The slant board has been professed to enhance performance, prevent injury, and provide benefit in rehabilitation. It’s (unfortunately) associated with assisting in the treatment of plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis, and even hip pain. It sounds too good to be true. Well, the truth will set you free! The truth is that most running injuries are preventable with proper running mechanics and preventative exercises. That is, if you can weed through all the generic mumbo jumbo. If you had a simple conversation with your injured tissue, and believe me they can certainly talk when irritated (injured), they would scream, “I’m overworked, not underworked!”
Typically, when the physics of the repetitive running associated impact becomes too great, muscles and tendons become tight and sore. Tightness can mean artificial strength and stability. Both tight tissue and strength can check rein movement, which is why a tight muscle can mimic strength in the short term. But make no mistake, the tight muscle posing as a strong one cannot mimic the same function. The weakened muscle posing as a strong one will fatigue quicker, while being unable to sustain the workload. Reminisce of how tight you felt in a hard workout. Said tightness is likely providing some degree of stability, but those muscles are anything but strong.
Enter the Slant Board: Standing on it for minutes and hours since the 1980s. The slant board is great for symptom relief regarding any accrued tightness from poor running mechanics and muscle weaknesses; however, it never addresses the underlying cause of injury. This is often the case for revolving door injures—those with repeated overuse injuries to the same tissue (calf, hamstring, etc). Again, the truth will set you free. I have a saying I use with my patients: “Stop punching the bruise and expecting it to get better.” The mechanical irritation of all injuries (plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, “shin splints”, etc.) are begging for help from their upstairs friends and neighbors at the hip and core. Change the mechanics of how your tissue is absorbing the impact of running and now you have real, lasting results.
Those sore feet, legs, shins, and knees will look up and say thank you to their friends and neighbors for doing their part. Static end range unidirectional stretching on a slant board is like icing a bruise… it feels great when you do it, but when you go out and run with the same impact on the same tissue you get the same results.
The slant board is used primarily to stretch the calf (gastrocnemius and the soleus). The problem is, the calf is a muscle that works in rotation, too. Something the slant board simply doesn’t address. We think of the calf as making up the achilles tendon, but up at the knee, the calf actually wraps around the back and outside of our thigh bone (femur). In addition, the muscles deep to those muscles (the peroneals and posterior tibialis) also are part of the lower leg. These deep muscles cross the ankle and wrap around the bottom of the foot, stabilizing it through impact and into pronation. Standing on the slant board does not provide a stretch that looks or feels anything like what that muscle will experience while running.
The truth will set you free and hopefully free you from your slant board. Change your form and strengthen in a way that allows your muscles to absorb the repetitive impact of running and now you have lasting results. The dynamics and the physics of the muscles and your running form have much more to say about enhancing performance and preventing injury than any slant board. Burn it.