If you’re an athlete, you’re probably no stranger to occasional ankle pain after running. That’s because running is a high-impact sport that puts a lot of wear and tear on your joints, especially your ankles. Several years of running without taking the proper precautions can result in aches, pains, and injuries. At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, we want to make sure you can live a healthy, active life without pain. Call us today at 469-200-2832 to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon Frisco.
Ankle Pain Symptoms
Every athlete deals with minor aches and pains – it’s normal! What’s not normal is when the aches and pains don’t go away. Here are some signs that you may have injured your ankles after running:
- Sharp pain in the front, back, inside, or outside of the ankle
- Constant dull aching
- Pinching sensations
- General tenderness around the ankle
- Stiffness or swelling
- Inability to move the ankle without pain
- Reduced ability to run, walk, or stand on your ankle(s)
Possible Ankle Pain Causes
There are many reasons why you may be experiencing ankle pain after running that don’t include the worst case scenarios: a break or a dislocation. Here are some of the most common culprits of ankle pain.
It’s possible that the Achilles tendon (the large tendon that attaches the calf to the heel) is inflamed. Inflammation can cause pain and stiffness in the ankle, especially after repetitive stress from a high-impact sport. One possible solution for Achilles tendon problems is an innovative surgical technique, called percutaneous Achilles tendon repair. One specific type of tendonitis that often affects runners is called peroneal tendonitis. It affects the peroneal tendons in the ankle.
While a sprained ankle can feel like a broken ankle at times, it can usually heal on its own with treatment at home. A sprained ankle happens when the ligaments surrounding the ankle tear or stretch. The most common cause of a sprained ankle is when the foot twists or the ankle rolls inward while running.
Meanwhile, a strained ankle is a stretched or torn tendon and can also heal with at-home treatment. With both a strain and a sprain, you may have pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty moving your ankle.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone that are generally caused by repetitive force and overuse. It’s very common for runners to suffer from stress fractures, especially if they:
- Run excessively
- Change running surfaces. For example, switching from a treadmill to an uneven gravel track outside
- Don’t practice different types of exercise that work different parts of the body
- Are malnourished. Specifically, vitamin D and calcium deficiencies can lead to stress fractures
The most common symptoms of an ankle stress fracture is pain that worsens with time but improves while resting, as well as swelling and bruising.
Most people associate arthritis with elderly people, but arthritis can happen to anyone. Ankle arthritis is a common condition for many runners and happens when cartilage breaks down in the ankle joint. There are a few types of arthritis that runners can suffer from:
- Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It’s also referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. Osteoarthritis happens when the cartilage within a joint breaks down and the underlying bone begins to change.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease. It happens when your immune system attacks healthy joints, causing them to swell. High impact sports can naturally make the inflammation and pain worse.
- Post-traumatic arthritis is caused by wearing out a joint that was previously injured. Previous injuries can damage the cartilage or the bone and can make it more susceptible to wearing out. High-impact sports or excess body weight can definitely cause more damage.
Your ankles may simply be weak, not injured, after running. Weak ankles can easily give out when bearing weight. As a result, weak ankles can cause chronic pain and more frequent injuries. The main cause of weak ankles is overpronation, which is when your foot rolls inward when walking or running. Frequent overpronation weakens supporting ligaments in your foot. To strengthen weak ankles, invest in good running shoes and practice ankle strengthening exercises. If you wait too long to take good care of your ankles, you may need ankle replacement later in life.
What Do I Do if I Have Ankle Pain After Running?
The best thing to do for ankle pain after running is the RICE method, which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Rest is crucial for healing any kind of ankle pain after running. Stop running until all swelling, bruising, and pain is gone or you will risk a more severe injury.
Ice is another way to accelerate recovery from a running injury. Placing ice packs on the injured ankle can reduce swelling and also numb the pain.
Wrap your ankle with KT tape or an ACE wrap, both of which can be found at drug stores. Compression helps stabilize the ankle and reduce swelling.
Keep your ankle raised above heart level when sitting or laying down. This will help reduce swelling and pain.
Stretching and Strengthening
Outside of the RICE method, you can also try gently stretching, massaging, and strengthening the injured ankle. Be sure to do this 48 to 72 hours after your initial injury because moving the ankle right away can be harmful. Popular ankle strengthening exercises include ankle circles, calf raises, and resistant band work.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can relieve pain during healing.
When Should I See a Doctor for Ankle Pain?
Sometimes there is only so much you can do to fix an injured ankle at home. If you’ve tried all the methods as shown above with no improvement, it may be time to see a Dallas orthopedic surgeon. Schedule an appointment with us if you have any of these symptoms:
- Pain that lasts more than a few days
- Inability to run after a week of rest
- Numb or unstable ankles
- General redness or red streaks extending from the injury, indicating an infection
- Inability to put weight on the injured ankle
- Frequent ankle injuries
Treatments for Ankle Pain
If your ankle pain is caused by something more severe than a sprain and requires surgery, our Dallas orthopedic surgeons may suggest:
- Ankle arthroscopy: a minimally invasive procedure that can fix almost any ankle joint issue.
- Cartilage transplant: a common treatment for osteoarthritis that replaces worn down cartilage with new cartilage from a healthy joint in your body. This treatment is usually recommended for osteoarthritis in the knees.
- Fracture surgery: this procedure is only necessary if you broke your ankle.
- Joint replacement: depending on how damaged or injured your ankle is, you may need a complete joint replacement. Our orthopedic surgeons do this by replacing the damaged joint with an artificial one. This procedure is generally recommended when all other treatments fail.
- Physical therapy: if you suffer from weak ankles that cause you to reinjure yourself while running, you may qualify for physical therapy. Physical therapy in Dallas is also a good option for those who suffer with arthritis, tendinitis, or muscle and ligament tears in the ankles.
How To Prevent Ankle Pain After Running
The key to avoiding ankle injuries is to take preventative measures while running. Here are some things you can implement into your daily routine for healthier joints, tendons, muscles, and ligaments.
Wear the Right Shoes
It’s tough to establish which shoe is the best for running because not only are all feet different, all shoes are different too. Additionally, it’s important to pick the right shoes for the type of surface you’re running on. Basically, the right running shoe for you boils down to comfort. One study shows that runners suffered fewer injuries while wearing shoes they deemed as comfortable. Other tips for picking the right running shoes include making sure they fit right and making sure they don’t rub your skin while you’re running. Finally, make sure your shoes aren’t too tight or too loose.
Don’t Run on Uneven Surfaces
Running on uneven surfaces puts you at risk of ankle overpronation (when your foot rolls inward). This is especially true if you switch from running on a smooth surface to running on an uneven surface. This is because you’re not accustomed to the new track texture.
Make Sure to Warm Up and Cool Down
Warming up and cooling down is important for any type of exercise because it can help you avoid injury and recovery quicker. Try a slow jog, a brisk walk, or some jumping jacks before your next run as a warm up. A comfortable walk or a stretching session is a great way to cool down after your run.
Build Up Endurance and Don’t Overwork Yourself
If you want to get into a regular running routine or you simply want to increase your endurance, it’s important to not push your body to its limit. Work yourself up to the running level you want by gradually increasing your run time or alternating between running and walking. Since running is a high-impact sport, it’s also important to incorporate low-impact sports into your exercise regimen to protect your joints and prevent injury. Biking, swimming, yoga, hiking, and dancing are examples of low-impact exercise.
Strengthen the Feet and Ankles
If you want to strengthen your feet and ankles, incorporate these exercises into your daily routine.
- Calf drop: Stand on a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly raise up onto your toes and then lower your heels below the level of the step you’re standing on. Do this several times every day to stretch your calves and strengthen the Achilles tendon.
- Toe writing: sit in a chair, raise one foot, and start writing the alphabet with your toes without moving your leg muscles. Make sure to do this with both feet. You might feel silly, but this exercise will drastically improve ankle strength and stability.
- Towel pickup: Sit on a chair with your feet on top of a towel on the floor. Keep your heels on the floor and start scrunching or picking up the towel with your toes. This exercise can stretch the plantar fascia on the bottom of your foot.
- Heel and toe walking: Practice walking around on your toes and then on your heels. This exercise can strengthen your ankles as well as improving balance.
- Ankle circles: sit comfortably, raise a foot, and begin moving your ankle in circles. Make sure to do this to both ankles.
Contact SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy Today
You deserve a pain-free life with full function of your wrists, ankles, shoulders, legs, and everything in between. At SPORT Orthopedics + Physical Therapy, we provide state-of-the-art treatments and procedures to assist your full recovery and to get you back to your normal life. If you’re suffering from one of many common foot injuries, we’re here to help. Call us today at (469) 200-2832 and we’ll fix you up.
If you are suffering from foot pain instead of ankle pain, read our related blog titled, “Why do my feet hurt when I run?” to learn more.