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Four Ways to Support Your Ankles During Exercise

A misstep or quick pivot during a basketball game and pop! goes your ankle. Sometimes you’re able to walk off the pain of an ankle sprain, ankle strain or injury, other times you’re sidelined in pain with an ankle joint that looks like a proverbial goose egg. Now what?

“Ankle sprains are the most common musculoskeletal injury and one of the most common sports injuries we see,” said L. Daniel Latt, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and foot and ankle specialist with Banner – University Medicine Orthopedics Clinic in Tucson, AZ. “And nearly half of all ankle sprains occur during athletic activity.”

Any kind of ankle sprain isn’t just a pain to deal with, some severe injuries can take months to heal. Often, an injured ankle requires medical attention and can benefit from a short period of immobilization followed by bracing and physical therapy. Since these types of injuries are common, if you thrive on being active, they can be a real blow to your game.

Who is most prone to ankle injuries?

Ankle injuries can occur just about anywhere and to anyone, but they’re most often seen in pivoting sports that require rapid acceleration and changes in direction, such as basketball, football and soccer. “People with high-arched feet are more prone to ankle sprains as well and should be more cautious than those with normal arches or flat feet,” Dr. Latt added.

The good news for sports enthusiasts like yourself is that there are things you can do to give your ankles support and decrease your risk of injury. To find out what gets you the best ankle support, we spoke with Dr. Latt.

Tips for supporting your ankles

Strengthen your ankles

The best way to safeguard against ankle sprains is to boost the stability of your ankle by strengthening the active ankle stabilizers through exercises. The peroneal muscles that run along the outside of your ankle and function to evert your foot (pull it outwards) are a good place to start.

“There’s no absolute way to prevent ankle sprains except avoiding activities that put you at risk,” Dr. Latt said. “That being said, strengthening of the peroneal muscles, those muscles that run down the side of your legs, has been shown to help prevent ankle sprains.”

[For tips on strengthening your ankles, check out “How to Make Your Weak Ankles Strong”]

Choose proper footwear specific to your foot type

Choosing the right footwear goes beyond just wearing the athletic shoe designed for your sport. It’s important to ensure your shoes and insoles match the needs of your foot type. You also want to make sure you replace your shoes every six months, or more often if you’re hard on shoes.

[Do you pronate or supinate or are unsure? Read “Supinate or Overpronate: What’s the Difference?”]

Brace yourself

You can also consider ankle braces or taping your ankle for added support.

“Both have been shown to be effective to prevent injury, especially for athletes in high-risk sports,” Dr. Latt said. “The use of taping or bracing might also be useful for those who are prone to ankle sprains because of foot shape, loose ligaments or having previously sprained their ankle.”

Braces are slightly more effective than taping, but, in general, they are more costly.

Pay attention to your pain

It’s easy to ignore and even want to walk off the pain, but the pain is an important sign that it’s time to slow down and take a break—before it gets worse.

Ankle sprains can happen to people of all ages and all athletic abilities. If you’re struggling with ankle pain or an ankle sprain, contact your health care provider to be evaluated. To find an orthopedic specialist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.

It’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you have an ankle injury, especially if you’re limping or there’s swelling. Prompt and appropriate treatment ensures you’ll have the best possible recovery.

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Sports Medicine Rehabilitation Orthopedics