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Ankle Sprains While Running: Symptoms and Treatment

by AOFAS | Aug 19, 2021

Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons offer guidance for the common injury

An ankle sprain is a very common injury; more than 25,000 people sprain their ankle each day. You can sprain your ankle playing sports or walking on unstable ground, but it can be especially troublesome if you feel that sudden twist or roll of the ankle while you’re running. As you train for fall marathon season, keep your ankles healthy with guidance from foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons.

"Most runners who suffer an ankle sprain injure the lateral ligaments located on the outside of the ankle," said David A. Porter, MD, PhD, a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon at Methodist Sports Medicine/The Orthopedic Specialists in Indianapolis. "Typically, the runner hits an uneven area such as a rock, the edge of a curb, or a rough spot, especially if running on a non-paved trail."

Symptoms

After the ankle twists, you will feel immediate pain on the outside of the ankle and may have some swelling and tenderness. If you suspect that you have sprained your ankle while training, take your time walking back or call a family member or friend for a ride home. If the sprain occurs during a race, stop running and visit the medical tent to get evaluated.

Do not try to "tough it out" and finish the run, warns Dr. Porter. "What may seem like an ankle sprain can be a fracture or a torn tendon."

Treatment

For less serious sprains, Dr. Porter recommends following R.I.C.E. guidelines by resting, icing, compressing (with a bandage or brace), and elevating the ankle. If you notice bruising and experience intense pain or discomfort when walking, visit a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon for a thorough examination and X-ray to rule out other injuries. If it’s a severe sprain, your doctor may recommend wearing a splint or walking boot for several weeks.

Return to Running

Once you can stand on your ankle again, your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon will recommend exercise routines to strengthen your muscles and ligaments, and increase your flexibility, balance, and coordination. You can gradually return to running after you’re able to exercise on an elliptical or stair stepper without pain.

To prevent future ankle sprains, pay attention to your body's warning signs to slow down when you feel pain or fatigue. Learn more about ankle sprains from FootCareMD.

About Foot and Ankle Orthopaedic Surgeons

Foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Their education and training consist of four years of medical school, five years of postgraduate residency, and a fellowship year of specialized surgical training. These specialists care for patients of all ages, performing reconstructive surgery for deformities and arthritis, treating sports injuries, and managing foot and ankle trauma.

About the AOFAS

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) mobilizes our dynamic community of foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeons to improve patient care through education, research, and advocacy. As the premier global organization for foot and ankle care, AOFAS delivers exceptional events and resources for continuous education, funds and promotes innovative research, and broadens patient understanding of foot and ankle conditions and treatments. By emphasizing collaboration and excellence, AOFAS inspires ever-increasing levels of professional performance leading to improved patient outcomes. For more information visit the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society online at aofas.org.