How To Handle Ankle Pain While Running
Ankle injuries can be vexing. While they often heal quickly sometimes they linger and can require extensive physical therapy. Even if the ankle regains its structural integrity and the ability to handle the stresses of walking, running and jumping ankle pain may linger on for months or even years. In some cases ankle pain is not the result of a specific injury event but the result of degeneration of the joint after years of running on hard, unforgiving surfaces. But whatever the cause of your ankle pain you need to be able to deal with it in a way that allows you to run without further aggravating the situation. Here are 10 ways runners can deal with ankle pain.
1. Invest In The Right Running Shoes
While ankle pain is often the result of an injury, sometimes it’s the result of crappy shoes and mistakes when you buy running shoes. If your ankle hurts while running but you haven’t suffered any obvious injuries it may well be the running shoes you’re wearing. Did you consider what you need before buying your running shoes or did you just pick up the cheapest or most stylish pair you could find? Running shoes need to fit properly with the arch contouring to the bottom of your feet and plenty of support through the heel. If your shoes fit poorly it could be putting undue strain on your ankles which is generating the pain.
2. Wear A Brace
This might seem like a last resort type of option but it shouldn’t be. If your ankle will benefit from a little extra buttressing then that’s what you should do. An ankle brace doesn’t have to be a huge metallic object out of someone’s steampunk fantasy. It can be as simple as one of those elasticized braces they sell at the drug store that slip on under your socks. If you’re unsure what type of brace you should use ask your doctor.
No, not the rodent variety but mobility, ice, compression and elevation. M.I.C.E. is the standard therapeutic approach to many types of nagging musculoskeletal problems. We already touched on compression in the form of a brace but compression could also mean bandaging the joint before you go out. Once you finish your run don’t stop abruptly. Walk around a bit to keep the ankle loose and prevent it from stiffening up. Once you’re back home, take a seat, ice the ankle and elevate it to help reduce any swelling.
4. Use OTC NSAIDs
If you’re in pain try the M.I.C.E. approach. But if you still have lingering pain afterward pick up some NSAIDs like ibuprofen and get some temporary relief. Unlike a brace, this really should be thought of as a last resort because it’s all too easy for people to become dependent on pain relievers. So if you’ve done your M.I.C.E. routine and the ankle is still bothering you, take a couple of ibuprofen and give yourself a break from the pain. But make sure you stop taking them after the ankle pain has subsided.
5. Be Mindful Of Your Weight
Sometimes when looking for a cause for ankle pain people ignore the most obvious one; their weight. The ankle is not designed to adjust to whatever weight you happen to be. It’s designed to accommodate the stresses that come with an average physique. So if you are overweight even by 20 or 30 pounds, this can put unnatural stress on the ankle joint and lead to injury and/or pain. In addition, while recovering from an ankle injury people will often put on weight due to inactivity. Then, when they get back to running, they’re heavier than they were before and this puts even more stress on the ankle, raising the potential for re-injury.
6. Invest In The Right Business And Casual Shoes
The right running shoes won’t do you much good if you take them off and put on flip flops or flats. In keeping with this point, if you’re experiencing ankle pain high heels are out, as should be any shoes (regardless of how much you paid for them) that don’t fit properly, don’t conform to the contours of your feet and/or don’t provide any cushioning.
7. Try Some Cryotherapy
Any time you apply ice to an injury it’s a form of cryotherapy. But if you apply ice one time for 20 minutes after a run and you still need a half dozen Motrins to deal with the residual pain it’s time for something more involved. Try this: put ice on the ankle for 10 minutes. Then remove it for 10 minutes. Then re-apply it for 10 minutes. Do this at the top of the hour every 2 hours while you’re awake for 3 or 4 consecutive days.
8. Work On Your Balance
Sometimes ankle pain is the result of an injury and sometimes it can be traced back to an awkward running style. Talk to your doctor about devising some balancing exercises you can practice. And, if you’re able to, consult a sports therapist about your running style. They may be able to pinpoint things you are doing that are overstressing your ankles.
9. Practice Sitting Better
Believe it or not the way you sit can affect the amount of ankle pain you feel. Although it doesn’t involve standing the way you sit can still bring unnatural forces to bear on your ankles. That’s because people often twist their feet up under them in strange ways while sitting without even thinking about it. So think about it. Do your best to keep your feet flat on the floor while sitting and avoid folding them under you.
10. Strengthen Your Ankles
This is particularly important in the wake of an ankle injury. It’s not enough to simply wait for the injury to heal and then jump back into the game. You need to build strength in the ankle or the injury is likely to repeat itself. Calf raises, seated calf raises, ankle eversions with resistance bands and more will all help build ankle strength and protect you from reinjury.