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Why Do My Ankles Hurt When I Run? 4 Culprits Explained!

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Ankle pain when running is one many individuals struggle with. If you are one of the many people who wonder, “Why do my ankles hurt when I run?” you are not alone. 

What Is Runner’s Ankle?

Runner’s ankle is not a black and white ailment that means you have honed it down to one specific injury. It simply notes ankle pain that results from running.

There are many reasons a runner may have sore ankles (or one sore ankle). That pain can stem from instability in the ankle to a strain or sprain

The key to keeping yourself healthy and happily running along is to figure out how to keep your ankles in good repair. This can be achieved in many ways, such as wearing proper shoes and taking some rest days when pain or discomfort first starts to bother you.

The 4 Primary Culprits of Pain

While many things can cause ankle pain while running (or after you run), there are some usual suspects. 

  1. Ankle Sprain: A stretched or torn ligament, a sprain can keep a runner sidelined for quite some time. Common symptoms are pain, swelling, discoloration, and an inability to bear weight on the ankle.
  2. Strain: When you have a strain, you have stretched or torn a tendon. Unfortunately, the symptoms are quite similar to those of a strain, so it can be difficult to determine which you have. 
  3. Tendonitis: When you have an irritated tendon, you have tendonitis. This is often an injury of overuse. You can also have this problem if you have a particular foot malformation, such as flat feet. 
  4. Stress Fracture: This is tiny cracks in the bone, and it is usually caused by overuse or increasing mileage much too quickly. 

Should I Stop Running If My Ankle Hurts?

Determining if your pain is something you should run through or not is never easy for people. If you are running alone and suddenly experience sharp pain, that always signifies that the runner should stop. 

Anytime you experience new pain, you should ask yourself if something used the pain. For example, if you are running alone and step in a hole twisting your ankle, you know exactly what caused the discomfort. The next step is to evaluate the situation. 

Is there swelling?

How sharp is the pain?

Is it becoming discolored quickly?

If you twisted your ankle or something along those lines, you should probably stop.

What about if you are running and your ankle suddenly starts to get a little sore? Ask yourself a few basic questions.

Could your shoes be getting old?

Did you do something different recently, like during HIIT training or strength training?

Could you have just irritated something? 

Also, ask yourself if you are recently increasing your mileage and maybe doing so too quickly, or if your shoes are broken down and in need of replacement. 

If your pain is sharp and bearing weight on your foot hurts, don’t continue to run.

What is the Fastest Way to Relieve Ankle Pain?

The fastest way to alleviate ankle pain is RICE.

  1. Rest: This is twofold. First, avoid putting weight on it for a while. Second, don’t exercise on it even as it slowly improves. 
  2. Ice: Putting ice on it when you first injure the ankle can help reduce swelling. This is true for the first 48 hours or until you see improvement in the swelling. Don’t ice for longer than 20 minutes in a session (followed by an equal amount of time without ice on the ankle). 
  3. Compression: You can wrap the ankle with an ace bandage or something similar. This reduces swelling and also provides stability to the ankle. 
  4. Elevate: Put the ankle up, propped on pillows or a footrest of some sort. 

What Next?

After going through that initial couple of days, you are statistically better off starting to move some to promote healing. To clarify, I am talking about a mild activity such as walking.

Physical therapists and licensed athletic trainers often start young athletes off by walking and doing very simple exercises with the ankle.

You might work on tracing the alphabet with your bare feet by rotating your ankle and pointing with your toe. This motion promotes healing. 

Is Running Good for Your Ankles?

On the one hand, running can put stress on your ankles, leading to tendonitis and other issues. However, running also is a weight-bearing activity that helps improve your joint function. This, in turn, can be very good for the ankle. 

You should make conscious choices to strengthen your ankles if you want them to be stronger. 

How Can I Strengthen My Ankles for Running?

  1. Calf Raisers: Lift your heel to raise the back of the foot off the ground, and hold up on your toes. Pause, then drop down. 
  2. Negative Calf Raises: Do the same calf raise with your forefoot on the end of a step. Drop down into a negative movement. 
  3. One Leg Balance: This sounds easier than it is. You lift one leg and balance on one foot. Once you get good at it, you can try balancing on a Bosu ball!
  4. Single-Leg Squats: Think about a squat, then do it on one foot. If you struggle with balance, you can gently rest the other leg out in front of you, with your heel touching the ground. 
  5. Jump Squats: Drop into a squat, then jump up. 
  6. Squat Jacks: This is a normal jumping jack with a squat at the bottom. It’s more challenging than it sounds. Try one now!

Healthy Ankles are Happy Ankles!

If you are looking at prevention to keep your ankles happy and healthy, the best thing you can do for yourself is to be certain you are in shoes that are good for your feet and that you are always cognizant of how long you have been in those same shoes. 

In addition to that, there are simple strength things you can do to keep your ankles stable. Some of these, such as calf raisers, can be done during downtime, such as waiting for an elevator!

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