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  • Writer's pictureShane Lawless

Four Tips to Prevent Ankle Pain when Running

With the weather improving more and more people are dusting off their running shoes and getting out more. Perhaps you have signed up to a virtual challenge/event, maybe you’re training for the marathon or maybe you are doing it to keep fit or clear your head.

So you’re out on a run, thing’s are going well then suddenly OUCH! Something in your ankle doesn’t feel quite right. You stop, give it a bit of a stretch and go again. Maybe you make it home but the pain worsens throughout the evening.

Sound familiar?

Well you are not alone. Ankle pain is one of the most common injuries I see this time of year.

Why does it occur?

This may sound strange to you but to run further and faster you don’t always need to run more. These injuries occur because people believe that to become a better runner, they just need to run more.

This is not true.

In fact sudden increases to the amount of time someone goes running for, and how often someone goes running for – increases the risk of pain and injury creeping up on you, which is definitely the last thing you want when you’ve got a big event coming up!

So to help you keep running, here’s four tips to reduce ankle pain when running…

1. Stay tall when running up hills

By staying tall when running up hills you will reduce the pull on the back of the calf and ankle. This is the most common time when injury to this area occurs. Next time you encounter an incline try leaning back slightly. Not only will it help to reduce the risk of ankle injury but it also enables greater space in your chest for your lungs to exchange air in and out.

2. Check your footwear

One of the first things to think about is how many miles your running shoes have logged? It is recommended that you replace your trainers for every 600 miles that you complete. (That might sound like a lot but you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll do that many). If your trainers are overly worn, then you’re more likely to experience pain in your ankle.

The next thing to consider with footwear is the type of footwear you choose. See our previous blog “Running Part II: Choosing The Correct Footwear” for more details on this. Not everyone needs an orthotic in their shoe but sometimes how your foot hits the ground can be the root cause of recurring ankle and calf pain. Nowadays when you enter a sports shop they will have a treadmill and some fancy software that they claim can assess your foot biomechanics and arch height. Be weary of such sales. Remember these tools and software are only as good as the person using them. If you are unsure about your arch height or whether or not you should be wearing orthotics check in with your Chartered Physiotherapist who specialises in foot assessments. They will be able to do a thorough assessment of your foot biomechanics and arch height and prescribe accordingly.

3. Focus on balance and low impact exercises

Instead of always taking your training to the pavement and going for a run, focus on preparing your body for running. Simple balance exercises can be great for strengthening your ankles and minimise the risk of injury. See the video below of a balance test and exercise we use regularly in the clinic. Take a bottle or small weight and aim for 10 passes of it on each leg. Complete 3 sets 3 times a week. To progress you can make the weight heavier.

Another low impact exercise that is great for running is Pilates. This works your muscles in a different way than running so it gives your joints (hip/knee/ankle) time to recover while also strengthening your muscles, core and improving your balance at the same time. This is a great way of preparing your body for longer runs and minimise injury.

4. Listen to your body/rest acute injuries

If you do happen to experience pain in your ankle/calf when out for a run it is important that you acknowledge the injury. It is your body giving you a sign that there is something wrong. For the first three days you should not try to run through it. Avoid this temptation. Instead rest, ice and elevate the area. While we take an active approach to recovery in the clinic, in the first few days you may be making a small injury into a bigger injury if you continue to run on it.

To learn more, or speak to one of our physiotherapists email or call 087-6156270.

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