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Thread: Floppy ankles?

  1. #21

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    It's easy to roll your ankle on uneven ground if you don't pay attention to your foot placement. Especially on New England trail you have to constantly look to where to put your feet - usually planning 3 steps ahead to keep momentum going. Always remember to stop if you want to look around other then to glance up once in a while to see what is immediately ahead. Otherwise you'll fall down! 90% of what people see on an AT hike is their feet

    Ankle strength has a lot to do with it, but mostly it's a matter of learning how to walk on rocks and making sure your feet land square, not at an angle. Every so often I'll zone out hiking an easy stretch then land my foot on something the wrong way and start to roll.

    If you boot is too wide you can roll your foot inside the boot when walking on slopping rock, but that's a different issue then rolling ankles.
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  2. #22
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    I fell into a river last year while fly fishing and sprained an ankle. When I finally recovered enough to try to get back into backpacking again, I found that ankle very vulnerable to rolling and re-injury. I use trekking poles now and really pay attention to foot placement. My point being that there is a difference between ankles that are weak due to a lack of exercise, and those weak due to injury. BTW, my doctor said that injured ankles are prone to re-injury for years after the injury.

  3. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by bangorme View Post
    I fell into a river last year while fly fishing and sprained an ankle. When I finally recovered enough to try to get back into backpacking again, I found that ankle very vulnerable to rolling and re-injury. I use trekking poles now and really pay attention to foot placement. My point being that there is a difference between ankles that are weak due to a lack of exercise, and those weak due to injury. BTW, my doctor said that injured ankles are prone to re-injury for years after the injury.
    This has been my experience as well...sprained both all the time as a kid, then a few times as an adult, been years though...knock wood. I think my walking regime has definitely helped with this, about ten years, and haven't sprained one since.

  4. #24
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    I've had this problem forever. Scares the crap out of me when it happens. I've always wore hiking boots thinking that would help, but after my thru hike I saw that the farther along I got, the less it occurred until it was basically non existent the last 1000 miles. I now think it is a ankle strength issue, although a pair of ankle high boots probably does help some from the start.

  5. #25
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    Yep, it's almost certainly an ankle strength issue. Carefully positioning your feet will help, but boy does that get tiresome after a few hours.

    If you're serious about trying to address, here's what you can do every morning and evening:

    50+ toe ups on the stairs (make sure your Achilles are warmed up)
    Walk on your heels up and down a carpeted hallway for 100-200 feet, trying hard to pull your toes to your shins
    Stand on an uneven surface in your bare feet on one leg, with the other leg forward, then to the back, then to the side (15-30 seconds each)
    Do the same on the other leg
    If you can do 30 seconds for each one-leg position, then try closing your eyes in a darkened room!!!

    It will also help with proprioception, where your subconscious will have a better sense of where your feet are in 3D space and position themselves accordingly.

    Yes, I know it's a lot of time and effort. It did work for me, eliminating the need for ankle braces while I played soccer. I still turn my ankles while walking (I underpronate even with orthotics), but I rarely turn all the way over anymore.
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  6. #26

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    That was an interesting article Kerosene, thanks.

  7. #27

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    I wish I could get by with some type of lighter shoe, but with too many ankle twists and sprains to count over my 67 years, I don't know if my ankles will ever be stronger. I wear Vasque Breeze (mid height boots) with green superfeet with smartwool socks, total about 2 1/2 lbs. But with this combo I can even roll an ankle all the way with full weight on it, get up and take the next step and never have any soreness or swelling. For the ankle help this gives me, I learn to appreciate the weight. No, I am not a thru hiker, but a couple of week sections per year and walk 3 days a week nearly year round.

    HYOH! This works for me.

  8. #28
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    I believe it was in Skurka's gear guide book where I read that an advantage of low top shoes over traditional hiking boots is that they allow ankle rotation. Your ankle is adapted to move from side to side like this. Assuming that your muscles are strong enough to take it (as described in previous posts), then your ankles prevent this side to side motion from being transfered to your knee, which as a hinge joint is less adapted to this kind of motion. Thus fixing your ankle in a traditional stiff high top hiking boot may prevent ankle sprains, but in doing so, it may prevent the needed strengthening of ankle muscles and also exacerbate knee problems (at least that was the argument as I understand it).

  9. #29
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    On a side note, "Floppy Ankles" would make a great trail name.
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  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out View Post
    I believe it was in Skurka's gear guide book where I read that an advantage of low top shoes over traditional hiking boots is that they allow ankle rotation. Your ankle is adapted to move from side to side like this. Assuming that your muscles are strong enough to take it (as described in previous posts), then your ankles prevent this side to side motion from being transfered to your knee, which as a hinge joint is less adapted to this kind of motion. Thus fixing your ankle in a traditional stiff high top hiking boot may prevent ankle sprains, but in doing so, it may prevent the needed strengthening of ankle muscles and also exacerbate knee problems (at least that was the argument as I understand it).
    Absolutely agree. I grew up being taught the "ankle support" philosophy for hiking boots. What I realized is that whenever I misstepped and my ankles couldn't role, the force was transferred directly to my knees. I switched to trail runners about five years ago and my knees are much better for it. In the winter I still wear proper boots or even my technical boots for some trips, and my knees come back battered after a couple of days of snowshoeing or wearing crampons in those things.
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  11. #31
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    For any who care to use it- I was diagnosed with Ankle tendonitis last year and saw a physical therapist to fix it.
    After a week of rest and PT, I continued the PT while eliminating the cause of the injury.
    The main culprit was too many miles on flat paved trails during training (only trails of any length around here) and was quickly fixed simply by adding in one day a week at Swallow Cliff (local hilly crushed limestone trail) or roughly 20% of my weekly mileageAnkles- JB.pdf.

  12. #32
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    I'm sad that you're discovering this so late. Your ankles need to be strengthened. Walking on a trail works, so does walking on banked surfaces, air writing the alphabet with your feet, balancing, using bands, wobble boards...all kinds of things. Be careful about overdoing it.

    Unfortunately I believe thru hiking is so much wear and tear that your ankles will get weaker instead of stronger during your hike. They don't develop and recover nearly as quickly as muscle tissue, so a thru hike can be a war of attrition with your ankles. That might be different if you already had strong ankles, but right now I bet your ankles will get lots of seemingly insignificant injuries in the first few days of your hike, and then boom, it won't be insignificant any more. Hopefully I'm wrong.

    For better or worse, please come back and let us know how things turned out. A successful thru hike is ideal by far, but even a hike ending ankle injury can serve as a notice to aspiring thru hikers to start preparing much earlier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    Absolutely agree. I grew up being taught the "ankle support" philosophy for hiking boots. What I realized is that whenever I misstepped and my ankles couldn't role, the force was transferred directly to my knees. I switched to trail runners about five years ago and my knees are much better for it. In the winter I still wear proper boots or even my technical boots for some trips, and my knees come back battered after a couple of days of snowshoeing or wearing crampons in those things.
    Supposed all the ankle support that football players use is resulting in high ankle injuries. I don't know what the difference is, but they say high ankle injuries take much longer to recover from.

    I'm noticed the same thing with boots too.

  13. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Malto View Post
    I think you are barking up the wrong tree on shoe size. The muscles in you ankle need to be strengthened.
    That' how I started hiking! I had sprained my ankle years ago and found that walking on flat surfaces, after the ankle had apparently healed, caused me a lot of pain. I figured that walking over uneven ground (on a hike) would strengthen my leg muscles and ankles. I found a local conservation area and started hiking. I started with a 1-hour hike, then a 2-hour hike, gradually working up the length of the hike. It worked. The ankle(s) toughened up and I liked the hiking so well, that I haven't stopped since!

    "To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from." - T.S. Eliot

  14. #34
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    I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this yet, but you might want to strengthen your ankles. I'm joking with the "not sure if anyone mentioned this yet" statement of course as it's been mentioned numerous times in this thread. This is likely your problem. I used to roll my ankles all the time, and the only thing that resolved it was strengthening my legs, ankles and feet by walking on uneven terrain. I did this using trail runners, and I normally hike in trail runners. Fast forward a few years, and now I regularly go out in the woods in Vibram Five Finger shoes (i.e. barefoot shoes) and rarely roll my ankles.
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  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by leaftye View Post
    Unfortunately I believe thru hiking is so much wear and tear that your ankles will get weaker instead of stronger during your hike. They don't develop and recover nearly as quickly as muscle tissue, so a thru hike can be a war of attrition with your ankles. That might be different if you already had strong ankles, but right now I bet your ankles will get lots of seemingly insignificant injuries in the first few days of your hike, and then boom, it won't be insignificant any more. Hopefully I'm wrong.
    I disagree. I started my AT hike with OP's exact problem, specifically with my right ankle. I had rolled it a few times playing soccer in the months before the hike, then I proceeded to roll it many times over the first two months of the AT. At the beginning it happened almost every day. It always hurt a little but I could walk it off after a few seconds, and I never did any long-term damage. After Virginia I can't remember rolling my ankles once, ever. My legs just got stronger.

    Same pattern on the PCT, which is a much more foot-friendly trail than the AT. I rolled it a few times in the first few hundred miles (including one BIG time where I almost passed out and had to sit down for 15 minutes and was worried I'd seriously damaged something), then never again.

    I don't think your ankles rolling easily is a cause for alarm. Quirks in your gait, or too much weight, or not using trekking poles when you should (this coming from a non-pole-user), not knowing your mileage limit--those are more likely to lead to injury, specifically overuse injury, over time. Floppy ankles will fix themselves with a little strength.
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  16. #36
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    You're also quite young. Hopefully OP has a youthful body as well.

  17. #37

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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Bill View Post
    For any who care to use it- I was diagnosed with Ankle tendonitis last year and saw a physical therapist to fix it.
    After a week of rest and PT, I continued the PT while eliminating the cause of the injury.
    The main culprit was too many miles on flat paved trails during training (only trails of any length around here) and was quickly fixed simply by adding in one day a week at Swallow Cliff (local hilly crushed limestone trail) or roughly 20% of my weekly mileageAnkles- JB.pdf.
    Quite a few of those are exactly what I do as well, (I'm a pavment pounder) the only thing I started doing differently is I walk about 10 mins before starting them, I found that helped quite a bit, strangely my Doctor never mentioned this...warming up, Hiker Mom told me about it...it's workin' for me.

  18. #38
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    I use trail runners and heavy duty ankle braces, my ankles are a mess from 25 years of soccer. I found the only boots that offer any real ankle support were Asolo leather boots, and after lots of experience, they just are too heavy and dont dry out well. They sure do look good when I go to the store.....

  19. #39
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    Before running I do the walk warm up. At that point I do about 10 knee and ankle circles, both legs, clockwise and counter clockwise. On the trail I do the knee and ankle circles if I feel a twinge. I understand it helps lubricate the joints.

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    My ankles do the same thing. Not all the time, but mainly my right ankle, and always when the bottom of my foot is turned outward. Hurts like hell, and I had to limp down to Carver's Gap from Roan High Knob Shelter using my poles like crutches. Those little fist-sized rocks are treacherous, especially when wet. I felt something pop a few minutes later when I attempted to stretch it out...

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