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Four Things Runners Need to Know to Prevent Ankle Injuries

Posted on October 06, 2018 by Joe Fleming

running-2Of all the injuries that can affect runners, ankle injuries are one of the most common. Even professional runners like Olympians Usain Bolt and Paula Radcliffe have dealt with ankle injuries that negatively affected their careers.

Whether you’re an Olympic hopeful or just someone who runs for fun, it’s crucial that you take steps to keep ankle injuries at bay. Not only can an injured ankle prevent you from running consistently, but it can also negatively affect your movement patterns and make other forms of exercise more difficult.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about preventing ankle injuries while running.

Common Ankle Injuries for Runners

The following ankle injuries are probably the most common ones that can affect runners:

Ankle Sprains

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments of the ankle are damaged or torn.

In runners, ankle sprains are often the result of a misstep when coming down from a curb, or from tripping over rocks or cracks in the road or sidewalk.

Often, sprains do not cause lasting damage, particularly if they’re mild and diagnosed early. They’re typically characterized by swelling and constant pain, even when you’re at rest.

Overuse Injuries

As their name suggests, overuse injuries are the result of overuse.

In runners, some common overuse injuries include posterior tibial tendonitis, which affects the back of the ankle, and peroneal tendonitis, which affects the inside of the ankle.

With overuse injuries, you’ll likely feel pain during activity, but not when you’re at rest.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are small cracks or severe bruising that affects the bone. Stress fractures can be brought on by an acute injury, like a fall, or by overuse. Runners are particularly prone to stress fractures in the ankles and the feet.

How to Prevent Ankle Injuries

In order to avoid these common ankle injuries, it’s important to take the precautionary measures. They’ll help you strengthen your ankles so that you’re more resilient. They can also correct improper movement patterns that increase your injury risk.

Warm Up Before Your Runs

Every run should start with a thorough warm-up. Walk or jog to get your heart rate up. Then, take a few minutes to dynamically stretch your legs and ankles with exercises like squats, lunges, leg swings, and ankle circles.

Progress Slowly

Don’t bite off more than you can chew with your training. Try not to increase your mileage by more than 10 percent each week, and use caution when you’re running on different terrain than what you’re used to.

Don’t Overuse Your Shoes

If you’re an avid runner, you should change your shoes every 3-6 months. This will help you ensure you have proper support and protection during your runs.

Work on Strengthening and Stabilizing Your Ankles

You should also make strengthening and stabilizing your ankles a priority. Some good exercises to do to keep your ankles strong and mobile include:

Ankle Circles

Simply raise one ankle and move it slowly to form clockwise and counterclockwise circles.

Ankle Alphabet

This is just like the previous exercise, but, instead of forming circles, write the alphabet with your toes.

Calf Raises

Calf raises don’t just build your calf muscles. They also help strengthen and stabilize the ankles.

Make sure your ankles stay in a neutral position (don’t let them roll in or out). You can also do single-leg calf raises to make sure both of your ankles are equally strong.

Managing Ankle Injuries

In the event that you do experience an ankle sprain or another ankle injury, the RICE method is generally the best approach for reducing pain and inflammation. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

As soon as an injury occurs, get off your ankle and rest. While you’re resting, apply an ice pack and wrap it in a compression bandage. Some runners also like to use ankle braces for injury prevention since they also provide a good amount of compression. Then, elevate your ankle so that it’s above your heart — this will minimize swelling.

When your ankle starts to feel better, use the exercises mentioned above to test it and start increasing your strength again. Wear a brace for a few days or weeks, too, for extra support.

If your pain doesn’t go away, you should visit your doctor to make sure you’re not dealing with a more serious injury like a fracture.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, it takes a lot of work to manage and recover from an ankle injury. Wouldn’t it be better to just avoid one altogether?

If you keep these prevention tips in mind, you’ll be able to avoid a lot of common ankle injuries. You’ll also likely improve your overall running performance since your ankles will be stronger and more resilient.

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