice too! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!