See How Runners Now Treat Tired Sore Ankles

See How Runners Now Treat Tired Sore Ankles

Sore ankles are a problem for runners and, in fact, can be a problem for anyone who is physically active every day.

The ankle joint is formed by the articulation of three bones: the tibia (shinbone), the fibula (the smaller bone of the lower leg), and the talus (a bone in the foot).

It plays a crucial role in providing stability, mobility, and shock absorption during various activities, including walking, running, jumping, and changing directions.

These bones come together to create a synovial hinge joint known as the talocrural joint, which allows for dorsiflexion (bringing the foot upward) and plantarflexion (pointing the foot downward).

The ends of the tibia and fibula bones form a bony structure called the malleoli, which are the bony prominences on both sides of the ankle.

The medial malleolus is located on the inner side of the ankle and is part of the tibia, while the lateral malleolus is on the outer side of the ankle and is part of the fibula. These malleoli provide stability and help prevent excessive side-to-side movement of the ankle.

The talus bone sits on top of the heel bone (calcaneus) and forms the lower part of the ankle joint. It is shaped like a pulley, allowing for smooth movement of the foot.

It articulates with the tibia and fibula, forming the joint surfaces which enable the up-and-down movements of the ankle.

Ankle joint ligaments

Ligaments play a vital role in stabilizing the ankle joint. They connect bone to bone and help prevent excessive movement or twisting.

Sore ankles

The main ligaments of the ankle include the medial collateral ligament (deltoid ligament) on the inner side of the ankle and a group of ligaments on the outer side of the ankle known as the lateral collateral ligaments. These are the anterior talofibular ligament, calcaneofibular ligament, and posterior talofibular ligament.

In addition to the bones and ligaments, the ankle joint is surrounded by a joint capsule, which is a fibrous structure that encloses the joint and contains synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates the joint and reduces friction during movement.

Overall, the ankle joint is a complex structure made up of bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and other soft tissues. They all work together to provide stability, mobility, and support to the foot and lower leg.

These are some key functions of the ankle:

1. Weight bearing:

Our ankle joint bears the weight of the body and transfers it to the ground. It distributes the forces generated during activities, helping to maintain balance and stability.

2. Flexion and extension

It allows both for flexion (pointing the foot downward) and extension (pulling the foot upward). These movements are essential for activities such as walking, running, and climbing stairs.

3. Inversion and eversion

The ankle joint also allows for inversion (rolling the foot inward) and eversion (rolling the foot outward). These movements contribute to lateral stability and help with balance and control during activities that involve changing direction or moving across uneven surfaces.

4. Shock absorption

The ankle joint, along with the foot and lower leg, absorbs and dissipates impact forces generated during activities like running and jumping. It helps to protect the bones, muscles, and other structures in the lower leg from excessive stress.

5. Propulsion

During activities like running or jumping, the ankle joint contributes to the push-off phase, generating forward propulsion and helping to propel the body forward.

6. Balance and proprioception

The ankle joint houses numerous sensory receptors that provide feedback to the brain about the joint’s position and movement. This information, known as proprioception, helps maintain balance and coordination, especially on uneven surfaces.

It’s important to keep the ankle joint strong, flexible, and stable through regular exercise, including strength training, stretching, and balance exercises.

Maintaining good ankle function can help prevent injuries and optimize performance in physical activities.

Sore ankles

Sore ankles are a common issue for runners, joggers, hikers and anyone who stands on their feet for long hours.

Simply icing the area with a cold pack can often reduce the swelling but there are also other ways to treat the discomfort.

First let’s look at common causes of sore ankles by several factors, including:

1. Overuse or repetitive strain

As a result of running, jogging or hiking long distances, you may find you develop sore ankles. Equally, increasing your mileage too quickly without allowing your ankles to adapt can lead to soreness. The repetitive impact and stress on the area can strain the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, causing discomfort.

2. Improper footwear

Wearing shoes that do not provide adequate support, cushioning, or stability can contribute to ankle soreness. Ill-fitting shoes or those that lack proper arch support can place excessive stress on the ankles during running, or even just walking. Buying new shoes may seem like an extravagance, but if your existing pair cause you pain, your ankles will thank you in the long term.

3. Weak ankle muscles

Insufficient strength and stability in the muscles surrounding the ankle joint can make it more susceptible to soreness and injury. Weakness in the calf muscles, specifically the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, can similarly affect ankle stability.

4. Ankle sprain or injury

Existing ankle sprains or injuries can weaken the structures around the joint, making the ankles more prone to soreness or discomfort during running.

5. Running on uneven or unstable surfaces

Uneven terrain, such as trails or sidewalks with cracks and potholes, can increase the risk of ankle sprains or twists, leading to soreness.

6. Biomechanical issues

Abnormalities in foot and ankle mechanics, such as overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot) or supination (excessive outward rolling of the foot), can alter the distribution of forces during running and contribute to ankle pain.

7. Tendinopathy

Inflammation of the tendons, such as Achilles tendinopathy or posterior tibial tendinopathy, can cause pain and soreness in the ankles while running.

Sore ankles

A sports physiotherapist can evaluate your specific condition, in detail. They will assess your running form and footwear, in order to provide appropriate recommendations. They will offer advice on treatment, rehabilitation exercises, or modifications to your running routine.

How to Treat Sore Ankles Like A Pro

Sore ankles, as we’ve discussed, can be caused by a variety of factors, such as overuse, injury, or underlying medical conditions. Here are some general tips that may help alleviate sore ankles:

Vary your training routine

1. Firstly, consider cross training with swimming or cycling to allow the ankle extra time to recover between run sessions whilst not losing fitness. Rest and avoid activities that exacerbate the pain. Give your ankles time to heal and avoid putting excessive stress on them.

Treat swelling and pain yourself

2. Apply ice to reduce swelling and alleviate pain. Wrap a cold pack or ice pack in a thin cloth and apply it to the sore area for about 15-20 minutes several times a day.

3. Elevate your ankles by propping them up on a pillow or cushion while resting. This helps reduce swelling and promotes blood circulation.

4. Compress the ankles using an elastic bandage or ankle brace. Compression can help reduce swelling and provide support to the affected area.

5. Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like diclofenac or ibuprofen, as directed by the package instructions. These medications can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Improve flexibility, strength and support

6. Perform gentle ankle exercises and stretches to improve flexibility and strength. However, avoid exercises that cause pain and consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist for guidance on appropriate exercises.

7. Wear supportive shoes that fit properly and provide adequate cushioning. Avoid high heels and shoes that lack proper arch support, as they can worsen ankle pain.

8. Consider using orthotic inserts or shoe insoles to provide additional support and cushioning.

Seek medical help if your pain doesn’t improve

Sore ankles

9. Lastly, if your ankle pain persists or worsens despite self-care measures, seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can conduct a thorough evaluation, diagnose the underlying cause, and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Remember, these suggestions are not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you’re experiencing persistent or severe ankle pain, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider or a physiotherapist for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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Matt McCutcheon

Matt is Australia's leading sports physiotherapist, based in Sydney with over 20 years experience working with the country's top athletes. He’s your go to guy for all sporting and spinal injuries.


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