Keeping ankles closed?

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Keeping ankles closed?

Postby Jeff Markham » Fri Feb 13, 2004 8:27 pm

Keeping my ankles flexed has made big improvements in my skiing. I've also heard mention of keeping your ankles "closed". At the December B/DB camp, instructor David Weis was saying something about a physical phenomenon which occurs when the ankles are closed, but unfortunately I missed part of the discussion. I *think* that David was saying that, when you close the ankles (by flexing to the max?), there are a couple of foot bones which actually make contact.

Whenever I flex my ankles to the max, I don't feel any "contact". I just feel a tightness in the lower part of my shin muscles.

Has anyone ever heard of this? I've googled the Internet for references to "closing the ankle" and "closed ankles" and only got a couple of hits. Neither mentioned anything about bones.

Snokarver, could you ask Dave about this?
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Postby Hobbit » Fri Feb 13, 2004 10:52 pm

Hi Jeff,

I believe the term is "dorsiflection" and the illustration for this move is actually in the other thread (sceletal movements web pages) post by you :) . ... rsiflexion

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Postby Jeff Markham » Sat Feb 14, 2004 12:39 am

Agreed: the ankle flexing is dorsiflexion. My question is: either "closing the ankle" is 1) really just another term for the same action (dorsiflexion) -or- 2) it's an extreme form of dorsiflexion in which bones actually make contact and provide a mechanically-solid base.
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Re: Keeping ankles closed?

Postby gravity » Sat Feb 14, 2004 8:56 am

Jeff Markham wrote:Keeping my ankles flexed has made big improvements in my skiing.

Hi Jeff,

Do you mean to say:
Keeping my ankles flexed has... Or,
Keeping my ankles flexing has...

I'm kinda curious if you remain static in the ankles' flexion or are you dymanic by flexing and extending the ankles?
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Postby Jeff Markham » Sat Feb 14, 2004 9:33 am


Sorry for my imprecise phrasing. Darn this Internet...

No, I'm not keeping my ankles flexed at the same position (i.e., frozen). I'm definitely varying the degree of flexion. However, I try to be aware (at least until it becomes second nature) of whether my ankles are flexed and I try to return to a flexed position whenever I feel that I've gotten too far away. For now, I may be overcompensating, but only so that someday I can rely upon ankle flexing as an unconscious activity.

When my ankles are not flexed to some degree, I get in trouble. My free foot shoots ahead. My weight shifts to my heels. My skis don't turn as well. My speed doesn't remain under control as well.

Related to your earlier "What are you" question, consciously flexing my ankles (and getting my hands to home base) before entering a challenging run gets me off to a good start.
Jeff Markham
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Postby Bluey » Sat Feb 14, 2004 1:09 pm

Apologies to you guys for interrupting........and please excuse my ignorance, but I don't think I understand exactly what you're trying to achieve with your ankle.......

This is what I am thinking/understanding so far.......If my foot was resting on the floor, then with ankle flexing are you simply moving the weight on the foot from the heel of the foot to the ball of the foot and back again ? ......Heel & toe, heel & toe etc (without any sideways/lateral movement )....??.
Also, when I do this, I can't feel any bones making contact.....should I be? If so, should they be making contact when I'm pressing down on the heel of the foot?

Possibly you could describe to me/ give me a simple exercise so I can try to experience exactly what it is you are talking about .

Thanks..... and again, apologies

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Postby Jeff Markham » Sat Feb 14, 2004 3:25 pm

No apologies required. This an open forum and all are welcome.

I'm not consciously trying to shift weight from my heel to the ball of the foot and/or back. I'm just dorsiflexing my ankle (raising the top of my foot toward my shin) at the same time that I am flexing my knees. In street shoes, I can't do one without the other (I think) or else I'd fall over forwards or backwards. In ski boots on skis, I *could* probably do one without the other, since I can lean on the front or rear of the boot/ski. I guess flexing both the ankles and knees go hand-in-hand, but what I'm *thinking* about is flexing the ankles. My weight probably shifts somewhat forward -- maybe 60% ball and 40% heel?

Sometimes I'm more flexed, sometimes less. For sure, adding the flexion improves my skiing. YMMV...

I agree with you about not feeling any bones making contact. All *I* feel is tension as I reach the end of my range of movement. The original question regarding bone-to-bone contact was something I *thought* was raised by David Weis at my last camp. I've sent an email to David, asking him to either clarify what I overheard or confirm that I'm delusional. :oops:

I'm probably the last person to ask regarding an exercise. I'll be skiing tomorrow and I'll see if I can come up with something.
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Why "close the ankle"?

Postby snokarver » Sat Feb 14, 2004 11:51 pm

So you can balance on the (one) foot...

Try this...

Watch yourself in a full length mirror, so you
can see your feet without looking down...

Stand on one foot, lift the other foot
Keep the lifted foot close to the standing foot

Look at the foot you are standing on? Is it still?

Notice how the flexed the ankle is on the foot
you are standing on? You will also notice small
balancing movements, with a tip or "twitch" to the
big toe, then little toe side of the foot you are
standing on.

A lot like balancing a ski pole on the end of your finger
Small movements at the base of support to balance.

If you flex the ankle on the foot you are standing on,
the muscles and tendons on that foot are able to do
this "twitch". This is how we balance to walk and run.

And, hopefully, when we ski as well...

However, if your ankle is "open", it's much more "wobbly"
and the balance ability that is "built in" to the human body
does not work as well.

Skiers who struggle with balance typically balance on the
boot and not the foot! If you have a straight ankle, you'll
have to balance on the round ball of the heel, instead of the
whole foot.

Watch the skiers go by with ankles that are almost at ninety
degrees.. straight up, with the knees flexed a lot more than
the ankles. This is very difficult, but that's what many skiers
put up with, and ski many miles before figuring this out, if ever.

Balance on your bones, not your muscles!
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Postby BigE » Mon Feb 16, 2004 8:56 am

The amount of dorsiflexion changes throughout the turn, maximizing at the end of the turn. I don't think anyone skis with their ankle flex maxed out all the time.
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max flex?

Postby snokarver » Mon Feb 16, 2004 10:08 am

Yes it does change...

Skiing is an "ing" sport... Constant flexing or extending, tipping and turning, the good movements never stop or "park".

Maximum "closed all the time" would be static, no shock absorbtion... AKA "forward-lean-itis", this can easily overload the front of the ski.

Ankles open and close with flexing-extending movements.

Most skiers extend and flex too much above the feet, knees, hips, etc., with their ankles staying way too open. Rarely closing them enough (if at all) to balance well. A skier like this will be balancing on the boot, not the foot!

Its really tough to balance on an "open ankle" foot, especially with too much knee flex. To attempt balance, a skier who does this will bend at the waist, but that's about where the centor of mass is on a person, right at the bend. So it really doesn't help much, the hips need to be over the feet, and a bend at the waist usually means the hips are back over the heels (or even behind the heelpiece of the binding). The result of this is trying to balance on the round (wobbly) ball of the heel, instead of the "triangle" of the whole foot.

Wow, that's tiring me out, just thinking about skiing like that...

If the ski boot is appropriate for a particular skiers dorsiflexion (and other structual issues), the cuff pressure should be about the same fore and
aft (shin/calf). Not static, this is "neutral", with a range of movement (open - closed) available from this spot.
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