Foot Position During Walking, Running May Influence Ankle Sprains

The position of the foot just before ground contact during running and
walking may put individuals at risk for ankle sprains, according to a study
published in the June online edition of the American Journal of Sports

Cathleen Brown Crowell, PhD, ATC, a University of Georgia kinesiology
researcher, found patients with a history of repetitive ankle sprains
demonstrated lower clearance heights between their feet and the floor during
running — and were more likely to point their toes downward while walking.

“Almost everyone who is physically active will suffer an ankle
sprain at some point,” Crowell stated in a University of Georgia press
release. “Many people develop repetitive ankle injuries that are painful,
can decrease performance and increase the risk of ankle osteoarthritis. We were
able to identify factors in foot positioning prior to contact with the ground
that may predispose some people to these repetitive injuries.”

Crowell’s study involved a 3-D motion analysis of three groups
— each consisting of 11 male athletes — who were categorized based
upon ankle injury history and ligamentous laxity during walking and running on
a raised platform. These categories included patients with mechanical
(MI), patients with functional instability (FI) and patients
referred to in the study as “copers” — those who suffered an
injury but had no residual instability.

Of the three groups, the MI group displayed greater maximum external
rotation of the foot than the FI and coper groups during running. According to
the release, the MI group also displayed greater rotation than the coper group
while walking. Furthermore, plantar flexion was found to be greater at minimum
in the FI group as opposed to the MI group while walking.

The study noted there were other differences between groups, but these
differences did not reach clinical significance.

“We can apply our findings to clinical practice,” Crowell
stated. “Our study demonstrates there are differences in movements at the
foot and ankle in an injured population that may respond to rehabilitation
interventions beyond typical stretching and strengthening. The next step is to
see if targeted interventions — trying to influence how people run and
walk — can treat and even prevent ankle sprains.”


  • Brown C. Foot clearance in walking and running in individuals with
    ankle instability. Am J Sports Med. 2011. doi:

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