This article will break down seven potential causes of why your ankles hurt when running as well as how to treat it, helping to get you pain-free and back in the game.
It’s crucial to locate the pain’s source and start treating it right away if your ankles are hurting after running. Some pains could be signs of more serious problems. The good news is that most ankle injuries can be avoided with a few important training program adjustments and the right pre- and post-exercise stretching.
Learn more about some of the reasons why ankle pain occurs as well as some remedies by reading the information below.
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Why Do My Ankles Hurt When Running?
Uncertain of the precise cause of your ankle pain during or after a run? Here are a few potential options.
Ankle Strain Or Sprain
Your ankles hurting when you run is typically caused by sprains and strains. In contrast to an ankle sprain, which affects a ligament, an ankle strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is overstretched or torn. While many other common causes of ankle pain result from overuse, ankle sprains and strains are frequently brought on by a single traumatic injury.
Whether you’re on level ground or on an uneven trail, one minor error or poor landing can cause you to painfully roll your ankle. Even if you are able to stand up right away, tiny microtears in your muscles and ligaments may accumulate over time to cause a serious injury. Advice: Deal with it right away.
Your ankles may ache while running most frequently due to sprains and strains, but they are also the most easily fixed. The sooner the injury is treated, as with most injuries, the less difficult it will be to manage the painful symptoms of rolling your ankle. You’ll be back on your feet quickly if you take care of your body as soon as you experience pain.
Ankle Stress Fracture
When your muscles become incapable of absorbing the force of repeated impact, stress fractures develop. Instead, your bone(s) develop minute fractures that eventually break under pressure. Not fun!
“Shin splints,” Dr. Brad Whitley, PT, DPT explains, “are the most primitive form of a stress fracture. It is an irritation of the bone’s outer layer. Shin splints are actually the first sign of a bone stress injury (BSI), which is what they are.”
Stress fractures can completely stop your daily runs and put you in a cast for a few weeks if untreated. You should see a doctor and get X-rays if you have severe bruising, or tenderness, or if you can’t run without getting sharp pain in your ankle. It’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible because this running injury takes about six weeks to heal.
A tendon that has inflammation causes it to fray, tear, or swell. This condition is known as tendinitis. Running may hurt your ankles if you have one of several different types of tendinitis in the foot region.
- Tibialis anterior tendonitis: This condition affects the tendon that inserts at the front of your ankle and runs down the front of your shin bone (the tibia). Running-related ankle pain here is likely the result of forceful, repetitive foot flexion. That dreaded condition known as shin splints may also be brought on by issues with your tibialis anterior tendon (ice bath time!)
- Achilles tendinitis: The calcaneus, or back of the heel bone, is connected to the calf muscles by the Achilles tendon. Running-related ankle pain that radiates up the back of your foot past the heel may indicate that your Achilles tendon is inflamed.
- An injury to the tendon that connects the posterior tibial muscle at the back of the shin to the inside of the foot is known as posterior tibial tendonitis. When irritated, you might feel swelling, warmth, or redness along the inside of your ankle that worsens after
- Peroneal tendonitis: If your outer ankle hurts when you run, it may be due to a swollen peroneal tendon, which attaches your lower leg bone (the fibula) to the bony lump on the outside of your ankle (the lateral malleolus).
Regardless of the type of ankle tendinitis you are experiencing, they are all brought on by the same factors, including overuse, a rapid increase in mileage, improper form, poor footwear, low arches, flat feet, and tight calf muscles. You’ll typically experience symptoms of ankle tendonitis first thing in the morning or as you’re cooling down after a run.
While you might think of arthritis as being more common in older athletes, it can affect runners of any age. Running can hurt your ankles if you have any of the three types of foot arthritis: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. Each time, the joint is weak or injured, which causes stiffness and immobility.
Both experienced athletes and dedicated runners can develop arthritis. Arthritis doesn’t favor either group of people more than the others. If you observe symptoms, keep track of whether they worsen over time so you can attempt to act before it’s too late.
Ankle Bursitis (retrocalcaneal Bursitis)
Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-containing sack in between the bone and ligament. The retrocalcaneal bursa is located in-between the Achilles tendon and ankle bone. retrocalcaneal bursitis is often mistaken for Achilles tendonitis.
Poor running form, overly tight or ill-fitting running shoes, muscular imbalance, and/or overuse and/or overtraining. Additionally, if Achilles tendonitis is not treated, it may worsen.
Ankle Instability and Biomechanics
Sometimes it’s just a matter of weak ankles. Ankle instability causes your body’s natural biomechanics to “give out” whenever weight is placed on it, causing chronic pain and frequent injury while running.
Overpronation, which causes excessive motion to weaken the supporting ligaments in your foot, can lead to weak and shaky ankles. Each step you take when you overpronate is slightly out of balance, which causes your foot to roll inward and the impact shock to be distributed unevenly.
“Some pronation is needed in running for shock absorption, but too much too quickly can cause problems,” shares Whitley.
Injuries of this kind can radiate upward and outward through your feet and legs, resulting in chronic pain that, if untreated, can be crippling. To control those shaky ankles, motion control or stability running shoes might be a good choice.
Ankle pain frequently has a shoe-related cause. After all, the ankle is connected to the foot and lower leg. Bunions and other issues can arise when you wear shoes that don’t fit properly or aren’t appropriate for your foot type.
Check to see if you’re wearing the proper shoes for your foot type and running gait if you’re in pain while running. Perhaps the issue is being brought on by your shoes. Some athletes claim that their ankle pain goes away when they switch to new running shoes. If you’re wearing worn-out shoes, try purchasing a new pair (or two) and see if that solves the issue.
Running shoes should be sufficiently stable, cushioned, and shock-absorbing to reduce impact forces during the foot strike phase.
How Can I Relieve Ankle Pain?
The section you’ve all been waiting for is finally here, so let’s get started.
Running-related foot pain or sore ankles may be treatable, if not curable, then at the very least treatable and preventable. Look into the most effective ways to regain your running form.
- RICE: The tried-and-true RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) recovery strategy is something that all athletes should be aware of. Running pain from sprained ankles can be effectively managed with this technique. Compress the ankle to reduce swelling and inflammation, rest the joint by putting as little weight on it as you can, apply an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes, and then elevate your injured ankle above your heart to improve blood flow.
- NSAIDs: NSAIDs, or over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are excellent for relieving ankle pain brought on by running. Though you shouldn’t make a habit of taking these frequently. For maximum effectiveness, take them within the first 24-48 hours of your injury, as directed.
- Braces: By restricting the range of motion in your foot, a brace, supportive wrap, or protective boot can help with painful stress fractures and chronic ankle instability.
- Physical therapy: Exercises like ankle circles, calf raises, and resistance band work can strengthen the muscles around your feet and help prevent sore ankles from running. Stretching and strengthening should be postponed for 48–72 hours if your ankle is in a lot of pain. Warm up those aching muscles and tendons by applying a heat pack beforehand.
- Steroid injections: To treat ankle pain, you will need to visit a doctor and get a steroid injection. Because they can result in the formation of scar tissue, these potent anti-inflammatory medications are somewhat debatable. It can, however, be a very powerful tool for treating tendonitis and arthritis-related ankle pain when used as a single treatment.
Tips to Prevent Ankle Injuries While Running
Never ignore your body’s signals. Stop immediately and carefully inspect the area if you experience any pain before starting again. Consult a physician if the pain continues. Here is some more advice on avoiding injuries.
Strengthen: Don’t Just Strap
Although it may seem like a good idea to tape an ankle or wear a brace or support, it is frequently preferable to strengthen the ankle itself and enhance your balance and posture. Without a strategy to strengthen the ankle, protecting it will only cause problems in the future.
Choose Suitable Running Shoes
Ensure you are wearing the proper footwear when running. Running shoes don’t necessarily have to be expensive and should give your foot enough support.
Build Up Your Conditioning Gradually
Start out slowly and gradually increase your running distance if you’re a beginner. Conditioning is one of the most important components of avoiding ankle injuries. You must train your muscles to be strong, flexible, and accustomed to running.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Ankle injuries can be avoided with a proper warm-up before any type of sport. Blood flow will be improved by this. Stretching after warming up helps to reduce the risk of injury by enhancing joint and muscle flexibility and range of motion.
The demands of your run will be easier for them to adjust to as a result. In addition, after your run, you should stretch and cool down.
When to See a Doctor?
It is advised that you see a doctor if rest and ice do not relieve your pain. This is also true if your ankle is painful or swollen.
A physical examination will be performed by your doctor when you visit. This will involve asking you several questions regarding your symptoms, your situation, your running routine, and any other relevant information.
Along with your own medical history, the history of your family will also be inquired about. X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and stress tests are just a few examples of imaging tests your doctor might order. These will be created to guarantee a correct diagnosis.
Reduced pain and swelling, as well as an improvement in your general health, will be the main objectives of your treatment. The precise problem, the seriousness of the condition, and the state of your general health will all influence the approach to take in treating your ankle injury.
Conclusion: Protect Your Ankle
Ankle pain is unpleasant, as we all know. You now understand how to recognize, handle, and avoid it. A sprain or stress fracture will eventually slow you down if you continue running, but with the right care and willpower, you can recover.
There are no magic tricks, but by following this straightforward advice and making small adjustments, your risk of injury can be decreased. Don’t hesitate to act, especially if you are prone to ankle injuries.