Running With an Ankle Injury

Broken twisted angle - running sport injury. Male runner touching foot in pain due to sprained ankle.Sunday’s London Marathon is likely to have inspired many would-be runners to don their trainers once again and take to the road. There were close to 40,000 entrants in this year’s event, which is a fantastic annual spectacle in the capital. However, whilst for the average onlooker it can all seem great fun, for many runners it would have been 26 miles of pain.

In the build-up the UK’s annual sporting showcase, training regimes would have been hampered by niggling aches and sores to all areas of the body and for a runner, the worst fear is picking up a persistent ankle injury. Unfortunately, it’s the ankles which take a great deal of stress during any running activity and every now and again it’s highly likely you’ll pick up a knock. The key though, is effectively managing the injury and ensuring you’re well recovered before taking to the streets again.

Staggeringly, there are 25,000 people spraining an ankle every day. From losing your balance and rolling the ankle, to hearing that feared ‘popping’ sound, there’s much damage to be done to this joint. Runners will be keen to get back onto the road immediately, but often this is the worst thing you could do – Risking the possibility of further injury and a recurrent problem.

What is an ankle sprain?

As Christie McMahon said on Runners World: “Ankle sprains may be more problematic than generally thought, or standard medical treatment may be inadequate.”

Essentially, a sprained ankle is the result of ligaments in your ankle being stretched or torn. For this reason, any expert in the industry will tell you an ankle sprain is never a minor issue. There are two types to consider; inversion sprains and eversion sprains. Inversion sprains are the most common of the two, caused by the ankle rolling inwards.

On most occasions, it’s unnatural movement that causes the ankle to sprain as it rolls in one direction or the other, or extends beyond its capabilities, causing the ligaments to stretch and tear. Ankle sprains in sport are particularly common, due to continuous turning and twisting on the joint.

As Boots say in their ankle injuries guide, there are multiple ways an ankle sprain can materialize:

  • Tripping or falling
  • Jumping and landing awkwardly
  • Walking or running on uneven surfaces
  • Twisting or rotating
  • Rolling the ankle

The severity of an ankle sprain will vary and as such, so will the aftercare required. With a sprain, Runners World again suggest there’ll be immediate pain and swelling, confirming the injury. The website says: “tenderness over the horizontal anterior talofibular ligament indicates less damage than if the major calcaneofibular ligament is torn.”

the ankle

How to treat a sprained ankle

For the most common ankle injuries, listed as Grade I, experts recommend following the R.I.C.E guidelines.

  • Rest: Plenty of rest is the first step to recovering from an ankle sprain. If necessary, use crutches in the immediate days after the injury and avoid putting full weight on the ankle.
  • Ice: Ice helps to minimize swelling. Avoiding placing ice directly on skin and instead ensure a towel or clothing is used to prevent contact. Ice for roughly 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Compression: This is another method to reduce swelling and ensure quicker recovery times.
  • Elevate: When resting, keep your ankle supported and elevated above waist or heart level. This is yet another technique to reduce your time out of activity.

As say, when recovering from any ankle injury, the key is restoring strength, flexibility and balance as quickly as possible. The first few days are crucial and it’s then in particular R.I.C.E treatment should be adopted.

With some ankle injuries it won’t be the simple case of following the above procedures though. If lasting damage has been caused and you wish to return to sporting activity, you may require an surgeon who specializes in ankle injuries, especially one who treats marathon runners. This is particularly the case if pain or discomfort continues or the ligament has torn through injury.

However the severity of your ankle sprain, ensure to take good care of the injury and avoid the temptation to rush back out onto the roads. This will limit the chance of the injury reoccurring and hopefully keep you in tip-top shape for your next race.

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