The ankle joint is composed of a network of bones, tendons and ligaments, all of which deftly enable you to carry out weight-bearing activities such as running or doing jumping jacks. There may be times, though, 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.
A number of factors may cause aching ankles after exercise, including shoes that don't fit properly, Achilles tendinitis, arthritis and tarsal tunnel syndrome. If your ankles are still sore after 72 hours, talk to your doctor.
The Right Fit
The fit of your shoes can often determine whether or not you get injured or experience ankle soreness. The American Orthopaedic Foot & 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 exercise or heat.
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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.
Ankle Pain After Workout
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 and 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 and low-impact aerobics are recommended by the Arthritis Foundation as it has been found that exercise is key in managing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Read more: What Causes Ankle Pain When Walking?
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Ankle pain after a workout may also indicate that 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 overpronation, which means that the foot falls inward while walking or running, or as a result of 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.
- MedlinePlus: Ankle Pain
- SportsInjuryClinic.net: Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
- MedlinePlus: Achilles Tendinitis
- American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: How to Select the Right Athletic Shoes
- Arthritis Foundation: Rheumatoid Arthritis Self-Care
- Sports Injury Clinic: Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome; Tom Dekkers, M.Sc.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.