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What Causes Sore Ankles After Cardio Exercise?

author image Sholeen Lagadien
Sholeen Lagadien is a freelance writer and editor, mom and Bikram Yoga enthusiast.
What Causes Sore Ankles After Cardio Exercise?
What Causes Sore Ankles After Cardio Exercise? Photo Credit: Halfpoint/iStock/GettyImages

The ankle joint is comprised of a network of bones, tendons and ligaments, all of which deftly enable one to carry out weight-bearing activities such as running or doing jumping jacks. There are times, especially after cardio exercise, that your ankles may begin to feel sore and strained. Usually, the problem is benign. However, if the pain has not abated within 72 hours, it’s best to seek medical attention.

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A number of reasons can make your ankles feel sore after cardio. Here are the likely offenders.

Wearing the Wrong Shoes

Shoes that fit well can determine whether or not you get injured or experience ankle soreness. The American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends trying on new athletic shoes straight after a workout or at the end of the day when your feet have swollen due to the exercise or heat. It’s also a good idea to wear the same kind of socks you’d wear when working out. Pay particular attention to where in your shoe your heel fits. Your heel shouldn’t slip out while walking. Also make sure that you can wiggle all your toes with ease when the shoe is on.

Read more: The Best Way to Strengthen Ankles

Achilles Tendinitis

The Achilles tendon, which connects your calf to your heel, is one of the larger tendons in the body. It's what enables you to run, walk and jump. It's also prone to overuse. When this tendon is overused from excessive exercise or high intensity cardio such as running long distances, it can become inflamed.

The result is Achilles tendinitis. Symptoms include pain and swelling around the back of the ankle and heel and may be especially painful upon getting out of bed. The RICE method — Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate — is usually an effective form of treatment. However, if self-care doesn’t yield any benefits, it’s best to visit a doctor.

Arthritis in Your Ankle

Osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis are among the two most common causes of joint pain. Osteoarthritis occurs due to wear and tear of joints as you age, while rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term, autoimmune disease meaning that the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men.

Strength training, according to a study published in Sports Medicine in 2011, has been found to greatly reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis such as inflammation and pain and should be part of your fitness regime should you find yourself with joint pain related to this disease.

Read more: What Causes Ankle Pain When Walking?

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Ankle pain may also indicate you have Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. When the posterior tibial nerve that passes down the back of your ankle (known as the tarsal tunnel) becomes compressed, Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome can develop. This may occur as a result of over-pronation, which is when the foot falls inwards while walking or running, or a sprained ankle -- both of which narrow the tarsal tunnel, thereby pinching the posterior tibial nerve. The symptoms include tingling on the heel and bottom of the foot, numbness, a burning sensation and sometimes a shooting pain in the ankle.

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