Foot and ankle pain are not the most common injuries in the game of golf, but they do affect a large amount of golfers. Today, we’ll be addressing these issues and explain the mechanics behind what’s happening, as well as show you some swing faults you may be making that might make the issue worse.
First, we need to familiarize you with the basic anatomy of the foot and ankle. Coming down the leg is the tibia, attaching to the outside of the ankle bone. Down the inside of the tibia and connecting down through the foot is a muscle called the tibialis posterior. On the outside of the tibia are the peroneals. Both of these muscle groups are important in moving your ankle side to side. Down the back of the heel is the achilles tendon. At the base of the heel is the calcaneus. Along the bottom of the foot are the plantar fascia, which are the muscles responsible for flexing your toes. If you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis, these are the muscles that ache with that condition. Because all the systems are connected, you can sometimes feel pain in the calf or achilles tendon as well. Also on the bottom of the foot, coming from the big toe, is the flexor house, which helps to push up during walking.
So where do golfers see foot and ankle pain? In our experience, the outside of the ankle, the achilles tendon, and the plantar fascia are the three areas that tend to cause trouble. Pain in the outer ankle is generally due to the peroneals being overly stressed and not gliding as well as they should. Occasionally, a nerve that runs through that area can get trapped as well. This is the area most likely to have pain as a result of a swing fault. If you don’t have enough trunk rotation and try to get rotation in the golf swing from your ankles, like in the picture below, this is where the outer ankle can easily start to hurt.
The other ankle can also take some abuse if, as you come down, you overload into the lead leg like in the picture below.
This can easily occur if you have mobility issues and use shoes with metal spikes or that otherwise grab the ground particularly hard; your lead foot won’t be able to rotate out to compensate for that load, and your ankle will take all the abuse.
Luckily, when you have these issues, some simple soft tissue work can help. To treat the plantar fascia, sit in a chair with a golf ball in the arch of your foot. Roll it back and forth until you find a sore spot, then work your toes up and down.
Ankle pain is treated from the calf. There are three muscles to target, from top to bottom in the pictures below are the gastroc, the peroneals, and the tibialis posterior.
To treat the gastroc, sit on the ground and put a lacrosse ball under the meaty part of the outside of your calf, as in the picture below.
Roll the ball around until you find a spot that’s uncomfortable, then work your ankle up and down. Treating the peroneals works the same, but just requires turning your leg to the side as pictured below.
The procedure is the same for the tibialis posterior, you just need to position the ball as shown below.