We all have experienced a sprained ankle before but, many runners wonder if they can still run with a sprain.
You should not run on a sprained ankle for up to 8 weeks after healing. If you don’t have full range of motion, experience pain, have low balance or swelling after 8 weeks you should continue to rest until these symptoms have gone.
Let’s explore some tips for managing your pain and deciding whether or not it is safe for you to run with a sprained ankle.
What is a Sprained Ankle?
A sprained ankle occurs when the ligaments that hold your ankle joint together are stretched or torn. This typically happens when your foot twists or turns beyond its normal range of motion. Sprains can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the damage.
Symptoms of a Sprained Ankle
Common symptoms of a sprained ankle include:
Pain, especially when you put weight on the affected ankle
Limited range of motion
Instability or weakness in the ankle
Causes of a Sprained Ankle
A sprained ankle can happen to anyone, but some factors increase your risk. These include:
Participating in sports or activities that involve jumping, cutting, or quick changes in direction
Walking or running on uneven surfaces
Wearing improper footwear
Previous ankle injuries
Can You Run with a Sprained Ankle?
Running with a sprained ankle can be tempting for those who are passionate about running and do not want to miss out on their training. However, it is important to understand that running on a sprained ankle can be harmful to your health and can lead to further damage to your ankle.
When you run on a sprained ankle, you place additional stress, which can worsen your injury and slow down your recovery.
The NHS advise avoiding running on a sprained ankle for up to 8 weeks and may take longer if it has not fully healed.
After 8 weeks, if you feel that your ankle has healed, you may be tempted to start running again. However, before doing so, you should make sure you have regained your full range of motion, have no pain or swelling, and have regained your balance.
It is also beneficial to consider other factors that may have contributed to your ankle sprain, such as weak ankle muscles, poor running form, or inappropriate footwear. Addressing these factors can help prevent future ankle injuries and improve your overall running performance.
Risks of Running with a Sprained Ankle
Running with a sprained ankle can lead to a number of risks, including:
Slower healing time
Chronic ankle pain
Increased risk of re-injury
Developing compensation injuries from favouring one foot over the other
Tips for Running with a Sprained Ankle
If you do decide to run with a sprained ankle, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Start with short distances at a slow pace and gradually increase as your ankle heals.
Wear an ankle brace or support to provide extra stability.
Avoid running on uneven surfaces and stick to flat terrain.
Pay attention to your body and stop running if you experience pain or discomfort.
Stay hydrated to prevent cramping and muscle strain.
Exercises for Strengthening Your Ankle
Strengthening exercises can help prevent future ankle sprains and help you recover. Here are a few exercises you can try:
Ankle circles: Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Slowly rotate your ankle in a circular motion, first in one direction and then in the other.
Heel raises: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lift your heels off the ground, then slowly lower them back down.
Towel curls: Place a towel on the ground and use your toes to scrunch it up toward you.
Balancing exercises: Stand on one foot and try to maintain your balance for 30 seconds. Switch to the other foot and repeat.
Recovering from a sprained ankle: The RICE method
The RICE method is a common treatment for sprained ankles:
Rest: Stay off your ankle as much as possible to give it time to heal.
Ice: Apply ice to your ankle for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, to reduce swelling.
Compression: Wrap your ankle in an elastic bandage to provide support and reduce swelling.
Elevation: Elevate your ankle above your heart to reduce swelling.
Mental Preparation for Returning to Running
Returning to running after a sprained ankle can be a mental challenge as well as a physical one. It's normal to feel anxious or uncertain about whether your ankle is fully healed. Take things slow and ease back into your routine, starting with shorter distances and lower intensity.
While it may be tempting to continue running with a sprained ankle, it is important to allow your body time to heal. Now you know how long it takes to recover, I would advise putting in place a strength training routine to help recover and prevent future injuries.