When running, a certain amount of force is repeatedly impacting your feet, which travels through your ankles, up your legs to the hips and abdomen. This force is a result of your feet pounding the pavement (up to 200 times a minute). For many runners, pain may be unavoidable, although some measures can be taken with the hope of avoiding any painful sensations. This article highlights the causes, treatments, and prevention methods you can take to deal with the ankle pain.
Causes of Ankle Pain After Running
There are numerous causes of the pain within the ankle after running, some of which may surprise you. Possible causes are detailed below:
1. Unsupportive Sneakers
A typical mistake many inexperienced runners make is not wearing appropriate footwear. Wearing the wrong sneakers, be they old and battered, or unsupportive, can lead to ankle pain and discomfort both during and after running. Ensure to wear appropriate, supportive sneakers to avoid this.
2. Tight Muscles in Feet
If you have tight muscles in your feet, then you may experience ankle pain after running. If the muscles in your feet are tight, you may notice it via a sensation of pain in the ankle area. Massaging these muscles with the help of a small ball both before and after you go for a running will prove beneficial in lessening ankle pain.
3. Past Injuries
It is entirely possible that a previous injury, such as a sprained ankle, that you thought had cleared has resurfaced and is causing pain. The injury may have seemed healed whilst no strenuous physical activity was being performed, but may come back when you try running.
4. Excessive Training
Training excessively, particularly long distance running, can lead to a strain in muscles and tendons, as well as stress fractures. If you require high intensity workouts of a long duration, try swapping out running for a less impactful exercise, such as rowing machines, or exercise bikes.
5. Lack of Structured Motion
Lack of structured motion within the foot is common when running, as the motion of running is linear, this can lead to ankle pain after running. Avoid this by doing ankle mobility exercises before a run. This is achieved by slowly moving the ankle in a circular motion, clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Repeat this exercise on both ankles for two to three sets of twenty repetitions in both directions. Another warm-up exercise involves hypothetically ‘drawing’ the alphabet with your toes whilst they’re raised in the air.
6. Inversion Sprains
The most frequent sprain that occurs in runners is an inversion sprain, this sprain happens when the ankle rolls inward, causing damage to the ligaments that reside on the outer edge of the ankle (most commonly the anterior talofibular ligament). All sprains are classified via a grading system to indicate their severity, grade one being least severe and grade three being most.
A sprain can be avoided by practicing proper running technique and being careful, although accidents are often unavoidable. If you experience a sprain that is somewhat debilitating, it may be wise to seek the help of a healthcare professional.
7. Achilles Tendinitis
Achilles tendinitis is a frequent occurrence in runners; it can be caused by over-activity, improper footwear, and misalignment, amongst other things. The Achilles tendon, although being the biggest tendon within the body, is still prone to injury, especially in avid runners. Those with Achilles tendinitis will likely experience an inflamed heel (around the Achilles tendon), with the skin around the area becoming reddish, along with ankle pain.
Blisters are a result of friction from clothing rubbing against your skin, and are highly frequent in runners, especially those running long distances. Blisters are typically small, but can cause strenuous pain and lead to the inability to continue with physical endeavours. These can be prevented by wearing tightly fitting footwear, and ensure that your feet remain dry (which is achieved with the application of powder).
How to Deal with Ankle Pain After Running
Although ankle pain is a common occurrence after running, it can, on occasions, be unbearable. There are numerous steps you can take to help reduce the pain, some of which are listed below:
1. Don’t Hesitate to Seek Medical Help
You should seek medical help if the following applies:
- You can put no weight on your ankle at all, and there is a visible difference in its appearance (this may indicate that the ankle is broken).
- The pain you experience is intense, even when the ankle is being rested.
- A popping sound can be heard when you try to move your ankle.
- If the ankle becomes infected (notable by the ankle becoming warm, tender, and red, or a fever of over 100 F).
Your doctor will likely perform an x-ray on the ankle to determine the exact cause of the pain and the best course of treatment, which may include anti-inflammatory medication, protective and supportive gear, or possibly surgery.
- Protection: Use supported equipment, such as a brace or splint.
- Rest: Attempt to avoid placing weight on the ankle if it is hurting, perhaps try using crutches when walking.
- Ice: Placing ice on the area that is in pain will help to reduce swelling as well as numb the pain. Leave it on the ankle for around twenty minutes, and be sure to never put ice directly onto the skin.
- Compression: Wrap your ankle for extra support with the aid of an elastic bandage, but ensure not to wrap it too tightly.
- Elevation: If you are able, raise your ankle above your heart; you can use pillows to assist you.
3. Stretching and Strengthening
- Perform exercises to increase your mobility
The exercises mentioned above (circular ankle motions and ‘writing’ the alphabet with your elevated toes) can help to increase mobility of the ankle. Another exercise can be performed by sitting in a chair with the foot that has ankle pain after running flat on the floor, and moving your knee left to right, slowly, for about three minutes.
- Strengthen your ankle
If you are capable of standing without increasing the pain you are experiencing, then it may be wise to perform strengthening exercises. This can be done by placing your foot on the floor, flat, and pushing it against a wall or another immovable surface or object, and hold for six seconds. Alternatively, sit on the floor and place both feet side-by-side, flat on the floor. Push your injured ankle against your uninjured foot and hold for six seconds.
How to Prevent It
Although injury may sometimes be unavoidable, there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of being afflicted, thus preventing ankle pain after running. These ways include:
- Avoiding sports or exercise when you are tired or experiencing pain
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Maintaining a weight that is considered healthy
- Avoiding any falling
- Wearing appropriate footwear
- Exercising frequently
- Ensuring to carry out proper warm-ups before exercising
- Running only on flat surfaces (if possible)