5 Reasons for Ankle Pain When Running (And What You Can Do)
Running has many positive health benefits. It improves mental health, strengthens the body, reduces stress, improves stamina, and much more. But all that running can also be hard on your feet and ankles. In fact, the repetitious striking of the feet during a run can lead to a wide range of injuries and ailments—from ankle sprains to chronic ankle instability.
Here, we’ll cover some of the most common reasons for ankle pain associated with running and how you can avoid and treat it.
1. Ankle Sprain
One of the most common, and easily identifiable, ankle injuries is an ankle sprain. An ankle sprain is most often caused by rolling, twisting, or turning the ankle during a foot strike. This can be caused by an uneven running surface, poor ankle support, improper footwear, overuse, or an awkward landing.
The injury occurs when ligaments in the ankle are stretched beyond their normal range of motion and tear. Depending on the severity of the tear, an ankle sprain is classified as Grade 1, 2, or 3. Grade 1 is mild, 2 is moderate, and 3 is severe.
Mild to moderate ankle sprains typically require rest, ice, and an ankle brace to protect and support the ankle during the healing process. A wrap that provides ankle support for running can be worn to minimize the risk of injury or re-injury.
Severe (grade 3) ankle sprains may require immobility and the use of a restrictive ankle support or walking boot to minimize movement, encourage proper alignment during healing, and reduce pain and swelling.
2. Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is an injury that occurs when the Achilles tendon tears or becomes inflamed. This injury is often felt as soreness at the back of the heel and back of the ankle. Tenderness, stiffness, and mild pain are associated with this injury. Symptoms are most often experienced immediately after exercise and in the morning.
Because Achilles tendonitis is an overuse injury, it is most often associated with runners who increase the duration, intensity, or frequency of workouts. If you begin to notice pain or discomfort along the Achilles tendon, you may be experiencing early Achilles tendonitis. While some minor pain may be manageable, if untreated, the condition can worsen and eventually lead to a ruptured tendon.
The best plan of action for Achilles tendonitis is to begin rehab early to avoid serious injury. Because it’s an overuse injury, you should decrease the intensity, duration, and frequency of your running. Stretching, leg strengthening exercises, and proper footwear can help you increase the health of your Achilles tendon and avoid injury.
3. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist. Both are repetitive injuries caused by compression of the nerve. Much like carpal tunnel, tarsal tunnel is caused by repetitive motion or movement that strains and puts pressure on nerves surrounding the ankle.
This injury is most often caused by an existing injury that adds compression on the nerve, incorrect arch support that causes an outward tilting of the heel, diseases such as diabetes or arthritis, and improper foot strike patterns.
The symptoms of this ankle injury are pain, numbness, inflammation, a tingling sensation in the foot, or even sensations similar to electric shock. Rest, physical therapy, and proper footwear that provides arch and ankle support for running can aid in the healing process.
4. Ankle Impingement
Ankle impingement is a condition that impacts the front of the ankle. It is caused by repetitive compressive force during ankle dorsiflexion when your toes and shin bone are closest together. It especially impacts runners whose running routine includes running uphill, as this puts greater impact and compression on the front of the ankle joint during foot strikes. It can also be caused by other ankle injuries, improper running mechanics, inadequate stretching and warm-up, and rapid increases in workout duration, intensity, or frequency.
The symptoms of ankle impingement include pain at the front of the ankle, tenderness, swelling, inflammation, and restricted movement of the ankle. The best treatment for ankle impingement is rest, ice, compression, elevation, and physical therapy. Running on flat surfaces with proper footwear and arch support can help promote aligned foot strikes and minimize the risk of injury during ankle dorsiflexion.
5. Chronic Ankle Instability
Ankle instability is just what it sounds like: a chronic condition where ankle stability is compromised and the ankle gives out during running or other physical activities. This condition can lead to other, more serious injuries if left unchecked and untreated.
Chronic ankle instability impacts the outside of the ankle and can lead to chronic swelling and pain, tenderness, and an unstable sense of balance. It is most often caused by an ankle sprain or injury that did not heal properly. It can also be caused by a lack of strength training, overuse, and an increase in running schedule.
This condition is best treated with rest, strength training, proper footwear, and the use of compression ankle support for running.
Treatment for Ankle Pain
Running is a great way to stay healthy and get a little exercise, but just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean there aren’t risks. Ankle injuries can impede your ability to run and even make it hard to do everyday things.
If you have a minor to moderate ankle injury, the best treatment is often rest, ice therapy, and an appropriate ankle support. If you begin to notice pain after running, take a few days off, ice your ankle, and let your body heal. It’s one thing to “push through the pain,” but it’s quite another to not listen to your body when it’s telling you that something isn’t right.
The best way to prevent, treat, and support an ankle injury is to use wraps, braces, sleeves, and other ankle supports for running. Ankle supports reduce range of motion, encourage proper alignment, reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and aid the body in the healing process.
Browse our inventory to find a wide range of ankle supports to help you get back on your feet and back on track.