Rocky and rough describes the footing on the Ridge Run. This type of terrain is conducive for twisting ankles, catching a toe resulting in a trip and slipping on loose rocks.
Preventing Sprained Ankles with Running Technique Adjustments
The risk of twisting an ankle increases with downhill running and with irregular running surfaces – both of which are the majority of the Ridge Run.
There are a couple things you can do to compensate for these conditions and minimize the risk of spraining an ankle. First you can spread your legs farther apart than your normal running. The farther your foot lands out to the side, the harder it is to twist. Unfortunately, running with a wide stance is slower and less efficient than running with your feet landing under your body.
Another technique variation is to splay your feet out to the side. Think duck foot; pointing your toes out to the side. Rolling an ankle from a duck footed wide stance is much more difficult than rolling an ankle from a pigeon toed narrow stance. Splayed footed wide stance running may not look pretty and may not be as efficient as your normal running stride, but it can sure protect you from a sprained ankle that can ruin the whole event.
Shoes and Sprained Ankles
Some shoes are natural ankle twisters while others make rolling an ankle nearly impossible. In general, the thicker the sole, the easier and more catastrophic an ankle twist becomes. Curved lasted shoes are also easier to twist an ankle in.
To help prevent sprained ankles, choose a thin soled (low to the ground) straight lasted shoe.
Another feature to look for in a shoe, is a sole that is convex side to side. Look for a future blog devoted to what type of shoe works well for the Ridge.
Other Accouterments to Prevent Sprained Ankles
You can try taping your ankles. My personal experience is the tape loosens quickly and also causes chaffing, irritation and blistering. I’ve given up on it. Experiment as you may have better results.
An item I have had good success with is ankle braces. The best I have discovered are ASO braces. They have a lacing system and Velcro straps.
The downside of ankle braces (and tape) is that they add weight and impede the free movement of the foot. This makes running a bit harder and slower. They do save your ankles.
There are many places along the Bridger Ridge where there are a lot of little sharp limestone rocks poking up. These little rocks have a tendency to catch a toe causing you to trip. A technique to prevent tripping is to lift your knees a little higher and have your foot come down from above as it lands rather than from behind swinging forward.
Once you trip, it can be a real trick to keep from doing a belly flop. All the sharp limestone rocks in the Bridgers can inflict some painful injuries to belly floppers. I’ve broken a rib, gotten an egg size bump on my head (that still swells every time I get a fever) and have lost lots of skin. These are all stories for another time. Sometimes you can get your feet back underneath you as you trip, but sometimes you know you are going down. All I can say, it is better to try and duck a shoulder and land on your back or side than face first on your chest.
It is easier to recover if you trip starts from an upright position than a forward leaning position.
Another Ridge challenge is steep downhill terrain that is dry dirt with loose little rocks and pebbles. The trails below Mount Baldy down towards the M have lots of terrain like this. These conditions are very slippery, especially if it has not rained for a while leaving the trail dry. It is very easy for your feet to slip out from underneath causing you to fall down on your butt.
To prevent your feet slipping out from under you, lean a bit forward and try to land on your mid foot instead or your heels. But remember, from the above section, it is harder to recover from a trip if you are leaning forward. So the advice on preventing slipping and preventing tripping is contrary, but that is the challenge of the Ridge, you have to constantly adjust for the varying terrain.