Could stiff ankles be causing your knee pain?


Yes indeed! Stiff ankles could be a reason that your knees are hurting! The human body is a marvel of interconnected joints and complex biomechanics, where each movement is a carefully choreographed dance. An often-overlooked partner in this intricate ballet is the ankle, a joint whose flexibility influences not only its local vicinity but also resonates up the kinetic chain to impact the knee joint. In this exploration, we delve into the biomechanical intricacies of how a stiff ankle can set the stage for knee pain.

Understanding Ankle Stiffness:

Ankle dorsiflexion, the motion that allows the foot to move toward the shin, is a key player in normal ankle function. When this dorsiflexion is limited, as often seen in cases of ankle stiffness, the repercussions extend beyond the ankle joint itself. The ankle’s ability to flex and absorb shock during activities like walking, running, and jumping is compromised, setting the groundwork for a cascade of effects that can reach the knee.

Biomechanical Domino Effect:

  1. Compensatory Mechanisms:
    • When ankle dorsiflexion is restricted, the body instinctively adapts through compensatory mechanisms. Imagine walking with a stiff ankle – the foot may not clear the ground adequately, leading to altered biomechanics. To compensate, the knee may subtly adjust its movements, potentially exposing it to abnormal stresses.
  2. Gait Alterations:
    • The way we walk, our gait, is a symphony of coordinated movements involving multiple joints. A stiff ankle disrupts this harmony. The body may modify the gait pattern to accommodate the restricted ankle motion. Changes in stride length, foot placement, and weight distribution can transfer additional loads to the knee joint, paving the way for discomfort and pain.
  3. Muscle Imbalances:
    • Ankle stiffness often prompts compensatory muscle responses. Some muscles may work overtime to overcome the limitation, while others may become underutilised. In this tug-of-war, the muscles that stabilize the knee may be adversely affected, potentially leading to imbalances that contribute to knee pain over time.
  4. Increased Stress on Knee Structures:
    • The knee joint, designed for stability and controlled movement, becomes vulnerable in the presence of altered biomechanics. Increased stress on the knee structures, including ligaments and cartilage, can result from the body’s attempt to navigate with a less mobile ankle. This heightened stress may manifest as localised knee pain.

Clinical Implications:

  1. Stretching Exercises:
    • Improving ankle flexibility through targeted stretching exercises is a fundamental approach. This may help alleviate stiffness and restore the joint’s range of motion.
  2. Joint Mobilisations:
    • Physiotherapists may employ joint mobilisation techniques to address specific restrictions in ankle mobility. These interventions aim to enhance joint flexibility and restore optimal mechanics.
  3. Proprioceptive Training:
    • Proprioception, the body’s awareness of its position in space, plays a crucial role in joint stability. Proprioceptive training exercises can improve neuromuscular control, aiding in the restoration of balanced movement patterns.


The journey from a stiff ankle to knee pain is a biomechanical narrative that highlights the interconnectedness of our joints. Ankle dorsiflexion, a seemingly local concern, reverberates through the entire lower limb, influencing gait, muscle engagement, and the delicate balance that sustains pain-free movement. Understanding this intricate dance provides a roadmap for interventions aimed at restoring not only ankle flexibility but also the harmonious symphony of joint interactions that is essential for overall musculoskeletal health.

If you need support for knee pain, our Free Assessment is available, online or in person. Simply book on our home page today!

Destiny Health, where ‘Goals Make Destiny.’

“What goals can we help you with?”