Are stiff ankles best for running?

Updated: Jan 3

There's a rumour that has been doing the rounds for quite some time. It goes something along the lines of - "stiffer ankles help with returning force from impact making the rebound more efficient for running and jumping", or some variation of that theme. With many things in the fields of health, fitness and nutrition, there's a lot of nuance, arguments that make sense from both sides, and some grey areas and missed truths in between. Here though, we're pretty certain - ankle range of motion is king!

Firstly, nomenclature varies when it comes to differentiating between flexibility, mobility and range of motion. It's beyond the scope of this article to discuss it, but suffice it to say, the greater the angle between your fully dorsiflexed and fully plantarflexed foot, the better for running efficiency.

With the toes pointed somewhat downwards, we are able to land fore-to-mid-foot and create the absorption chain associated with landing, or the eccentric phase of plyometric loading*. At this stage, we enter the amortisation phase, where we absorb the kinetic energy created by falling, and dissipate that through the chain of muscles involved in deceleration, predominantly in the lower leg. As Zatsiorsky and Kraemer explain in Science and Practi