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Gait Cycle & Ankle Exercises for Runners

running gait cycle heel strike toe off stance swing ankle stability exercises injury prevention foot ankle injury virtual races

written by runnergirl training 

Ever wonder if your running form is correct? A good way to check out your running posture is to take a look at your gait cycle.

 Gait cycle is the movement pattern of feet from one step to the next. There are two different phases to the gait cycle and they are called the swing and the stance. The swing portion is when the foot moves through the air transitioning from one ground contact to the next. The stance portion is when the foot is planted on the ground.

The stance phase has three smaller phases. They are divided up as follows:

running gait cycle heel strike toe off stance swing ankle stability exercises injury prevention foot ankle injury virtual races

Heel-Strike:
When the foot initially connects to the ground. The impact is 2-3 times the bodyweight of the individual.


running gait cycle heel strike toe off stance swing ankle stability exercises injury prevention foot ankle injury virtual races

Mid-Stance:
When the foot is supported on the ground. This is the transition phase between heel-strike and toe-off.


running gait cycle heel strike toe off stance swing ankle stability exercises injury prevention foot ankle injury virtual races

Toe-Off:
When the foot contracts through the arch and pushes the foot forward onto the toes.

There can be a variety of problems just in that small segment of motion that can cause a multitude of running injuries. For example, if the feet excessively roll in (over-pronation)  or out (over-supination) that can result in injuries to the feet, ankles, knees, hips and so on up the kinetic chain. It is wise to know what your natural gait tendencies are in order to correct postural deviances or prevent injuries.

Exercises for ankle and foot stability:

Resistance band for ankle inversion and eversion. – While seated wrap a resistance band around the ankle and move away from the resistance (toward to body & away from the body). 10 repetitions of each direction. 1-3 sets.

Calf raises.  While standing when heels of feet off of a step shift body weight  onto toes to contract the calf muscles. Slowly bring heels back down below the step’s height. 10 repetitions. 1-3 sets.

Resistance band for ankle plantar flexion & dorsiflexion. – While seated wrap a resistance band around the sole of your shoe. Resist while pushing toes away from you & toward the floor. Next, place the resistance band across the top of your shoe and pull your toes toward you against the resistance. 10 repetitions of each exercise. 1-3 sets.


It is helpful to look at your gait pattern when assessing proper mechanics or injury prevention. The above-mentioned ankle and foot exercises can assist in building ankle and foot strength and stability. They are great to prevent or correct running injuries.



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