Ankles Hurt When Running

Your ankle joint is located at the point where your leg bones meet your foot. This joint is responsible for your foot's ability to move in an up and down motion. The ankle as a whole is made of the joint, and includes the lower end of your leg and the beginning of the flat part of your foot. You should use caution with your ankles as their bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons can be easily injured and inflamed. Sometimes these injuries will make your ankles hurt while running.

Why Would My Ankles Hurt When Running?

1. New to Running

It is not uncommon for new runners to experience minor pain for the first couple minutes of a run. This is especially true in the first two months of starting the activity on a regular basis. It is recommended that new runners keep to 25 miles or less for the first month of running. Gradually increase the distance you run, thus allowing your ankles to adjust to the new pressures and stresses on their joints and bones.

2. Poorly Supported Sneakers

Often, your ankles hurt when running because of the shoes you are wearing. If you do not wear the right type of shoes, your ankles do not get the support they need. This causes undo stress on your joints. If you are experiencing ankle and foot pain, you should try out different shoes. If you continue to use ill-fitted shoes, you can cause damage to your joints, legs, spine, hips and bones.

3. Ankle Sprain

If you suffer from this type of injury, it typically means you have damaged the ligaments by twisting or turning your ankle in the wrong direction. When this happens, you can cause a tear or overly stretch your ankle ligaments or tendons. If it happens too violently, you can even break one of your ankle bones.

4. Achilles Tendinitis

You can experience ankle pain when running if you are suffering from Achilles tendinitis, named after the Achilles tendon. The tendon is made up of the tissue connecting your calf muscles to your heel bone. The ailment is caused by the overuse of the tendon brought on by overuse or straining of the area. You use this tendon when you jump, walk and run. If you suddenly increase the duration or intensity of your runs, you can suffer from Achilles tendinitis.

5. Gout

If you are experiencing gout, you can suffer from joint pain in your ankles, which could explain why your ankles hurt when running. Gout happens when your body has too much uric acid buildup. Too much uric acid can cause crystal deposits in your joints and pain in those areas.

6. Arthritis

Basically, arthritis is joint inflammation. Although there are several types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is typically the culprit when ankle pain is concerned. It occurs when there is wear and tear on your joints, caused by activities like running and jumping. The older you get, the greater your chance is to suffer from osteoarthritis.

Self-Care for Ankle Pain at Home

A simple ankle joint injury can still be very painful. There are a few home remedies that might be helpful in relieving your pain.

  • Give your ankles and joints a rest by keeping weight off of them as much as you can. You may have to stop doing some of your normal activities until your injuries heal.
  • Apply an ice pack on your ankle injury three times a day for about 15 minutes.
  • The use of a compression bandage can reduce your ankle swelling, as well as elevating your foot.
  • Take over-the-counter medications like naproxen or ibuprofen to reduce your inflammation and promote healing.

Remember, it can take several weeks to heal from an ankle injury. If your ankles hurt when running, you need to give your body more time to heal. You do not want to permanently damage your ankle joints or bones.

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises

Before performing actions which involve the use of your ankle joints or muscles, try stretching to prepare the area for the activities ahead.

1. Rotating

Wait until your pain diminishes before you start. When you can, gently rotate your injured ankle by rotating it in a circular motion. Use your hands to bend your ankle up and down. This will help you regain your range of motion and reduce your risk of injuring your ankle again.

2. Shin Muscle Stretches

Shin muscle stretches help when the muscles in the front part of your ankle are injured. These muscles are very important as they absorb the force from activities like walking, jumping or running.

  • To complete the stretch, stand and reach behind you.
  • Push your toes down and slowly try to touch the top of your foot while doing so to the ground.
  • When you feel the stretch in your shin, hold for 30 seconds and then release.

3. Calf Stretches

Calf stretches work on your calf muscles, which are responsible for cushioning the force exerted from your foot when it hits the ground. If they are too tight, they do not protect your ankles as they should, which could lead to ankles hurt when running.

  • Before starting strenuous activities, prop one of your feet on a step.
  • Keep your heel to the ground and push forward.
  • When you feel the stretch, hold for 30 seconds and then release. Repeat a couple of times to loosen the muscles.

4. Calf Strengthening Exercises

Calf strengthening exercises make your calves stronger, enabling them to better absorb the shock of walking and running.

  • Straight calf raises can be done easily by standing on a step with your toes and pushing the weight of your body up and down with them.
  • You can also try bent-knee calf raises. They are done the same except you keep your knees bent at a 20 degree angle while doing them.
  • With either exercise, you should complete at least 2 sets of 15 repetitions.

5. Balance Exercises

Balance exercises help strengthen your ankles by increasing muscle stability. All you have to do is take an upper-body exercise you already practice with two feet on the ground and change to using only one foot. A good example would be bicep curls. When doing your curls, stand on one foot. This will make you strengthen your balance. To complete it effectively, you need to spend the same amount of time on each foot.

When to See a Doctor

You should seek medication attention if you:

  • Experience severe pain or swelling in your ankle
  • Suffer an open wound
  • See signs of infection, experience extreme tenderness, or have a fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lose your ability to put weight on your foot

You should schedule a doctor's appointment if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Persistent and constant swelling that does not get better after a few days of home treatment
  • Persistent pain that does not get better after several weeks.

How Will the Doctor Diagnose Your Condition

To help figure out why your ankles hurt when running, your doctor may have x-rays taken of your ankles, legs and other joints and bones. If there is fluid present, your doctor may remove it using a needle. Sometimes, you may be given anti-inflammatory medications, protective gear or even a brace to help with the healing process. In very serious cases, your ankle or the surrounding area may require surgery.

How to Prevent Ankle Pain

Not all ankle pain can be prevented like the discomfort caused by arthritis. However, you can still take preventive measures to reduce your risk of sprains and other injury related ankle ailments.

  • Wear properly fitted shoes that give ankle support.
  • Only wear high-heeled shoes when necessary.
  • Do ankle and leg stretches before doing exercises.
  • If doing activities that will strain your ankles, wear support gear.
  • Reduce stress to your ankles by losing extra pounds.
  • Do not run on uneven surfaces.
  • Slowly buildup running on hills as doing so can lead to ankle injuries. Running downhill can cause injuries as well, so take caution in this as well.
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