Preparing the ankle for trail running

There is absolutely nothing like running through the woods, dodging trees, leaping between rocks and getting beautiful landscape views when you get the chance to look up. Trail running is both a fantastic physical and mental workout as you constantly have to plan your next footfall, while racing up and down technical, tricky climbs. The only downside to trail running is that if you happen to lose focus for a second it can result in ankle injuries fairly quickly.

This happened to me – and I ended up hobbling 4 kilometres out of the middle of dense bush and subsequently was on crutches for a month. Following that experience I had been afraid to run on a trail in case I put myself back onto crutches. But then I realized that if you really enjoy something, it’s better to adapt either the activity or yourself so you can continue to engage in the activity. So, I chose to change myself and be proactive to prevent future injuries. This is the rehab program I’ve been completing to preventatively strengthen my ankle.

  1. Resistance Band Exercises – The following exercises all strengthen all of the ligaments and muscles within the ankle and the foot. Complete each exercise 20-30 times per leg.

prehab-exercises-plantar-flexion-and-dorsi-flexion-with-resistance-band-for-foot-and-ankle-activation-and-stability-e1426822413150a) Plantar Flexion – Loop a resistance band around the ball of your foot. Press against the band, pointing your toe away from your body (exercise depicted at the top of the first picture).

b) Dorsiflexion – Loop the band around an object or have someone hold the band for you. Wrap the band around the top of the foot and pull your foot towards you (exercise depicted in the bottom of the first picture).


c) Eversankleion – Loop the band around the outside of the foot. Starting from a neutral position, externally rotate the foot (as seen in the bottom picture A).

d) Inversion – Loop the band around in the inside of the foot. Starting from a neutral position rotate the foot internally (as seen in the bottom of picture B).

  1. Balance – Starting with Single Leg balance on a flat surface with bare feet for 30 seconds a side. Initially, try it in front of a mirror so you can make sure that your ankle, knee and hip are in line and all slightly flexed. Once balancing on a flat surface becomes easy, you can increase difficulty by standing on a pillow, and then to an unstable surface (bosu, balance board, etc). Balance 30 seconds per side 3 times. Increase the balance time to 45 seconds and then to a minute.
  2. Plyometrics – You can either use a step or a small sturdy box for these exercises. Start with 2 foot hops onto a smaller step (30 jumps) – focusing on very quiet landings while maintaining good posture. As you feel more comfortable, complete single leg hops up on to the step, maintaining the same form.

Once you’ve started your program – you can start to add in trail running to your exercise program. Its best to begin with an easy transition to a trail that is relatively flat and wide (ie. Cataraqui or KP trail). Then add in a bit more difficulty that is a bit more narrow and with more hills (Little Cat Conservation Area) before finally moving on to single track, more difficult climbs (Frontenac Park, Gould Lake, etc.).

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