Injuries are common when you are a regular runner as it is a high intensity workout. Apart from knees and feet, another common human body part that is prone to injuries and pains after running is your ankle. Why this happens is because as you run, your foot and ankle bears a large amount of stress or impact during this activity. As a certain force is applied on this body part, many of the runners encounter pain that may be because of strain or any other injury that they have encountered after running. While these ankle injuries occur as a result of running, these injuries put runners out of running races for a good span of time so it is always best to avoid injuries with running especially if you are a serious racer.
What are the causes of ankle pain with running?
There can be several different reasons that may be causing you mild to severe ankle pain and here we will be discussing most common causes:
- Achilles Tendinitis: This is a common condition among many of the runners and it is an injury that a runner may experience in Achilles tendon (a fibrous tissue binding calcaneus bone and calf muscles). Although this tendon is quite strong and thick but a runner may suffer from an injury and causes may be misalignment, overtraining, improper shoes etc. At the beginning point of this injury, runner may experience only slight pain but as it grows it can be really frustrating and the affected area may swell and change color over time.
- Sprain: During a run, many a times runners suffer from a twist of ankle that may result in tearing related ligaments. This is termed as ankle sprain. It could be really painful and may keep you from running for weeks. You would need to take proper rest with other treatments such as icing, compressing etc.
- Overtraining: Effective runners are those who are aware of their limits and listen to their body. Many a times runners makes this mistake that they run to cover increased distance or increase their speed rapidly in their struggle of trying to run long distance. Doing so is the biggest mistake that one could make and this overuse of your bones and muscles could cause an injury.
- Blisters: These are small fills of lymph fluid that is created between your upper and inner layer of skin. Blisters are caused due to friction of rubbing of clothing or any other material on your skin. Runners when they run long distances often suffer from blisters. Although these are really small but can be extremely painful. Ill-fitted shoes are often culprits behind this problem. Therefore runners are always advised to opt for a comfortably fitted pair of running shoes.
- Tight Muscles: Often runners complain about ankle pain after running and one of the prime reasons could be tightened feet muscles. If your feet muscles are tight and you run, there is possibility that you may witness ankle pain. However this pain can be reduced with light massaging or stretching that would loosen tight muscles.
- Reduced Motion Structuring: Often ankle pain is because of lack of movement within your foot. Properly structured motion is important for a runner to run faster and long distances. In absence of a linear structure, running could result in ankle pain. For this specific problem you must do some mobility exercise and try moving ankle in clockwise and anti-clockwise movement. Some warm-up and stretching exercise can also prove helpful in improving movement of your ankle.
- Past Injuries or Problems: A past injury or problem that you may have treated and have thought that it is gone forever may be the cause of your ankle pain such as a sprain. Sometimes an injury may seem to be healed until no stressful physical activity is performed. But as you try to run again, pain may recur because of that injury.
Treatment of Ankle Pain:
Often runners come across a condition where they experience ankle pains of varied intensities. Sometimes it is bearable and in some cases it is simply severe. Soreness, stiffness, change of color and other varied symptoms can be seen with ankle pain. But when you know the cause of this ankle pain, you will be able to treat and deal with it in a better way. Here are some ways with which you can deal with ankle pain and go back to your running track.
- Rest and Relax: Whether it is ankle pain or any other injury, your body needs some time to relax and recover. So rest is one of the best remedies for healing and recovery from injuries and pains. Simply avoid any kind of stress or strain on your ankle and thus you may need to avoid running so that your ankle pain can be treated. Even when you are walking, try to use crunches.
- Icing: Icing elevates the process of healing and thus it should be used on the affected area to reduce swelling and pain. Do not ice directly on your skin. Use an icing pack or some other material in between ice and your skin. Icing should be done for good 15 to 20 minutes.
- Raising Ankle: If and whenever possible, try to place your ankle above your heart by raising it with the use of some pillows or other support.
- Compress and Protect: For additional support, you may use an elastic bandage to compress your ankle but make sure you don’t wrap it excessively tight. Apart from that some kind of splint or brace can be used to support your ankle.
- OTC Medicines: For severe cases, when the pain is annoying and unbearable; you can use some over the counter medicines to reduce pains.
Best Exercises for Ankle Pains:
Here are some exercises that you can perform to reduce ankle pain and as part of treatment of your injury. But before trying any of these, it is recommended that you should consult your doctor to make sure that these exercises are safe for your specific condition.
Ankle Circles: For this exercise, you may choose to lie down or remain seated. Just use your ankle and roll it clockwise once. Then roll it in an anti-clockwise direction. Repeat to roll your ankles both way for around 10 times for each direction. This would make your ankle movement more flexible.
Resistance Band Movement: For this exercise, you would need a four-way resistance band to be wrapped around your foot. Attach the other end of the band to any object that remains stable. While keeping your leg straight, try moving your ankle in flexion, inversion, extension and adduction. Repeat this exercise for 8-10 times. This would strengthen your ankle muscles.
Ankle Mobility: This exercise could be performed while being seated on a chair. Place your foot with ankle pain flat on the floor. Now move your knees from left to right and make sure that this movement should be gradual. Keep doing this exercise for 5 minutes.
Standing Stretch: Sometimes your calf muscles are too tight that the hinder movement causing ankle pain. This exercise would focus on enhancing movement. Lunge forward with your back heel flat down on the floor. Try to lunge forward enough so that your calf muscles are stretched. Hold that position for 10 seconds and repeat it 5 times.
Medical Help is important: Apart from all these self-treatment methods and exercisers, medical help is important in some severe cases. These include cases when:
- Pain is so severe that you can put no weight at all to stand on your ankle. Such are cases when your ankle may be broken and it will be visible.
- You are experiencing severe pain even if you are in bed with your ankle at complete resting position.
- When your ankle temperature rises and you feel like fever, redness, tenderness around ankle. This may be a sign of infection.
- When you are witnessing a popping sound as you try moving your ankle.
In severe cases, visit to a doctor is must and he may take an x-ray of your ankle to see the exact cause of this pain or any other condition. An x-ray will show the main cause and doctor would then be able to recommend you the best treatment for your specific problem or injury. In severe cases, doctor may need to get a surgery done for your ankle.
Prevention is best:
Runners are prone to injuries but some measures when taken in to account can prevent you from those injuries and problems. Complete care must be taken if you want to avoid ankle pains and related problems. Some preventative measures include:
- If you begin to experience pain and even if it is only a slight pain or tiredness, avoid physical activities especially running and take proper rest.
- A balanced and healthy diet is most important.
- Choose a proper pair of running shoes for your feet.
- Maintain a healthy weight as overweight runners are prone to ankle injuries and pains because of excessive weight strain on their feet.
- If you are running on rough terrain or hills, take especial care when climbing up.
- Warm-up before each run.
- Exercise regularly.
Work on flexibility and strengthening of your ankle muscles and take special care of your form and posture while running. Prevention is the best way to avoid ankle pains and related injuries. When you are suffering from one of the problems that we have stated above related to ankle, make sure you take proper rest and treat any pains, swellings or other symptoms that your notice after running. Anything left untreated can cause a severe problem that later may be difficult to deal with. So prefer dealing with the problem first hand before it becomes difficult to handle and treat.