Made up of the calcaneus – the largest bone in the foot, which forms your heel – and the talus, which rests on top and forms the pivot of the ankle. ‘The rearfoot provides guidance and stability in front to back and side-to-side motion at heelstrike to aid a smooth transfer of bodyweight as you run,’ says Thatcher.
Improve your run: Ankle mobility
Why? ‘Stiff ankles increase loading on the lower leg, midfoot and forefoot,’ says Mitchell. Your foot will typically compensate by overpronating and therefore overloading the forefoot – not ideal. And this also ups your risk of foot, shin and knee injuries, warns Mitchell.
Maximise your performance: ‘Ankle flexibility will be improved with gastrocnemius and soleus [calf] stretches,’ says Thatcher. Stand on a step and drop your heel. Hold for 30 seconds then repeat, this time with a bent knee – as with the midfoot strengthener. Then switch sides. You could also add dynamic rotational lunges to your conditioning routine, progressing to using a Bosu board or rocker to challenge your stability.
Injury risk: Stress fracture
What is it? A tiny crack on the surface of the bone.
Symptoms: A sharp pain you can pinpoint. These are only diagnosable through x-ray or bone scan so seek medical help to avoid deterioration to complete fracture.
Cause: Overtraining – stress fractures build up over time on weight-bearing bones such as the metatarsals.
Beat it: Time, rest and patience is the only healer here.
Avoid overtraining by increasing your mileage and intensity gradually. Stiffness in the surrounding muscles can also aggravate the issue so limber up and heed warning signs.