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5 min read

Ankle pain from running is a familiar problem for many runners.

During the closing stages of a run, or soon after finishing, your ankle begins to ache or throb with an unexplained pain.

It's a common issue, and this article will look at what causes it, and how best to prevent/treat it.

Ankle Pain From Running

In this article, we will be looking at common causes of ankle pain, how to prevent ankle pain, and how best to treat it.

Identifying the cause of ankle pain can sometimes be difficult to do, and it may require some further assessment by a medical professional or Physiotherapist. 

Everyone is different, and as a result it can be difficult to give individual advice through an article. 

But this article should give you the tools you need to decide what is causing you ankle pain, and you can then decide what is best for you. 

If you're experiecing ankle pain from running on a regular basis that causes you discomfort, we recommend that you get in contact with your GP or a Physiotherapist. 

Common Causes of Ankle Pain

Ankle pain can range from mild discomfort to unimaginable pain.

It can also range from sharp immediate pain that goes away quickly, to pain that lasts for months.

If your pain is due to injury, then this can be split between acute injury and chronic injury.

Acute Injury

An acute injury is something that happens suddenly, usually due to an accident such as tripping or rolling your ankle.

Spraining or fracturing your ankle after slipping would be another example of acute injury.

Your body responds to acute injury immediately and you will notice pain straight away.

You won’t be able to put weight on your ankle. It will begin to swell, and your movement will be reduce dramatically.

Acute injury can be caused by several things:

  • Poor running technique
  • Inapproproate running equipment (poor-fitting shoes)
  • Inclement weather
  • Other runners
  • Bad luck

A couple of these causes will be explored later on in this article. But the last three, will be talked about here.

Poor racing conditions means mud, water, bad visibility, slippery rocks, or any other way that nature and weather can combine to cause an acute injury.

Other runners represent a factor that you have no control over.

Somebody could run into you, trip you up, or create an unwitting obstacle by tripping themselves up.

If your acute injury is caused by another runner you can at least comfort yourself that there was nothing you could do to prevent it.

Which leads us to the last cause, bad luck.

The more you run, the more likely you are to receive an ankle injury or develop ankle pain from running. Which is the only real downside to exercise really. But it should not put you off!

Chronic injury

Chronic injury is more subtle than acute injury, and a lot harder to diagnose without medical assessment.

If you sprain your ankle after falling over, then you have a very clear idea of how it occurred and how to prevent it.

If you have a chronic injury then it could take you a while to figure out what is causing it. But what is a chronic injury?

Chronic ankle injury is an injury that worsens over time due to overtraining or bad running technique.

Arthritis, repetitive strain injuries, and tendonitis are examples of chronic injury.

One of the annoying things about chronic injury is that it often occurs through no fault of the runner.

Your technique can be superb, your programming perfect, but over time the repetitive movements of running can build up and lead to chronic injury.

But it is much more common for a chronic injury to be caused by bad running technique or badly fitting running shoes (which causes you to adapt your running technique to compensate).

Chronic injury can cause a dull throbbing ankle pain when running, that lasts for a long time, or it can cause pain that only occurs while you are running, but tends to occur EVERY time you run.

It can also lead to inflammation and swelling, and an inevitable drop in running performance.

Poor Running Technique

This cause of ankle pain often falls under the umbrella of chronic injury.

But sometimes poor running technique can cause low-level ankle pain without leading to injury.

Inappropriate Running Equipment

Again, this cause of ankle pain can often lead to chronic injury, but it certainly is a cause of pain on its own.

Wearing the wrong type of running shoe can lead to ankle pain and discomfort.

How to Treat Ankle Pain

As you are now aware, there are two forms of ankle injury, acute and chronic.

Treating ankle pain can vary depending on what has caused it.

If you are suffering from an acute injury to your ankle, then you should follow the RICE principles (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).

If your acute ankle pain is causing pain, reduced movement, or swelling, you should consider contacting an Urgent Treatment Centre, GP or Physiotherapsit for advcie (depending on the severity of the injury).

Other than resting, there is not much you can do until your ankle has healed. (Assuming the injury is mild/moderate and not requiring medical treatment).

When it is healed talk to a Phystiotherapist and they will design a program for rehabilitation (if you require it).

If you are suffering from chronic injury then you will want to see a health professional as soon as you can.

There’s nothing you can do to treat it on your own other than to rest.

What you need to do is look at why you are suffering from chronic injury. Which brings us to the next section.

How to Prevent Ankle Pain

It is almost impossible to prevent an acute injury altogether.

But you can lower the risk by improving your running technique, getting fitter and stronger, buying good running shoes.

Avoiding situations where you are likely to get injured (running in bad weather with extremely slippery conditions for example) is another way to reduce your risk.

To avoid chronic injuries there are several things you can do:

  • Get your running technique properly assessed by a running coach
  • Program your running so you aren’t overtraining
  • Focus on rest and recovery between your runs
  • Work on fixing muscle imbalances in the gym through resistance training
  • Use kinesiology tape strategically to stabilise the ankle (talk to a physio first)
  • Stop running when you notice ankle pain

Final Thoughts

Ankle pain from running can really affect your performance and experience, and is not something that you should ignore.

We have outlined ways to avoid it, and hopefully given you a better understanding of what causes it.

If you are experiencing ankle pain, then rest and recovery should be your first move.

Getting your ankle examined by a health professional should be your next step, followed by having your technique assessed and program looked. 

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