Why Do Stiff Ankles Cause “Knee In” or “Toe Out” During the Squat?

Hey guys, quick tip today.  I think most people understand that having poor ankle dorsiflexion motion can hinder their ability to hit a deep squat, particularly an overhead squat....
ankle DF

Hey guys, quick tip today.  I think most people understand that having poor ankle dorsiflexion motion can hinder their ability to hit a deep squat, particularly an overhead squat.  What I don’t think is talked about much is why this happens.  One common thing I often find is that athletes may generally have more motion when they aim their knee toward the inside of the foot during ankle dorsiflexion assessment.  What is ideal would be having adequate motion with the knee aimed over the toes.

As Shirley Sahrman says, the body will naturally take the path of least resistance and the knee will end up inside of the foot in a deep squat when your body requires extra ankle motion to get deeper into the squat.  Check the video below for a better explanation.

Why Do People "Toe Out" or Have Their Knees "Fall In" at the Bottom of the Squat When they Have Stiff Ankles? I think most people understand we want to have ankle mobility but the "why" component is sometimes missing. Here is a major reason why stiff ankles cause toe out. People will often have much more ankle dorsiflexion with their knee facing the inside of the foot then outside (try it out yourself). This forces toe out in a deep squat. Stiff ankles can also lead to a shallow squat, low back rounding, excessive hip flexion on the stiff side, knee tracking issues and increased hip internal rotation, all of which may not be ideal when squatting. Obviously we want to address this. If you know someone who could benefit from this info then please share! @powermonkeyfitness @shift_movementscience @themovementfix @barbellrehab @modernmanualtherapy @jsshane @thebarbellphysio #twitter #physicaltherapy #ankle #mobility

A video posted by Daniel Pope (@fitnesspainfree) on

Having limited ankle flexibility is this manner could potentially lead to:

  • Decreased depth
  • Poor biomechanics for force production
  • Compensation at the knee (Dynamic Valgus), hip (Internal Rotation), foot (toe out / foot flattening) and lower back (flexion or rounding)
  • Poor patellar tracking, loading on a flexed lumbar spine, impingement at the hip

Obviously we’d like to correct atleast some of these things.

Want to learn more about how to assess the ankle and learn some great exercises to mobilize it?  Check out my recent product with Dr. Dave Tilley:

Monkey Method – Movement Essentials

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding and Fixing Technical Flaws in the Handstand, Muscle-up and Olympic Lifts

I guess ankles are important,

Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS, CF L1

Categories
ankleassessmentInjury PreventionMobility
3 Comments on this post.
  • Kyle
    21 July 2016 at 10:26
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    Excellent points! I’ve watched your videos and videos similar to it through your Instagram account. When assessing your patients/clients squat, do you take a systematic approach similar to gait analysis (i.e. watch the hips, then the knees, then the foot/ankles)? And when will you decide if it is a mobility vs. strength issue?

    • djpope
      5 August 2016 at 10:26
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      I’m pretty systematic via the SFMA squat breakout. You can see the ankle dorsiflexion angle when watching people squat though and in individuals who’s squat isn’t looking great and they have a reduced ankle dorsiflexion ankle I’d definitely go about checking it. If it’s not limited I figure it’s a cueing / motor control / strength issue.

  • Weekly Highlights- Weeks #9-10
    23 July 2016 at 10:26
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