Primary Distance Runners Ankle Muscles

 

By Rick Morris

 

The next time you're at the gym or track watch the other athletes doing their leg strength training routines. You'll see plenty work being done on the large muscles that act on hips and knees but you probably won't  see much training being performed on the smaller muscles that control feet and ankles. The muscles that act on your ankle joint and foot are the most ignored group of lower body muscles in a runners anatomy. That's a real shame because those lower leg muscles are also one of the most important muscle groups for a runner.  Strong ankle joint and foot muscles will improve your speed,  power and running efficiency. They will decrease your ground contact time and improve your ability to use the resiliency of your lower leg muscles to generate nearly effortless forward motion.

 

Strong lower leg muscles provide many great benefits to a runner, but weak ankle joint and foot muscles will do just the opposite. Untrained lower leg muscles can cause an entire list of problems , led by the scourge of distance runners - shin splints. That's  right - weak or poorly trained lower leg muscles are one of the primary causes of medial tibial stress syndrome, compartment syndrome and stress fractures of your lower leg.  Weak ankle and foot muscles can also contribute to plantar fasciitis, tendonitis and ankle sprains. So don't forget to include lower leg strength training exercises in your weekly strength training routine. Here are the most important ankle and foot muscles for runners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastrocnemius

 

This is the largest and most visible muscle in your lower leg. This major running muscle originates on the lower/rear portion of your femur just above your knee joint and is clearly visible on the back of your lower leg.  It attaches, via your Achilles tendon, to the lower portion of your heel bone. Since the gastrocnemius passes over both your knee joint and ankle joint it's a two joint muscle. It's primary duty is to planter flex your ankle. Ankle plantar flexion occurs when you push off or stand on your toes. This other, less important chore of this muscle is to assist with knee flexion.  Your gastrocnemius is more effective as a plantar flexor when your knee is extended. It loses effectiveness when your knee is flexed or bent.

 

Soleus

 

Your soleus is another critical running muscle that is located under your gastrocnemius. This muscle is a pure plantar flexor that originates on the upper two thirds of your tibia and fibula. It also attaches, via your Achilles tendon,  to your heel bone. Your soleus gains strength as a plantar flexor when your knee is flexed or bent.

 

Tibialis posterior

 

This muscle is a deep lower leg muscle that you can neither see nor feel.  It originates on the rear/inside portions of your tibia and fibula. It wraps around the inside of your foot and attaches to top of your foot near the base of your toes.  Just because you can't see this muscle, don't underestimate its importance.  This muscle is responsible for plantar flexing and inverting your foot.  You invert your foot when you turn in inwards like walking on the outside of your foot. Why is this muscle so important? Because it helps prevent over pronation and plantar flexes your foot as you push off in your running stride.  The term "shin splints" is often used to describe an inflammation of this muscle along with the tibialis anterior and extensor digitorum longus. If these muscles are weak, the repeated impacts of running can cause shin splints or more correctly,  medial tibial stress syndrome.

 

Tibialis anterior

 

This lower leg muscle can be easily seen and felt on the front/outside portion of your tibia. This muscle originates on the upper two thirds of the lateral (outside) portion of your tibia. It attaches to the mid/inside part of your foot. This muscle has two actions. It inverts your foot and dorsal flexes your ankle. You dorsal flex your foot when you pull your toes of the front of your foot up towards your lower leg.  Since this muscle is a strong foot inverter it is often involved in medial tibial stress syndrome and also  compartment syndrome.

 

Flexor digitorum longus

 

This is a deep, hidden muscle that originates on the lower two thirds of the back of your tibia. It wraps around the inside of your foot and attaches to the base of your four lesser toes. This muscle inverts your foot and plantar flexes both your foot and your four lesser toes.

 

Flexor hallucis longus

 

This muscle works in tandem with the flexor digitorum longus. It has the same origination but instead of attaching to the base of the four lesser toes,  it attaches to the base of your big toe. As such is plantar flexes your foot and big toe.

 

Peroneus longus

 

This muscle originates on the upper two thirds of the lateral (outside) portion of your fibula. It wraps around the outside of your foot and attaches to your mid foot. The peroneus longus  everts your foot and plantar flexes your ankle. Your foot is everted when you are standing or walking on the inside of your foot.

 

Peroneus brevis

 

The peroneus brevis works with the peroneus longus as a foot everter and ankle plantar flexor. It has the same origination as the peroneus longus and attaches to outside of the base of your little toe.

 

Peroneus tertius

 

This is a very small muscle that originates on the lower part of your fibula and attaches to the base of your little toe. It's duties are eversion of your foot and dorsal flexion of your ankle.

 

Extensor digitorum longus

 

This is the second muscle on the outside of your lower leg. It originates on the upper two thirds of the front of your tibia and on the head of your fibula. It attaches to the top of your four lesser toes. This muscle is a strong ankle dorsi flexor. It also extends your four lesser toes and everts your foot.

 

Extensor hallucis longus

 

This is the third muscle that dorsi flexes your ankle. It originates on middle portion of your fibula and attaches to the base of your big toe. In addition to dorsi flexing your ankle, it extends your big toe and inverts your foot.

 

 

 

Copyright 2013 Running Planet, Inc All rights reserved - Contact Us - Security and Privacy