Why Do My Ankles Hurt When I Run? 7 Most Common Causes

If everything hurts when you’re running, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Running should only hurt when you run long distances, and the pain should still be tolerable and limited to muscle burning.

If you’re feeling a sharp pain in any of your limps, it’s probably time to take a breather and figure out the source of the problem.

So, why do my ankles hurt when I run?

Your ankles naturally hurt when you run because you’re constantly putting pressure on them. However, if you’re suffering bad ankle pain, it may be because of an injury you don’t know exists.

Here’s everything you need to know about the matter.

Why Do My Ankles Hurt When I Run?

If your ankles are hurting when you run, there may be various reasons. It might be mild, such as an ankle sprain due to one wrong move.

Or, it can be more serious, like an underlying chronic condition.

Here are the most common ankle pain causes when running and their symptoms and treatment options.

why do my ankles hurt when i run: Runner twisting their ankle

Your Ankle Is Sprained

A lot of people sprain their ankles when they’re running. It’s one of the most common running injuries, along with the runner’s knee.

A sprain is when you overstretch a ligament near your ankle. It causes mild ankle pain, but you won’t be able to run with it, and it’s better to stop to avoid worsening the injury.

The ligaments connect your bones together; if you overstretch them up to the point that you tear them off, the recovery will be a pain.

If you have a sprained ankle, the area may swell, and you’ll see signs of bruising. You’ll also not be able to step on it without feeling ankle pain.

More often than not, you get a sprained ankle due to rolling it incorrectly while running.

You Developed a Stress Fracture

All athletes freak out when they see the word fracture, but don’t worry, stress fractures are common and aren’t as serious as you think they are. They’re tiny cracks in the bones that develop when you put too much stress on your ankles. In one way or another, they’re considered overuse injuries.

You may develop a stress fracture when you run in a wrong pose or increase the intensity suddenly when you’re not ready to do so.

The symptoms of stress fractures include bruising and sharp pain, and some people develop swelling, although it’s mostly minor. You’ll also find the area tender to the touch.

Needless to say, these fractures can get worse if you keep running, and they may eventually develop into a severe fracture that requires a cast. So you’ll need to rest, apply the RICE method, and consult a doctor to know whether you need physical therapy.

These ankle fractures can last for up to three months if the case is severe, so you’ll want to lay low on running for a while.

You Pulled a Muscle

While doing any form of physical activity, there’s always the possibility of pulling a muscle. For example, when you pull a muscle near your ankles, you’ll feel ankle pain when you’re running, and it likely won’t stop until you rest and stretch your muscles.

You could’ve also overstretched a tendon, which connects your muscles to your bones. When that happens, you’ll feel mild pain in your ankles, and it may persist even after you stop running.

Symptoms of a strained muscle include muscle spasms and mild swelling. Also, like most ankle injuries, you’ll find it difficult to step on it.

Runners who don’t stretch before running or don’t do it correctly are more prone to pulling a muscle amid their activity.

You Have an Inflamed Tendon

Many runners suffer an ankle tendonitis injury at least once in their lifetime. Tendonitis is the scientific name for inflamed tendons, and since the ankle has many tendons that may get inflamed, it’s a common foot injury.

The ankle has the peroneal tendon and the posterior tibial tendon, both of which run along with the outer and inner parts, respectively. There’s also the Achilles tendon, which is the weakest point in the ankle, and the TIbialis anterior tendon, which is located on the front of your shin and extends to the big toe.

If you have an Achilles tendonitis injury, you’ll find a dull ache in your ankle that worsens when you move it. Plus, you’ll feel that the area is tender, and your ankle may feel stiff.

To prevent inflamed tendons, you need to wear comfortable shoes and maintain the correct running posture. Runners with flat feet are highly prone to this injury, along with runners who have naturally low arches or weak ankles.

Tendonitis doesn’t occur suddenly. Instead, it results from repeated movements, so your ankles will likely keep hurting for a long time until you figure out that something is wrong.

More Serious Reasons for Ankle Hurting When You Run

Now that we’re done with the common ankle conditions that cause pain when you’re running, let’s explore the less common, more serious reasons.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a common injury among older people, so the chances of a young runner developing it are low. However, it may still happen.

If you don’t know what it is, arthritis is the wearing out of the cartilage around your ankle joint. It causes a lack of mobility and dull knee pain, and it hurts when you run or do any form of physical activity. It also makes running on uneven surfaces or up a slope extra hard.

It usually happens over some time, so you’ll likely notice some changes in the way you’re running, even if you’re not feeling pain.

Ankle Bursitis

Although ankle bursitis isn’t a common injury, it may be the reason for your ankle pain if it’s persisting.

You may not know this, but there’s a sack between your ankle bone and Achilles tendon that contains fluid. This sack is called the bursa, and when it’s inflamed, we call it ankle bursitis.

It gets inflamed for many reasons, but the most common ones are uncomfortable running shoes and high-intensity running. It also happens when you leave a tendonitis case untreated.

The symptoms of bursitis are like most ankle injuries. They include swelling at the back of your heel, tenderness, and pain, so it’s hard to diagnose the problem yourself.

Sinus Tarsi

If you have a sprained ankle that’s left untreated, it may eventually develop into a case of sinus tarsi. It also happens when you sprain your ankle repeatedly in a short duration.

Sinus tarsi is an inflammation in the ankle’s lining. If you attempt to run while suffering the injury, you’ll likely not be able to continue because the pain in your lower leg will be too much. Other symptoms include swelling, bruising, and tenderness to the touch. The swelling will likely be around the bone on the side of your ankle.

However, there’s no sure way to know whether it’s sinus tarsi unless you go to the doctor. In addition, it’s a long-term injury, so it may keep hurting you for two months or more. In this case, it’s time to visit an orthopedic.

How to Treat a Mild Ankle Injury

If you have a mild ankle injury, like a sprain or a pulled muscle, you can easily treat it at home. However, it’s worth noting that you’ll have to consult a doctor to know the severity of your injury.

So, the home treatment here is based on the assumption that you spoke to your doctor and are sure the injury isn’t more than a mild sprain.

Most runners resort to the RICE method when they have a hurt ankle. The technique goes as follow:

Woman icing her injured ankle

Rest

The first and most important step of the RICE method is resting. You need to stay off your ankle for a couple of days until it’s completely treated. Or, you’re risking injuring it further.

You can also put it in an ankle brace if you want to limit your mobility.

Ice

The second step in the RICE method is applying ice. If you have a sprained ankle, you’ll likely find swelling in the area. For it to go down, you’ll want to apply some ice, but not directly on your skin, or it’ll hurt and cause needle pain.

First, grab a bag of ice and wrap it in a thick towel or any cloth. Then, put it or wrap it around your ankle and leave it there for 15-20 minutes. Take it off your ankle for half an hour, then put it again for 20 minutes, and keep repeating the process until your ankle hurts less.

You can repeat this step for the first two days of the injury or until the swelling goes down completely. If it’s doing you no good, the injury is likely more serious than you think.

doctor wrapping ankle

Compress

After wrapping the swollen area in ice, you’ll want to apply compression to make sure the swelling doesn’t return. All you have to do is get trainers’ tape and wrap it around your ankle. Make sure not to wrap the injury too tightly, or else you’ll cut off the blood flow.

Elevate

Now that you did everything you could to treat the injury, it’s time to elevate your heel off the ground to keep fluid from building up. You’ll want to lay down and raise your leg over the level of your heart. To do that, you’ll need a bed and something to hang your leg on.

Other Ways to Treat Your Ankle

If the RICE method won’t cut it or stop the pain, here are other options the doctor will likely suggest or prescribe.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

In most ankle injuries, especially mild ones, the doctors will suggest non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, to relieve the pain. Runners usually take them for a day or two after the injury, and they should be enough to alleviate the pain.

However, they shouldn’t be taken regularly or without a doctor’s recommendation.

Brace

If the injury needs support, you’ll likely need to wear a protective ankle brace for a couple of days or even weeks. Some runners will need a cast after it if the injury is severe.

Generally, a brace isn’t much of a nuisance, but it’ll limit your mobility. The doctor will probably also suggest that you stay off your ankle until you take the brace off.

In fact, the sole purpose of the brace is to keep you off your foot.

Physical Therapy

Athletes likely need to go through physical therapy when they develop ankle injuries. Most of them have strong leg muscles, so for the ankle to heal, they need to stretch and do some exercises with resistant bands.

Of course, that must be done under professional supervision because your ankle won’t always be ready for stretches or exercises. You’ll need to ask your doctor for the best approach, and whether you even need therapy for your ankle injury.

How to Prevent Ankle Pain When Running

Prevention is always easier than treatment. If you follow some tips while running, you can avoid common ankle injuries or prevent pain. Here are some tips to follow.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Every time you hit the ground with the soles of your feet, it resounds at your ankle. So, a bad pair of running shoes may be the reason you’re having ankle pain while running, and they may even cause a severe injury over time.

To avoid that, choose running shoes with a smooth upper that molds to your feet. If you have naturally weak ankles, preferably choose a pair of shoes with an ankle collar.

Additionally, shoes with external semi-rigid heels help stabilize the ankle for high-intensity running.

As long as you keep these tips in your mind while buying your shoes, you should be able to land the right pair.

Maintain a Correct Running Posture

A wrong running posture won’t only hurt your back, but it’ll also make you more prone to developing knee and ankle injuries.

The right way to run is to slightly learn forward while staying upright. Your shoulders should be at the same level as each other and right under your ears. Your back should be straight, and your core should be in a neutral position—not leaning forward or backward.

If you’re leaning forward, you’re at a higher risk of rolling your ankle and causing an injury.

Stretch Before Running

Stretching is the sole most essential thing to do before running. If you don’t do it, you’re at a much higher risk of developing an injury. Plus, running at once without warming up first can weaken the muscles and keep you from developing healthy muscle mass.

You need to stretch all the muscle groups you use for running, including the glutes, hams, and quads.

You’ll want to start with side lunges and arm swings, then go into knee swings and lateral leg swings. You should also focus on the glutes and ankles.

Closing Thoughts on Why Do My Ankles Hurt When I Run

So, why do my ankles hurt when I run?

Your ankles hurt when you’re running because you likely sprained them or strained your muscles. However, it could be something more serious than that, such as a tendonitis injury.

In all cases, it’s better to rest for a couple of days and apply ice and compression. Then, pay a visit to the doctor if the injury isn’t getting better and if the swelling persists.

 

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