Sprained ankle risk may be influenced by foot positioning during walking, running

Sprained ankle risk may be influenced by foot positioning during walking, running

Sprained ankle risk may be influenced by foot positioning during walking and running. The findings from researchers at the University of Georgia found that the position of the foot when walking or running could greatly affect the likelihood of spraining the ankle.


The findings of the study showed that people with a history of ankle sprains had a lower clearance height between their feet and the floor during running and pointed their toes more during walking. Many individuals who experience ankle sprains will go on to have chronic instability and have a higher likelihood of frequent future sprains as well.

Lead author Cathleen Brown Crowell said, “Almost everyone who is physically active will suffer an ankle sprain at some point. Many people develop repetitive ankle injuries that are painful, can decrease performance and increase the risk of ankle osteoarthritis. We were able to identify factors in foot positioning prior to contact with the ground that may predispose some people to these repetitive injuries. These findings can help clinicians develop rehabilitation programs that address movements that may have been ignored in the past.”

The study looked at data from over 30 male recreational athletes with a history of repetitive ankle sprains and some men without. Motion capture equipment allowed researchers to observe joint mobility and force while the men walked or ran.

Brown Crowell concluded, “We can apply our findings to clinical practice. Our study demonstrates there are differences in movements at the foot and ankle in an injured population that may respond to rehabilitation interventions beyond typical stretching and strengthening. The next step is to see if targeted interventions, trying to influence how people run and walk, can treat and even prevent ankle sprains.”

Sprained ankle causes, symptoms

A common cause for ankle sprains is a rapid change in motion when the foot is planted. Ankle sprains are commonly seen in sporting activities, as there is a higher frequency for sudden motion changes. The ankle will either roll inward or outward, causing the ligaments to become stretched and tear.

The severity of an ankle sprain can range greatly, depending on the ligament damage caused. In cases of a minor sprain, the individual will still feel stable, but in pain. In a severe sprain, the individual would not be able to apply any pressure to the foot, thus having difficulty walking.

Symptoms of a sprain include swelling, pain in the affected area, bruising, and difficulty or inability to move the foot.

Sprained ankle exercises

Immediately and a few days after ankle sprain, it’s important that you rest and ice it as much as possible. Once you have the okay from your doctor and you’re not in too much pain, you can begin ankle exercises in order to strengthen the ankle once more.

At first, you may be only able to perform ankle exercises once or twice, but as your ankle becomes stronger and begins to heal, you can increase the frequency of the exercises. Sprained ankle exercises include:

  1. With foot out in front, flex your foot upward so that the ankle is at a 90 degree angle. You should feel a stretch in your calf. Hold for a few seconds, release, and repeat.
  2. In a seated position, turn your ankle inward, hold, then reset back to normal.
  3. In a seated position, turn your ankle outward, hold, and bring back to middle.
  4. With leg out in front, point your toes as forward as possible and flex the foot down. Hold for a few seconds and release.
  5. Stand at the end of a step and hold on the railing. Come up on your toes, hold, then release.
  6. While still on the step, push your heels downward, hold, then release.

Sprained ankle treatment at home

Aside from exercises, there are other home remedies you can do in order to speed up healing and reduce the pain and discomfort that come along with a sprained ankle. Sprained ankle home remedies include:

  • Apply ice packs to reduce swelling and inflammation
  • Use compression socks or bandages to stop swelling
  • Consume garlic, as it has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Soak the ankle in Epsom salt
  • Apply castor oil on the ankle
  • Apply a muslin cloth of onions onto the ankle
  • Apply warm olive oil
  • Keep the ankle elevated to reduce swelling

Pairing these home remedies with ankle exercise, you can help shorten the duration of the injury and get back to moving once again.

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.