Ankle and foot pain in golf, while not the most common injuries, still affect a large number of people, so it’s important we address these issues and explain exactly what’s happening, why it’s happening and what it means.
To start, we need to understand the basic anatomy of the foot and ankle. There are a few things to look for specifically in the diagrams below to become familiar with the lay of the land. First is the tibia, more commonly called the shin bone. Second is the achilles tendon, followed by the calcaneus, or heel bone. On the base of the foot are the plantar fascia which account for much of your ability to move your foot and toes. If you’ve ever had plantar fasciitis, you’ll feel just how connected the plantar fascia are to the rest of these areas. Next is the tibialis posterior which comes from underneath your shin to underneath your ankle bone.
The most common areas of foot and ankle pain are the outside of the ankle, the achilles tendon, and the plantar fascia.
Pain on the outside of the ankle is generally caused by a fault in the golf swing. One major danger is if you don’t have enough rotation from your shoulders and hips – which you can easily test with our home assessment – but try to force full rotation anyway. That rotation has to come from somewhere, and if you keep your feet planted, this puts great lateral stress on your ankles which can really hurt the outside muscles of your lower leg, the peroneals.
This danger is increased with shoes that have metal or other rigid spikes or cleats as those grip the ground strongly, preventing your feet from turning to alleviate that stress on your ankles. This is unfortunately one of the more difficult areas to treat but you can still work on it at home. Take a lacrosse ball and place it on the outside of your calf with your foot pointed upwards.
Roll the ball around until you find a sore spot, then move your foot in all directions.
Treating the plantar fascia is relatively easy. All you need is a lacrosse ball or a golf ball (the only differences are how small of an area they target and how much they hurt). Place the ball on the ground and put your foot on the ball, with your heel right behind the ball. Roll your foot back and forth along the ball, applying moderate pressure, until you find a sore spot. Then increase the pressure on your foot (press down on your knee if you have to) and try to flex your toes up and down, keeping the pressure on the sore spot. This will strip the tissue restriction off the fascia and muscles.
To treat pain in the achilles tendon, you actually work higher up on the leg. You can help to treat pain in this area by working the calf. Put a lacrosse ball or other similarly sized ball on the ground and put the meaty part of your calf on top of it. Roll the ball up and down your calf and side to side until you find a point that hurts. Once you do, move your foot up and down and side to side. If this doesn’t work you can also try the inside or outside of your calf using the same procedure.
If you try these exercises and you’re not seeing results in two weeks, your issue may be beyond the scope of what you can do at home and you should seek out a medical professional. That said, these exercises should help the majority of people who have these issues swing faster, play better, and hurt less.