Overview of Ankle Pain Caused by Running
While it’s a common enough problem, there are a few different causes that could go into chronic ankle pain while running. It also might go away after a couple sessions, and it’s not always a serious problem. Ankle pain can happen even as a result of not stretching or warming up properly, not necessarily because you have a serious medical condition.
That said, if you find the pain isn’t letting up, and it’s starting to follow you around every time you run, there are a couple of possible causes. The three main ones are:
- Stress or a sprain on the joint. Strains are caused by stretched or partially torn tendons and muscles; sprains are caused by stretched or partially torn ligaments.
- Tendonitis, or an inflammation of the tendon, could have been caused by too much running, running in only one direction, low arches, flat feet, or shoes that are just a bad fit for you.
- Stress fractures, or small fractures in the bone, which could have been caused by overuse and too much mileage, too quickly. If your muscles aren’t used to your current running load, and they can’t take the stress, they’ll transfer the load onto your bones, creating tiny fractures from the impact.
Symptoms will vary depending on what exactly is hurting your ankle. In general, all conditions will cause pain in your ankle or the area surrounding it. You may also notice redness or visible swelling, especially with a sprain or strain. In addition, strains and sprains will usually follow a noticeable event, like rolling your ankle or something else that puts undue stress on the joint.
Stress fractures and tendonitis will likely have less outwardly visible symptoms. If you’re suffering from achilles tendonitis, you’ll likely feel a dull, aching pain that originates around the back of your ankle or your heel (where your achilles tendon is located). You also may notice swelling in the same location, and while it may not hurt while you’re running, it will hurt when you’re at rest. With peroneal tendonitis, you may notice pain along the outside of your foot or the back of your heel that also goes away when you’re active, but comes back during everyday tasks.
Where is the pain located?
Pain along the back of the ankle or up the back of your leg, just above the back of your ankle, is a good sign that you may be dealing with tendonitis. On the other hand, if you have pain throughout your ankle joint but nothing at all on your calf or shin bones, that could be a sign that you’re dealing with a strain or a sprain. Stress fractures, similarly, are usually located in the ankle alone, though it’s possible to get stress fractures in your shin bones as well.
Do you have pain while running, after running, or just while doing everything, including everyday tasks?
Pain that goes away while you’re running, but comes back immediately following a run and plagues you throughout your everyday tasks is a pretty good sign of tendonitis of some variety, where achilles or peroneal. If you feel no pain through the day but you feel pain as soon as you start to run, however, you may be dealing with a stress fracture. Finally, an ankle sprain or strain will probably feel painful all the time. While it may become exacerbated while running, you’ll likely still notice ankle swelling and pain anytime you have to move your ankle or rotate it.
RICE and traditional treatment
Luckily, if you get ankle pain running there is a bevy of treatments available. The most common are the traditional ones of Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate, or RICE. Giving your ankle some time, putting ice and a wrap on it, and keeping it raised is standard protocol for treating joint injuries like a sprain or a strain.
Taking NSAIDS and other painkillers to reduce inflammation is an additional, commonly-used strategy that can prove efficacious, particularly if you’re dealing with a lot of swelling.
One ong-term solution available to runners who need to shore up their leg and ankle strength is supplementing with protein and other essential nutrients that your body needs. Collagen is one good example; it’s an essential part of joint health and the cartilage in your knees and ankles. Supplements such as Nutrixen Multicollagen can help improve your joints if you’re dealing with chronic ankle pain. They stimulate collagen production and can get you back in running shape as quickly as possible.
In addition, standard leg stretches like a standing calf stretch, ankle circles, calf raises, or using a four-way resistance band are a great way not just to improve flexibility, but to reduce running-induced ankle pain. They can help strengthen your ankle and the surrounding muscles, resulting in less stress on the bone and the joint itself.
If you get ankle pain running and it’s severely inhibiting your movement, however, you probably should refrain from stretching until any pain or swelling starts to go down; putting a lot of stress on your ankle while it’s already sprained, for example, certainly won’t be doing you any favors.