Sore ankles are all too familiar to runners and there could be a number of reasons for your pain. Here are some of the most common ankle problems for runners:
Sprained ankle/ankle instability
Acute injuries, such as sprained ankles, where you feel sudden pain after twisting your ankle, are especially common. An ankle is sprained when ligaments are stretched or torn by a sudden twist of the foot and symptoms include instant pain that will usually cause you to limp. Your ankle may also become swollen, bruised and inflamed.
If your sprain is particularly severe or if you try to start running again too quickly without proper treatment, you are in danger of developing chronic ankle instability. You are then likely to sprain your ankle regularly. Tight calves are also a risk factor for acute ankle sprains.
It was once believed that inappropriate footwear was a risk factor for ankle sprains but that is not now thought to be the case.
If your ankle feels weak and “not quite right”, it’s important to have it examined by a specialist because, without treatment, the condition could get worse. Our ankle specialists at Wimbledon Clinics will talk to you about your symptoms and take x-rays - and often an MRI scan - to make sure your bone is not injured and to see if there is any surface damage on the joint.
In many cases of ankle instability, physiotherapy exercises can help you to strengthen your muscles and improve your balance. Most ankle sprains can be treated at home using the RICE formula: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. For full details visit our Sprained Ankle Treatment Information Page >>
We will often recommend and can supply the most appropriate elasticated ankle brace to provide ankle support for sprains and cases of instability.
If, after treating your ankle at home, the swelling and pain does not start to improve, you may have fractured your ankle and you should seek immediate medical help.
A sore ankle after running could also indicate subtle overuse injuries that have occurred over time.
Achilles tendon problems – which usually start with pain in the area around the ankle and back of the heel – are common overuse injuries for runners.
Middle-aged, slightly overweight runners are particularly prone to “insertional Achilles tendinopathy”, which can be difficult to treat. This causes pain at the point where the tendon sticks to the heel bone. Treatment of this “posterior insertional” ankle pain usually starts with looking at footwear to make sure it’s appropriate and that it fits well.
Our physiotherapists can also help with your sports rehabilitation by teaching you exercises and stretches for your Achilles tendon and calves.
If further treatment is needed, shock wave therapy could be considered.
The outside of the ankle
Tendons on the inside and outside of the ankle help runners to maintain stability and foot position. Flat feet, worn or ill-fitting shoes and a sub-optimal running style can all cause these tendons to rub on the ankle bone.This can lead to paratendinitis, a condition which results in pain, swelling and stiffness for runners.
Treatment at Wimbledon Clinics will often start with looking at your biomechanics - your stride length, heel height during posterior swing phase and foot/ground contact – as well as looking at your footwear, and considering “orthotics” - custom-made shoe inserts to help ease your pain.
If you’re in pain, you should rest, apply ice, take anti-inflammatories to deal with the inflammation and come and see the physiotherapist. As a last resort, we can give you an ultrasound guided steroid injection.
For more information about obtaining a diagnosis, please see our Foot and Ankle Injury Page >>
A stress fracture is a small, hairline crack in a bone caused by repetitive activity and overuse. Symptoms of a stress fracture around the ankle include pain when running, which gets worse as the run continues. It can also force you to stop running earlier than usual. Eventually a stress fracture can become painful when you’re resting and at night. If you think you’re suffering from a stress fracture, you should stop running and come to see us at Wimbledon Clinics. We may recommend an MRI scan.
Wear of the polished surface on your ankle joint
If you’re aged over 40, with a history of twisting your ankle, you’re at risk of wear on the polished surface of the ankle joint. The resulting friction of the worn surface can lead to pain, inflammation and stiffness in the ankle.
You may find that each time you run, you can only manage a shorter and shorter distance and that you notice increasing stiffness and pain. This condition is irreversible and, if you ignore it and keep running, it can get worse. Don’t ignore pain and stiffness or mask it by taking painkillers so you can run – the pain is there for a reason.
In the early stages it might not be seen on an x-ray but it will be visible on an MRI scan. If the wear is mild and you feel no pain, be sensible. Listen carefully to your body and weigh up the risks - you should be able to run modest distances on soft ground in well-cushioned trainers. You should also be prepared to change to a low-impact activity at an early stage if your symptoms get worse.
For more information about ankle injury symptoms and diagnosis. Please see our Ankle Injury Page>>
Get expert advice from a premier London sports orthopaedic clinic
At Wimbledon Clinics, a premier London orthopaedic clinic, we deal with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of ankle and other common sports injuries.
As a runner, if you have a niggle that lasts for more than six weeks and it’s slowing you down or shortening your runs, it’s crucial that you get it investigated as soon as possible. It’s important to work out the problem as soon as possible so you can try to avoid making it worse and so that any absence from running can be kept to a minimum. That’s why it’s so important to get early advice from experts in common sports injuries including ankle injuries caused by running.
For a free phone consultation or to book an appointment, call Wimbledon Clinics now on 020 8629 1889 or visit www.wimbledonclinics.co.uk