I’ve been working on a lot of legs lately, and it’s no wonder why with all of the outdoor-oriented careers and endurance activities that we Chequamegonites participate in. When we are running, hunting, or checking out a timber stand, our muscles are contracting and relaxing thousands of times and we usually don’t notice it until something is amiss. Walking and running over sometimes quite rugged terrain requires special muscular strength and endurance as well as balance and coordination. I thought it would be timely to write about the unconscious actions we perform to maintain our footing while doing what we love to do.
Have you ever heard anyone talk about pronation? Sometimes runners talk about pronating or overpronating, and what they mean is that when they walk or run their ankles roll in. On the outside of the lower leg from the tibia/fibula to the outside of the foot is a group of three muscles, called peroneals, and when contracted they turn the sole of the foot toward the outside which makes the medial ankle roll inward. Sometimes we call this lower leg motion “eversion” meaning that the sole of the foot is everted (turning toward the outside) of the body.
Inversion is an action in which the bottom of the foot turns inward. This action is performed primarily by two muscles in the lower leg, the tibialis anterior and the tibialis posterior. The tibialis posterior tendon ru+ns behind the inner (medial) ankle bone through a tunnel then inserts onto a couple of foot and toe bones so that when it contracts, the sole of the foot turns inward. The tibialis anterior has a similar route and action. Inversion and eversion together are necessary so we can move with agility and safety.
Dorsiflexion is performed when the tibialis anterior and the long extensor muscles of the toes contract making the space between the toes and the knee smaller. When you are running, during the strike phase of your gait, your lower leg comes over your foot into dorsiflexion. If your calf muscles are too short, you won’t be able to get this range-of-motion and it could cause too much load on other structures leading to pain and injury.
When your toes are pointed toward the ground, or you are standing on your tip-toes, or doing standing calf-raises, your muscles are performing plantar flexion. The calf muscles gastrocnemius, soleus and plantaris merge together to form the calcaneal (Achilles) tendon and attach onto the heel via the tendon. When the muscles contract your toes point downward. Many people find that massage therapy helps to restore the calf muscles to a more normal resting length and improves the painful symptoms of plantar fasciitis.
No matter what your activity, your lower leg muscles help provide stability and the finely-tuned movements of your feet. Eversion, inversion, dorsiflexion and plantar flexion are movements that are repeated over and over while we walk and run over rocky, root-laden forests and fields. If you have muscular discomfort or seek a greater range-of-motion, check in with your massage therapist and/or PT to see if it helps you feel better, go further, and run faster.
re to edit.