Accessibility Tools

Why is Ankle Mobility and Strength Important For Skiing?

Why is Ankle Mobility and Strength Important For Skiing?
Why is Ankle Mobility and Strength Important For Skiing?

If you love Skiing and winter is your thing then this article is for you. With the cold season approaching and the slopes of aspen, and telluride opening up it might be time to understand how ankle mobility and strength can help you be a better skier. 

Most of us, maybe more of the beginner skier, may think that since our foot/ankle is in a ski boot our ankles do not play a role in how we ski. Well, that isn’t 100% true.

Ankle flex is important; Ankle flex refers to how the joint flexes and extends to transfer power and leverage to one’s skis. This is important when you begin to work in bumps, rougher terrain, and weather-related elements like strong winds. 

A quick anatomical review of the leg. There are four muscles that are responsible for ankle flexion, or dorsiflexion of the foot – the action of pointing the foot and toes to the sky, while in a standing position. The muscles of the posterior of the lower leg and the calf control the opposite action, known as plantar flexion.

Dorsiflexion is achieved by the tibialis anterior. The additional three muscles that flex the toes are the extensor hallucis longus, extensor digitorum longus and fibularis tertius.

Plantarflexion is achieved by the gastrocnemius and these other muscles also aid in the action too – soleus, fibularis longus, flexor hallucis longus and fibularis brevis

The ankle flex has to do with one’s stance. By having a stance where your body is “stacked”, “centred” or perpendicular to the centre of your skis, you will allow a solid base of support (hint* this is where the proper boots and skis play a huge role). With the proper equipment, one can create some nice “flex” within the boot which will transition to how the skis move/shift down the slopes. But you also have to have some skill here because your center of gravity will change as well, which is where balance comes into play.

You’ve probably heard that your core helps to keep you centered. In skiing, when your weight shifts as you turn to go down a mountain, for example, this is where you need to have good “flex”. Think of it like this. If you are skilled enough to engage the correct muscles at the right moment, while staying balanced you will be able to generate the desired performance from your equipment.

There are 5 skiing skills, 4 of which use all the joints in the kinetic chain. These are:

  1. Stance & Balance – the skier makes small adjustments in their stance to stay centered and balanced
  2. Edging – the engagement of the skis’ edges by “rolling” the knees and angulating the hips
  3. Pivoting – rotational movement of the “ball n’ socket” joint to steer the feet in the desired direction
  4. Pressure Control – the use of the 3 major joints of the lower body to manage the forces acting upon the skis and the skier
  5. Timing & Coordination – the blend of all the skills that go into good skiing

Based upon these 5 skiing skills, you should start to recognize that having strong, flexible, and mobile ankles will make an overall difference in your ski performance.

But if it’s still unclear let’s break it down a little bit further…

  • Pressure Control – the ankles need to be able to flex and extend here. This allows you to move your stance & balance forward and back.
  • Pivoting – the ankle joints themselves move with internal rotation of the outside leg and external rotation of the inside leg allowing you to increase or decrease the steering angle.
  • Edging – the eversion & inversion of the ankles will affect the rotation at the hip as your body mass moves forwards and goes downhill Obviously, our ankles play a role in our overall ski performance.

Your ankles play an imperative role in your overall ski performance. Be sure to take care and work on strength and balance before you hit the slopes this year! 

Dr. Bagwe is a leading orthopedic surgeon specializing in ankle and foot reconstruction. If you are looking for an orthopedic surgeon near you then look no further. Dr. Bagwe is an industry leader when it comes to foot and ankle surgery doctors in St. Louis. Dr. Bagwe and his friendly and professional team is ready to welcome you and tell you everything you need to know.

Reach out and contact us today.

  • Saint Louis University
  • University of Illinois Chicago
  • Center of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine
  • SSM Health
  • Mercy