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How to prevent ankle injuries

Oct 14, 2022

Sprains and fractures are the most common ankle injuries. Follow these tips to keep your feet and ankles strong, and avoid injury.

Ankle injuries are common and sprains or fractures often occur when you fall or twist an ankle during a run or other athletic activity.

Slips and falls on icy outdoor surfaces also lead to ankle injuries, according to Adam Bitterman, DO, orthopedic surgeon at Huntington Hospital and Northwell Health Physicians Partners.

Ankle sprains can increase your risk for future falls because they may tear or overstretch the ligaments responsible for stabilizing the joint. Stay on your feet with these four preventive tips:.

1. Wear the right shoes

Make sure you skip the high heels and opt for shoes with wide, supportive soles. “Shoes built to offer good support reduce the risk of slipping or rolling your ankle while walking,” Dr. Bitterman said. “Make sure your shoes also have plenty of room for your toes. Shoes that are too narrow contribute to crowding within the toe box, which can lead to angular deformities of the toes.”

2. Get new sports shoes regularly

The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine recommends replacing athletic shoes as soon as they show signs of wear, which often occurs after you walk or run 300 to 500 miles in them.

3. Find flat earth

Stick to solid ground when you can. Running or walking on uneven surfaces increases your risk of ankle injuries.

4. Exercise your feet and ankles

Strengthen ankle joints with one of these moves that the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends: wall-based heel cord stretches, calf raises, picking up a marble or a towel with your toes, or using a resistance band to stretch your calf and to point and flex your toes.

When ankle injuries strike

Differentiating an ankle sprain from a fracture isn’t always easy because both injuries can cause pain, swelling and bruising. If your pain is bearable, you can manage your injury at home with over-the-counter medications and a little RICE:

  • Resting
  • Icing your ankle for up to 20 minutes every two to four hours until swelling starts to subside
  • Compressing the ankle by wrapping it an elastic bandage
  • Elevating the foot and ankle

If you can’t put weight on your foot or if your symptoms persist despite at-home care, it’s time for an X-ray.

This article originally appeared in Northwell Health's Newsroom