As part of a running assessment with your Physiotherapist at City Physio or with patients who have a lower limb injury or issue, we usually ask them to stand on one leg. This is so we can visualise what their foot, ankle, and hip stability or instability looks like. If asked, most of our patients will say they have good balance. However, when we assess their single leg balance in this way, a lot of patients report they find it difficult to stay standing on one leg, wobble a lot, use their arms to hold something for better balance or place their arms out wide to increase their base of support, which creates a false sense of balance.

Why does this matter you may ask? You may also say, I can still run 2/5/10/15 kms, so why should I bother improving my balance?

When you run, you spend time on one foot (single leg stance) for several moments before pushing off and landing on the other foot. Running is therefore a series of repetitive single leg squat jumps that happen very quickly.

Being able to stand on one leg without wobbling or needing to place your elevated foot back down in a hurry is an important assessment tool as well as setting you up with good biomechanical alignment.  If we work on your static and dynamic balance with balance exercises, it will help you to stay injury free. There is a difference between static single leg stability (standing still on one leg) to dynamic single leg stability (running). If you can’t control your balance while standing on one foot, it is going to be extremely difficult to dynamically perform a single leg squat jump over the distance and time covered in your runs without causing you to lose good running form or lower limb posture.

Still not convinced? Then read further:

We all know that to run properly you need power in your legs. Power is the ability to generate force quickly. You have to have stable levers which in this case are your ankles and hips, in order to create the force needed to run. If you attempt to run with unstable ankles and hips, you’ll find running difficult or less efficient at the very least.

If you can visualise a soft armchair and a hard, wooden chair.  Which of the two surfaces is easier to get out of?  It’s certainly more difficult to get out of the soft arm chair isn’t it? The hard chair provides a stable base for you to push off of, so it’s easier to get out of.  Now let’s translate that into your own body. If you have a stable body when standing on one leg (single leg stance), you will be able to generate more power more efficiently. ie better balance = ability to generate more power = more efficient running = less injuries.

What about my knees? 

Your knee obviously lies in between your ankle and hip. Your knee doesn’t solely control itself and it is influenced a great deal by what’s going on in the joints above and below it. So, by improving your single leg balance you can help to avoid the start of knee pain or overuse injuries such as runners’ knee or early degenerative changes to your knee joints.

Try going barefoot and standing on one leg to balance and take notice about how much movement occurs in your big toe.  Now think about the ball of your foot and if it comes up off of the ground as you try and balance on one leg. If these two sections of your foot lose contact with the surface you are standing on, you have a problem with your foot and ankle strength in single leg balance.

If you have bunions, limited ankle range of movement or flat feet this can also affect your balance and there are specific ways in which we can work on these issues with you to help you improve your balance and your running efficiency.

If you are having any lower limb issues or you have difficulty standing on one leg,  come in and have your City Physiotherapy Physio assess and treat you before starting any new exercises. Performing any exercises that are too advanced for you will not do you any good and may actually do you harm. ie. working on dynamic balance before you have static balance under control for the right length of time can create further issues.

City Physiotherapy is open Monday 8am – 6pm and Saturdays 8.30am -2pm.  Give us a call on 8212 4886 or book online on www.cityphysiotherapy.com.au. Remember you can take advantage of our corporate cup offer of $10 off for new patients to the practice. We are also preferred providers for Bupa, Medibank Private, Health Partners and HCF.  We offer low cost Physiotherapy every day to help you feel better.