Why Does My Ankle Hurt When Running?

You’ve been running for a while, and now your ankle’s starting to hurt. Trust me, I have been there. And so in a very literal sense, I have felt your pain. So, you’re wondering, what exactly is going on?

You’ve been running for a while, and now your ankle’s starting to hurt. Trust me, I have been there. And so in a very literal sense, I have felt your pain. So, you’re wondering, what exactly is going on?

First things first, a little housekeeping. If you haven’t been with me here on the channel before, I’m Jesse Funk like the graphics’ going to tell you. This is a show I call Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running. If you are a runner, you want to know more about running, hit the subscribe button, stick around with me for more episodes in the future.

Now, like I said, in the beginning, I’ve been through any number of injuries, especially ankle injuries. I went through a lot of ankle injuries and had a tendency to have ankle injuries. So, I don’t know how many times I have rehabbed my ankles at this point, but I’ve been through a lot of them. In my particular case, it is the one you want to watch out for that kind of sneaks up on you, and that is an injury through overuse. And that’s basically, your larger muscles, calf muscles, in this case, are offloading that work on your ankle because they’re fatigued.

You are overworking your body, you’re over-fatiguing your body. So, then that strain that should be placed on the larger muscles is starting to get shunted to your ligaments and your tendons, all the things that really don’t need to be carrying load. So, then they start hurting, they get weaker, and it’s a whole cascade effect of problems.

When you overuse your ankles or really all of your muscles, in this case, it’s basically you’re not allowing yourself enough rest. So, if you know you’ve been going hard, and you continue to go hard, and you haven’t had rest, it’s an easy, easy way to say, hey, maybe you take a rest week. Now, my general rule of thumb and this is something we’ve been doing, my coach and I, we’ve been doing for a number of years now is doing a two-one pattern. And that is two weeks of up training, so hard training, and then one week of recovery. I lived on a three-one schedule for a long time. So, three weeks of hard training, one week of recovery. But I also lived through a lot more injuries in that time. Is there a correlation? Possibly. That was also a time when I was in school and racing more, so more intensity as well.

In either case, when I moved to the two-one, and I moved post-college into training as an adult, I’ve had many, many fewer injuries than I had when I was in school and it was a much more intense environment to race and perform all of the time. So, if this is something that’s going on with you, and you are in school, it may be something you have to have a conversation with your coach about. And it is a tough conversation to have with a coach because they don’t want you to tell them what to do. But you have to just be able to communicate and say, yes, coach, I’ll do what you need me to do. But also, this is what I’m feeling, this is what I’m experiencing. Maybe we can modify and go from there. But the key here is to get some rest if you’re overusing it.

The next reason your ankle might be hurting, and this should be a little more obvious, is you have some kind of strain or sprain. And this is usually an acute injury. And I don’t mean cute as in adorable, acute, as it happens suddenly. So, you’ve stepped in a hole, you twisted your ankle, something like that, and then it started hurting. So, if you remember some such incident, then that is probably the source of your pain. This is going to be like many injuries, going to follow the RICE method; rest, ice, compression, elevation. But on top of that, you can do rehab exercises. I have shown some of these in other videos on the channel, so as mentioned in the beginning, subscribe so you don’t miss out on all of that. But you’ll get some resistance bands, depending on how strong your ankles are, is the color that you choose.

But from there, you’re going to basically move your ankles to the sides and then back towards you. So, inversion, eversion, and dorsiflexion. You don’t actually need to do plantar flexion, which is pointing your toes away from you, typically speaking, because you’re already doing tons of that when you run. So, those are kind of the go-to exercises. But we have a strain or sprain, it’s usually pretty obvious. I don’t think that’s why you’re here. You’re probably wondering what’s more mysterious, what could be happening? Well, there is something else that could be happening with you that’s a little harder to diagnose, a little harder to notice that isn’t necessarily overuse, and isn’t necessarily going to be an acute injury. It’s kind of in between, and it can sneak up on you. So, here’s the last one.

And that last one is a tendinopathy. So, it can be a tendinitis of some sort. There’s a bunch of different ankle muscles and tendons going on in that area keeping you stabilized. Now, these can be overuse injuries, this can be in that first category of overuse. But I separate it out because often, it comes from a weakness. So, it could be in the sense that, yes, you’ve overused it, but you also just haven’t developed the strength around, your calf and all the other surrounding muscle tissue. So, then it’s getting overloaded, not necessarily, because you’ve been running tons and tons of miles. It may be because you’re new and you haven’t built up.

So, it’s a small designation, a slight difference in thought in that overuse, I tend to think of typically with somebody who’s been running for a long time and really trying to build up miles. Whereas in this case, it could be you’re new to running, you are still feeling fresh in a large sense, but then you end up having issues because you haven’t built up a base, you haven’t built up stronger muscles around those tendons.

This can also happen as it’s happened to me, a little bit less, tendinitis, but affecting the peroneal tendon for me. Recently I had a stress fracture which I didn’t know about and I had been running on. And then because of the way I’d altered my running because of that issue, which again, once I noticed I was altering it, it was time to stop. But before that we took a week off, I went back out to try and run just a short four miler. And then right near the end, something happened. It was kind of an acute situation, an acute injury in that I went out for the run, came back and right near the end, I just got this sharp pain and had that ankle issue. Now, I’ve had to rehab for that while not running to deal with that stress fracture.

All of that was a result of too soft of shoes, which is a tendency of some shoe manufacturers right now. We can get into shoes in another video. If you want to know more about shoes, I know plenty. So, leave in the comments below, let me know if you want to know more about shoes and the tendency of shoes to create certain problems. I actually did this in another video where I had problems with a previous shoe. It’s been a comedy of errors trying to find a new shoe after I lost my very favorite one after the manufacturer discontinued it. But back to the subject at hand.

When we’re talking about ankle injuries, it can be a variety of things. But the basics of how to deal with it are going to be pretty much the same. That RICE method, rest, ice, compression, elevation, and then as I always like to go to some kind of rehab. Because you’re going to need those ankle muscles, those stabilizers and the tendons all to be strong and functioning if you’re going to run. Because running is not a two-legged option, it is a one leg sport. Meaning, you use one leg and then you use one of the other leg, you go back and forth. There’s a lot of balance involved and that means you’re putting a lot of strain on your ankles.

So, if I’ve helped you, let me know again down in the comments below, leave me a comment. What’s going on with you? And hopefully, you can come back after you’ve rehabbed, let us know how long did it take you, what did you do, what were your tips so that we can share as a community what’s going on with all of us, and hopefully, together, become better runners. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.


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