Ankle pain after running is a common minor injury that many runners endure. We break down the 5 top reasons for ankle pain from running & several ways to avoid it.

Five Top Reasons for Ankle Pain from Running + Ways to Avoid Them

1. Ankle Strain or Sprain

Many people don’t realize that having a lot of pain in an ankle can actually mean there is a deeper problem. Lots of runners like to think that they are invincible, but the fact of the matter is that ankle strain and sprain is one of the most common injuries athletes experience.

A sprained ankle occurs when a runner rolls, twists, or stretches their ankle too much and manages to pull the ligaments which keep ankle bones in place. When stretched, these ligaments need to heal to keep the joint stable.

For a lot of people, a sprain can be more painful than a break because the muscles and ligaments are constantly in use and are being stretched all the time.

The best way to handle ankle pain after running that may be a strain or sprain is to rest, avoid too much walking or running, and ice the injury. Some prefer to use heat, so it’s important to do whichever one is more comfortable.

Injured individuals should also try to exercise and keep the ligaments flexible and strong. The University of Michigan Medical School recommends stretches such as range of motion exercises. These can be simple things like attempting to trace each of the letters of the alphabet with one’s toes.

 This video demonstrates how to do the alphabet stretches as well as a few additional exercises someone can do to improve their range of mobility.


2. Tendinitis 

According to the Mayo Clinic, tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon. Tendons are fibrous collagen tissues which connect muscles to bone. They serve an important function throughout the body, especially in the joints.

Tendinitis has tons of different names in the athletic world because it is a common injury for professionals and amateurs alike. Some of these include tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, and jumper’s knee. The condition appears from regular muscle strain which occurs when someone repeats the same motion over and over again.

Like sprains, the best way to deal with active tendinitis is to take it easy for a while. This can mean not running as frequently or taking it down a notch to relax. Sufferers of severe symptoms should go see a doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying condition causing the problem.

There are a few ways to prevent tendinitis from occurring: 

  • First, people should stretch before and after running to ensure the tendons have enough give. Runners who experience ankle pain can do the same exercises recommended to treat a sprain as seen above.
  • Second, runners can shake up their daily routine. Since the tendons get damaged during repetitive motions, people can avoid tendinitis by doing different exercises. Consistent runners can try swimming, walking, dancing, or another form of cardio to get the same benefits as running without damaging their joints further.
  • Third, athletes should try to improve the muscles which see a lot of use during exercise to strengthen the tendons. If a runner’s ankles keep hurting, it can be a sign of correspondingly weak calf muscles. To avoid this problem, the runner should try doing exercises and lifting weights to improve the strength of the calves.

3. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

This is a rarer cause of ankle pain than the other inclusions on this list, but is still very common to see in runners. Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tarsal nerve in the ankle is compressed from too much pressure and use. It’s basically the ankle version of carpal tunnel syndrome.

According to Healthline, some of the symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome include sharp, stabbing pains around the foot and ankle, the feeling of pins and needles in the foot, and a burning sensation. The syndrome is more likely to occur in people who have arthritis, diabetes, or previous ankle sprains and strains.

So, what can a runner do?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent it. Doctors recommend regular rest, stretching, and icing to deal with pain. Taking at-home anti-inflammatory treatments can also help. In severe cases, surgery might be needed with a doctor’s recommendation.


4. Ill Fitting Shoes

The lack of good support in running shoes can lead to lots of pain for the individuals wearing them. Inadequate arch support can cause planar fasciitis and stretched muscles. A lack of general support can also lead to stretched or torn ligaments and cause some of the problems seen above.

            Running shoes should be comfortable and match the contours of a foot. This means that while there should be room for the skin to breathe, the shoe should not move around or squeeze the flesh tightly. Many people actually wear shoes which are too large or too small since they don’t know what the footwear should feel like.

            Road Runner Sports provides some good guidelines athletes can follow to find good running shoes.

These include:

  • The heel should not slip around while moving
  • The shoe should be comfortable and snug around the middle of the foot, similar to a hand gently holding it
  • There should be a thumbs-width of space between the wearer’s longest toe and the tip of the shoe

Wearing shoes that fit are the best way to prevent ankle pain caused by shoes which lack support. People who can’t purchase a new pair of shoes might need to hold off on running until they can do so, because messed up ligaments and tendons aren’t worth extra calorie burning and muscle building.


5. Overuse

Believe it or not, but people can run too much. Too much exercise can sap the muscles and make people more prone to injuries like sprains, strain, and inflammation. To avoid this problem, the only thing runners can really do is take a break from more rigorous exercise.

Instead of going for a 5-mile run, an individual could have a short jog or go for a brisk walk. If the pain persists, then it might be time to rest for a few days and quit cold turkey (temporarily).

Conclusion

 Ankle pain is extremely common in runners and shouldn’t be ignored. Sufferers should take a break from more rigorous exercises, ice or apply heat to the joint, and in general take it easy for a few days to make sure the pain doesn’t worsen. So if you ankle hurts after running and it doesn’t go away, then it might be time to see a doctor to make sure there isn’t an injury.