The ankle, along with the wrist, maybe the most ignored joint in terms of athletic performance. However the foot is our only contact point with the ground, in a sport such as golf where a powerful swing is the result of creating large amounts of ground reaction force its importance should be obvious. Structurally speaking the foot is also our base and affects everything else further up the kinetic chain. To quote Lance Gill
“We need to pay more attention to ankle dorsiflexion as it directly affects golf swing kinematics”
TPI research has for a long time espoused the link between issues maintaining dynamic posture in the golf swing, such as early extension, and the inability to correctly perform a deep overhead squat. The better understanding of movement mechanics brought to us by the increase in movement assessment, such as TPI’s own/ FMS and incredibly smart people such as Grey Cook, has also shown us the link between poor dorsiflexion and a poor deep overhead squat. To bust a bit of jargon here too dorsiflexion is simply your ability to flex your foot upward.
Dorsiflexion is also important for daily tasks such as stepping down stairs, getting up out of a chair and even walking! An inefficient gait pattern, with a circular motion or leg swinging outwards as the person steps, is often a result of a lack of dorsiflexion
How do you know if you need more dorisflexion?
Here is a really simple, down and dirty, assessment you can do right this second as the only thing you need is a wall:
Placing your left foot 5 inches from the wall step back with your right foot and get in a half kneeling position, so your left foot is still on the floor 5 inches from the wall and your right knee is down on the floor. Keeping your foot flat on the floor push your left knee forward until your knee touches the wall. If you have to lift your heel off the ground or your knee has to track inwards and not in a straight line in order to touch the wall your dorsiflexion is compromised. Swap sides to get a result for the right ankle too. Note: Ideally this test would be completed bare foot.
Let’s make it better!
Manual therapy and self-myofascial release techniques coupled with joint mobilisations to address restrictions in the joint have in my experience have proved to give the fastest and most effective gains in dorsiflexion (for those of you felt a ‘pinching’ in the front of the ankle when performing the test joint mobilisations are particularly important).
Foam rolling the calves is the most obvious; sitting on the ground with one leg atop the foam roller, pass the calf 5 over the roller 5 or 6 times. Adjust position slightly each time to hit different parts of the musculature and different angles. We can also amp this up somewhat by pausing on tender spots and performing ankle pulses up and down and circles, before continuing on to find the next spot.
A big thing often over looked in increasing ankle dorsiflexion is the role of the plantar fascia (the thick connective tissue that supports the arch on the underside of your foot). If the fascia is tight it will pull on the gastroc and soleus muscles of the calf, which will limit dorsiflexion. The foam roller is to global for such a small area, it doesn’t get into those fibres in the way we need, so a lacrosse ball is your best option here. Simply make 5 or 6 passes up and down the foot searching for those tender trigger points, when you find one just hang out there for a second before continuing on.
For many just this work on the plantar fascia will improve your dorsiflexion immediately. Try re-testing straight after doing this and I bet many of you will see an improvement. We even see improvements in deep overhead squat from doing just this, and a better deep overhead squat means better ability to maintain posture in the golf swing, not bad for a minute or too spent standing on a ball!
Lastly, It is also important to actually move and get some dynamic mobility improvements at the joint. Wall-ankle mobilisations are one of my favourite ways to achieve this
Foot and ankle mechanics can be improved quickly and easily. They also have a really significant impact on the kinematic sequence of your golf swing and ultimately your performance.