Ankle mobility is underrated and often not talked about possibly due it to not being as fun and sexy as focusing your attention on getting 6 pack abs or nailing a handstand, but ankle mobility can go a long way to improving the structure and function of your whole body and is needed for walking especially uphill walking, squatting, pistol squatting, jumping and a whole lot of other movement skills.
A lack of ankle dorsiflexion (think calf stretch, toes towards shin) can have dramatic implications upstream into the knees, hips, low back and even neck and downstream encouraging adaptive compensatory movements of excessive pronation (flat feet) or excessive supination (high arches) if the foot is unable to go through the normal hinge motion at the ankle.
A healthy gait cycle has elements of all ranges of motion and problems occur when we get stuck in or can't access the full range of all of the other movements that should be available to us. Dorsiflexion is vital for movement efficiency, if we have an inability to go from plantar flexion (think barbie doll feet) to dorsiflexion we are unable to access hip extension (think Glute activation) and we end up relying heavily on the muscular effort of the quads as opposed to the energy efficient elastic recoil of our posterior.
I think a lot of the issues arise due to spending so much time in positive heeled shoes and unfortunately this isn't just the obvious heeled shoes that women wear but children's and men's shoes have some form of an elevated heel which shortens our calves and restricts our ability to dorsiflex our ankle.
When we are unable to dorsiflex our ankle optimally our body will adapt and find a compensatory movement to get from point a to point b, often the foot rolls into pronation as the easiest route. When this happens we invariably have a valgus collapse of the knee (knees drop in towards each other) which stresses the ACL ligament of the knee.
If you are a runner, do any form of hill walking or running, a football or soccer player, if you do any high impact activities like jumping, burpees or incorporate squats into your fitness regime it's vital that you spend time not only stretching your calves, spending more time barefoot or in negative heeled shoes but getting some good quality bodywork to encourage your foot and ankle to move more optimally. Why wait till you have been told you have flat feet and you need expensive orthotics before doing corrective exercises to condition your feet and ankles or why wait until you are already injured before investing time and attention into moving your body well and improving your body map of these really important structures of your body. You have been gifted with one body, learn how to be an incredible caretaker of it :)
Advanced clinical massage therapist and yoga teacher.