We are born to walk. James Earls wrote a helpful text that thoroughly covers how to assess and analyze this most basic yet often undervalued movement. Check out “Born to Walk” if you are interested. Although I love walking, this blog post focusses on another favourite sport of many that also starts from the feet. And it snowed a few days ago… so skiing (woo hoo!) has been on my mind. Along with years of training and clinical experience, I’ve borrowed a few ideas from Earls’s book to help explain why we need to consider our feet when we ski, even though they are encased in hard-shell boots.
In order to carve a turn when skiing we must have good foot mobility as well as ankle strength, mobility and proprioception. In fact, a ski turn begins from the feet. Here’s a couple of links to provide exercises and explain further:
Our feet and ankles should not be held completely stiff in our ski boots. Because all of our joints are meant to move in order to direct the forces that go through our bodies, our movement feels better when our bodies can accept and adapt to the impact of the ground. Our forefoot needs to spread a bit and our ankles need to evert and invert when we ski. A good boot fit allows the right amount of movement to occur. Further, a well-tuned body can create prestress to initiate a turn, followed by force absorption, fascial recoil and powerful muscular contraction. As James Earls writes “If there is a fault in this system – if one joint movement is missing – muscle fibres somewhere along the chain may not be switched on, causing others to compensate. We recognize the fault when we feel we must make a special effort to continue moving.”
If your feet are stiff, try rolling them on a dowel or lacrosse ball. Take your time and really work out the tight leathery tissue, especially where your arch meets your heel. To improve movement, try scrunching a towel, sequentially spreading your toes or playing the piano with your feet. For ankle mobility, practice writing the alphabet in the air with your feet and be sure to stretch your calves. Come see me for a tailored treatment program and more ideas (you won’t have to purchase a piano)!
Many of us have experienced that amazing feeling of turning and gliding down a mountain after an epic snowfall. It’s like floating! If skiing is no longer feeling as effortless as it once was, check your ankles – it’s a good start to putting the puzzle back together.