Back pain after squatting? Recurrent knee or ankle injuries? Shoulder pain with overhead squatting? These are a few common complaints I hear from people who may benefit from having some more ankle mobility.

But why could all of these things potentially come from a stiff ankle?

Your feet are your foundation and you need to take care of them for the sake of your entire body when considering athletic performance and quality movement. Not having enough ankle dorsiflexion (flexing the ankle upward toward the shin) can cause a chain reaction in how you move. As a result, your body will try to compensate around this lack of motion.

How To Test

Here is a quick test to tell if you may have limited ankle mobility:

1) Set up in front of a wall and place your toes a “hand’s-width” away from it.

2) Keeping your heel on the ground, drive your knee forward over your toes and try to touch your kneecap to the wall.

Can you get your knee to the wall?

If you can then you may not have a mobility issue.

If you can’t then you may want to work on the mobility of your ankle, especially if you are have had prior ankle injuries or are having issues related to squatting.

Ankle Mobility in the Squat

In the first photo we have an example of good ankle mobility simulated with a heel lift. Notice the bar is stacked over the midfoot for a balanced squat.

However, the second picture shows limited ankle range of motion in the squat. Notice how removing the heel lift changes the angle of the torso. As a result, the overhead position is also affected. This stiffness at the ankle puts more stress on the back and shoulders. That stress would be amplified at higher weight.

Keep an eye out for my next blog post which will go over some different drills that I use for improving ankle mobility!

Thinking that ankle mobility may be contributing to a nagging injury of yours? Shoot an email to drew@forgedathlete.com and we can discuss if working with Forged Athlete might be the solution for your problem.



Dr. Drew Reid is the founder of Forged Athlete Physical Therapy and Performance. He is a physical therapist specializing in treating knee pain. He helps athletes and active adults overcome injuries and improve performance with unique recovery plans and training programs.

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