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Snowboarding toe-side issue - limited ankle dorsiflexion

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Hi there, I'm new to this forum and very excited to join this big family!

This is my second snowboarding season. I spent 16 days last season and was able to comfortably ride s-turns on green runs as well as groomed blue runs. I feel I have reached to a plateau where I can hardly make any progress due to my ankle flexibility issue. Basically I broke my right ankle 5 years ago, which left me extremely limited dorsiflexion angle (~5 degrees vs. ~15 degrees for normal ppl). When doing wall test, the distance between my toe and the wall is literally zero. And yes, I ride goofy where my right foot is at the forward side. This really makes riding toe-side a pain in the ass for me, as I cannot bend my ankle as far as other people so my center of gravity is high; also when riding bumpy terrains, my right ankle has very little impact absorption at its maximum dorsiflexion position, which makes my ankle very sore after each run. I have tried tighten my shoes more to make my toe-side more responsive but it only increases the soreness yet helps little in the riding.

I'm genuinely asking here if anyone have similar issues as mine? If so what's your mitigation approach to make it better? I have bought heel wedges online recently and will try it out during my next trip, hopefully it can work.
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Hi and welcome to the forum.

I've had a bone fragment (very small) in my left ankle (which is my front foot) for about 20 years now due to a really bad sprain playing basketball. This has reduced my range of motion/flexion somewhat but definitely not as much as you.

There isn't much you can realistically do to help the situation. You will most likely end-up protecting that ankle and preventing it from flexing in time.

If doing physiotherapy and exercises to regain your range of motion is out of the question (I'm assuming it's not based on your post), IME, the best thing you can is prevent it from flexing too far.
-Stiff boots to prevent dorsiflexion as much as possible. Since you have very little range of motion, go as stiff as you can. The better the support, the less often you will go too far and hurt that ankle (it's painful, I remember).
-Ride with as little forward lean as possible on your bindings/highbacks.
-Exercises to strengthen your calf muscle so you can absorb more impact without flexing as much.
-In time you will develop some protection reflex/habits too (it's what I did).
-Again, in time, you will develop/adapt your riding technique to fit with your physical limitations.
-Realizing where your limits are is gonna be a major factor in your riding/comfort and safety here. These will change the better you get but they will always be there.

Avoid jumping, there's no way that ankle can realistically land anything and not bend too far.

In the end, if all else fails, it may well be that hard boots will be your only choice if you want to stick to snowboarding. You won't know until you try all the options though.

Good luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi and welcome to the forum.

I've had a bone fragment (very small) in my left ankle (which is my front foot) for about 20 years now due to a really bad sprain playing basketball. This has reduced my range of motion/flexion somewhat but definitely not as much as you.

There isn't much you can realistically do to help the situation. You will most likely end-up protecting that ankle and preventing it from flexing in time.

If doing physiotherapy and exercises to regain your range of motion is out of the question (I'm assuming it's not based on your post), IME, the best thing you can is prevent it from flexing too far.
-Stiff boots to prevent dorsiflexion as much as possible. Since you have very little range of motion, go as stiff as you can. The better the support, the less often you will go too far and hurt that ankle (it's painful, I remember).
-Ride with as little forward lean as possible on your bindings/highbacks.
-Exercises to strengthen your calf muscle so you can absorb more impact without flexing as much.
-In time you will develop some protection reflex/habits too (it's what I did).
-Again, in time, you will develop/adapt your riding technique to fit with your physical limitations.
-Realizing where your limits are is gonna be a major factor in your riding/comfort and safety here. These will change the better you get but they will always be there.

Avoid jumping, there's no way that ankle can realistically land anything and not bend too far.

In the end, if all else fails, it may well be that hard boots will be your only choice if you want to stick to snowboarding. You won't know until you try all the options though.

Good luck
Hi Surgeon,

First of all thanks a ton for all your valuable suggestions! Wish you can magically cure my problem as your name suggests :) jks

  • I have recently started doing PT again (failed previously), as it's the conservative approach before I can try more invasive operations. So far I have not seen any improvement in ROM unfortunately...
  • Somehow tightening boots than usual made my feet and calf muscle much more sore after each run..
  • I think I have set no forward lean for my bindings
  • My PT routine includes calf muscle strengthening and it definitely helps

Best regards
 

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Hi Surgeon,

First of all thanks a ton for all your valuable suggestions! Wish you can magically cure my problem as your name suggests :) jks

  • I have recently started doing PT again (failed previously), as it's the conservative approach before I can try more invasive operations. So far I have not seen any improvement in ROM unfortunately...
  • Somehow tightening boots than usual made my feet and calf muscle much more sore after each run..
  • I think I have set no forward lean for my bindings
  • My PT routine includes calf muscle strengthening and it definitely helps

Best regards
Do all you can do.
When I write "stiff boots", I don't mean to tighten them more. I do mean boots that are made to have less flex to them. Good boots that are well-fitted to your feet don't need to be overtightened to do their job properly.

Other than that, I can only wish you good luck and don't forget to have fun!
 

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Get the stiffest boots you can.

I broke my right foot off (double break and dislocation, tensions were the only thing holding it together) in high school. I also ride goofy. I know the struggle you are talking about, just not to the extent you have it. I don't have any toe side issues though.

You are going to need an uncomfortably stiff ride (will feel that way until you get used to it). It will help in the long run.

Any PT will certainly help, as well as building calf strength.

I get random arch pain in my right foot after the first run or two, but it eventually goes away.
 

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I'm going to take a little bit of a different track here.

I had a bad break on my ankle. They did a trimal surgery where they put in one rod with five screws on the outside one screw behind the ankle and the third screw on the inside of the ankle.

This was last summer. I got back on the slopes in the second half of the season.My range of motion was pretty limited.I actually have a pretty soft boot. I liked that, I felt it was continuously stretching those tendons and it did my foot some good.

I felt a little less nimble and moguls and trees. Probably had an extra fall every now and again but otherwise I felt fine

This was my back foot though so perhaps switch to riding regular? I think you can definitely learn to ride at a very high level with very little ankle flexation it just takes a little extra time.

Hard boots are an interesting idea not so much because the boot doesn't flex, they actually flex quite a lot forwards and backwards. However Alpine boards are very narrow and riders tend to ride these boards with a lot of yaw type leaning which just requires strong calf muscles not much flexation. Essentially their ankles stay pretty straight and they do a lot of turning by tipping. You can of course do this on other boards but it's slower, the wider the board the more time it takes to tip.

ps I stress my foot a little everyday and there is a very very gradual increase in range.
 

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Also I forgot to mention have you taken lessons? Human nature is to assume connections but a lot of people start plateauing at around your level for a while. It might be only slightly related.

Also unrelated to my foot injury when riding crudy terrain at speed I tended to set my back edge in weight back and kind of lift my front foot so that the front edge is barely touching snow and just kind of carve a straightish line. Not sure what this technique is called. This works well especially if you have a larger radius board.
 
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