Many people are not aware that knee pain can be caused by a lack of ankle mobility.

Whether you are out for a run or at a gym doing squats, good ankle mobility is important in order to prevent knee pain.  Knee pain can stem from a stiffness or tightness in your ankles.

If you have tried..

  • to squat and notice you are raising your ankles
  • practicing the chair pose and have your weight on your toes
  • running downhill and have knee pain

…you are overcompensating for a lack in ankle mobility.  Limitations in ankle mobility can cause a functional and athletic limitations leading to knee pain.

How should my ankle move?

Your ankle, like the rest of your body has three planes of motion:

  • front/back (sagittal plane): plantarflexion (flexing your foot) and dorsiflexion (pointing your foot)
  • side to side (frontal plane): like saying no with your foot
  • rotation (transverse plane): making circles in the air with your toes

When your ankle’s movement is limited in any one of these planes, the knee joint overstresses. Your knee starts to pick up the slack since the ankle can’t put up with the load of your movement.  The lack of mobility in the ankle causes your knee pain as it tries to bear more of the load as you move.

Everything is connected, so eventually your knee may not be able to function in an overstressed state for too long, and your hip will pick up the load, causing hip pain.  So, while it may not seem like it, your ankle plays a very important role in your body and the way it moves.

Top Causes of Limited Ankle Mobility

Your ankle is intended to move in all those ranges of motion and when planes of motion are restricted, you limit your ankle’s range of motion and increase your risk for knee pain.

  • Ankle joint restriction: The ankle joint is restricted which may be caused by scar tissue or tight joint capsule.
  • Lack of flexibility: A tightness in the muscles of the calf causing restriction.
  • Ankle Injury: A sprain that has not healed properly, causes a person to limit their movement in order to avoid pain.
  • Other Injuries:  The same way that limited ankle mobility can cause pain in the knee, hip, back and even shoulder, can be reversed and pain starting from the neck and shoulder, back, hip, or knee can affect limited ankle mobility because the person changes the way they walk.

Improving Ankle Mobility

In order to improve your ankle’s range of motion and strength, it is important first to see a physical therapist.  There are many exercises on the web promising to improve your ankle mobility, but because not every body is the same, these exercises can cause more harm than good.

What we can accomplish in physical therapy will improve your ankle mobility, get you in the proper position, and strengthen you in order to perform better when you move and prevent knee pain.  We can do this through manual therapy, stretching the gastrocs and soleus muscles, mobilizing the foot and ankle.  Specifically mobilizing the subtalar joint so that we can get the talus to glide posteriorly to improve dorsiflexion.


If you have tried..

  • to squat and notice you are raising your ankles
  • practicing the chair pose and have your weight on your toes
  • running downhill and have knee pain

Don’t hesitate in reaching out to me so that we can talk about how to improve your ankle mobility and get you back to doing the activities you love pain free.