"While it’s not an exercise with direct specificity to running or any sportin general (and while a host of factors will affect the type of stress thelower leg has to endure), what’s your general take on a bit of directdorsiflexion work with something like a D.A.R.D.?"
Great question, and I am going to include a small discussion of the use of focused dorsiflexion in a coming post with relation to some of my transition to barefoot running.
I do, indeed, think that the use of the DARD and things like toe raises,heel walking, and other variations of loaded dorsiflexion have a place ina runners’ programming. The one issue that I really grapple with is thattoes moving toward the tibia is not how dorsiflexion works in duringstance phase of running. Instead, it is tibia moving toward the foot andit is more of an eccentric contraction of the plantar flexors undergravity’s load that makes that happen. That said, there is likely a roleof controlling and helping to advance the tibia through stance. You candefinitely argue that dorsiflexion during swing phase is a result of (inpart) activity of the dorsiflexors and aids in ground clearance. If youdon’t have this level of dorsiflexion ability, you will see prematureground contacts, and greater braking forces, and a loss of transitionalenergy with such an impact.
As it’s not going to harm us, and potentially be beneficial, I do includethem in our programming in a number of places. Typically, I’ll use themin athletes with functional hallux limitus to try and counterbalance toneof the deep flexors, and athletes who are generally “flat footed” anddemonstrate excessive pronation. As the tibialis anterior is a big musclein dorsiflexion and also a big player in subtalar stability, so it maycheck excessive eversion (though this is debated) that has been associated with the onset of some running injuries.
I also utilize a lot of deep squat patterning that involves activedorsiflexion, knee, and hip flexion in a variety of orientations that alsoare good (and bigger bang for your buck) interventions. This stuff fitsreally well on lower push days or in the movement prep or as a “filler”between bigger lifts.