/ How to not sprain your ankle?

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elliot.baker 09 Sep 2019

I sprained my ankle last weekend on the adventure outlined in this thread https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/hill_talk/grains_in_the_water__the_swamp_to_bleaklow_head-709479

I thought it might have been broken but I guess I was over reacting (I had broken my foot some years previously doing a similar thing). When I compared my symptoms to info on the BUPA website I realised I actually only had a "mild" sprain - HA!

My question is, what can I do to reduce the risk of spraining it again in the future? I'm fearful it might be one of those things like when you bite you cheek then you keep biting it by accident because it's swollen.

Things I've read about from a brief search and some YouTube videos are:

1) run with a shorter stride length so your back leg can more swiftly get forward to take your weight in the event of rolling your ankle.

Seems a bit hopeful and I might be challenging to completely change the way you run just like that?

2) a range of mobility exercises I saw on the Athlean-X youtube page ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bP24FFkQ54) which involve swinging your legs around in different directions to strengthen the opposite ankle

Seems to make sense?

3) barefoot weight training - someone suggested doing things like deadlifts and squats etc. barefoot would improve ankle strength.

Not sure about the science behind this.

Does anyone have any personal experience or other suggestions they could make? I don't want to be nervous on every long run that I'm going to sprain it again - or potentially worse.

Ta

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Neil Williams 09 Sep 2019
In reply to elliot.baker:

There's always "go over on your ankle so many times during your life that your ankles get so flexible that you can go all the way over without pain or damage".  I don't *entirely* recommend it, though.

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Andy Gamisou 09 Sep 2019
In reply to elliot.baker:

Some years ago I sprained my ankle quite badly whilst running over some rough terrain - my foot went into a partially hidden hole that I saw at the last moment, and just failed to avoid.  It kept me hobbling around for a few weeks, and away from running for at least four weeks.  

Six weeks later, I was back running the same route.  As I neared the place where I came cropper last time out, I told myself "don't stick your foot in the same hole".  Seconds later I stuck my foot in same hole.  The sprain was (unsurprisingly) even worse this time.

There's probably a lesson here somewhere - probably something along the lines of "don't be a dick".

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KS132 09 Sep 2019
In reply to elliot.baker:

I sprained my ankle 3 months ago and received a lot of good advice from UKC after posting. I think this was three after the injury occurred. 

3 months on and it is still a problem. It is healing, albeit slowly. When I rolled over on my ankle and fell, I too thought I’d broken it. The pain was something else! I see a physio and do the exercises as frequently as I can. I’m not a runner so I can’t help with this aspect of your situation but I am a climber and hiker. I am now climbing again though there are some moves which are hard (rock overs, high steps, foot jams, all on affected foot). I’m hill walking too but find uneven ground a little challenging and walking through heather, for example, where I can’t see where I’m placing my feet. I tape my ankle up for both climbing and hill walking. 

My ankle still swells significantly after periods of activity and I still ice it. There are still moments of pain too and some limited mobility (compared to the uninjured one).  

I’d advise seeing a physio and don’t underestimate the recovery time! 

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DancingOnRock 09 Sep 2019
In reply to elliot.baker:

Try and land with a bent knee and run with ‘light feet’. Your ankle is more likely to roll on landing than after it’s landed and during the push off phase. 

Do mobility exercises where you rotate your foot several times through the full range of ankle movement  to warm up the ligaments. Do them after you have warmed up the muscles with a gentle jog. Many people warm up but don’t do mobilisation exercises. 

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Doug 09 Sep 2019
In reply to KS132:

I remember contributing to that thread  - its at https://www.ukhillwalking.com/forums/off_belay/sprained_ankle-706814?v=1#x9014548

Its almost a year since I sprained my ankle & its only in the last couple of months that I've felt it has fully recovered. See your GP &/or a good physio.

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girlymonkey 09 Sep 2019
In reply to elliot.baker:

It's all about strength and good proprioception. I have one ankle which has synthetic ligaments as I destroyed them, and the other was very injury prone.

I now walk in the most minimal footwear I can for the situation so my ankles have to work hard. I only wear boots if I expect to wear crampons. 

For proprioception, get a wobble board or wobble cushion and use it lots. Stand on one leg whenever possible (brushing teeth, in super market queue etc) and once one leg is easy, do it while drawing circles with the other foot, then eyes closed etc.

Finally, watch your foot placements while running!

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Neil Williams 09 Sep 2019
In reply to DancingOnRock:

Something else I find I do almost instinctively is that if I feel I'm going to go over I jump in the air off the secure foot if I can, this gives time to correct it (or fall spectacularly if not).

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KS132 09 Sep 2019
In reply to Doug:

Thanks for adding this link. 

Interesting about your recovery. A couple of days after I sprained mine, I had ambitions to be up and ‘running’ fairly quickly. It soon became apparent these plans had to be revised. Significantly! 

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Rigid Raider 09 Sep 2019
In reply to elliot.baker:

I'm a serial ankle sprainer having dislocated mine at the wall at the Sobell Centre about 35 years ago. 

A circular wobble board is great for strengthening the ligaments. Wear shoes with a cupped insole to stabilise the heel. Be mindful when walking or running; moments of inattention are always when it goes over again. 

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Qwertilot 09 Sep 2019

Definitely agree with that last - last time I did my ankle was walking a gentle pace on pavement, amid a mass of hill walking much of it on quite rough terrain.

A bit maddening really.

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tlouth7 10 Sep 2019
In reply to elliot.baker:

A significant number of orienteers tape their ankles. The idea I believe is that as your foot starts to roll the tape pulls down on the skin on your lower leg which triggers the muscles to tighten and correct the roll. I understand that shaving the taped area of leg is advised.

Anyway it seems to work, though many older orienteers resort to actual ankle braces which provide meaningful support. These vary from neoprene jobs to much stiffer solutions, and there are some shoes available with ankle support eg:

https://www.compasspoint-online.co.uk/product/vj-integrator-high-4/

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