Read below about ankle pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your ankle pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Ankle Pain Symptoms

You love your morning jogs. Watching the sun rise as the wind blows through your hair seems to center you for the day. But one day, your foot lands strangely, slips out from under you, and you're stuck on the sidewalk with an ankle that's just not right.

Are you rankled by ankle pain symptoms? Ankle pain can be felt on the inner side of the ankle, on the outer area, in line with the Achilles tendon, and sometimes radiating near the upper part of the foot.

Common ankle pain symptoms vary from occasional aches to severe pain and include:

  • Burning pain in the ankle while walking, jogging, and running
  • Swelling of the ankle
  • Redness
  • Bruising
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Inability to bear weight on the ankle
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness

The ankle is a tricky little thing. It also bears plenty of your body's weight. Its health and ability to function are crucial to everyday activities and comfort.

The ankle is an important joint, connecting the lower leg bones to the foot bones. It is divided into the lower ankle and upper ankle. The lower ankle allows your foot to tilt to the side and turn outwards and inwards. The upper ankle lets you move your feet up and down.

Whether you injure the joint, a bone, the upper ankle, or the lower, the associated pain can literally stop you in your tracks. Most causes of ankle pain are treatable though. With a little time, you can be back to your normal activities.

Ankle Pain Causes

Causes of ankle pain can be broken down into two main categories -- injuries or trauma and medical conditions, including infection. Listed below are the most common ankle pain causes [1].

Injury or trauma-related ankle pain causes:

  • Sprains, strains, and fractures: These are the most commonly reported causes of ankle pain. Any of these can happen if one suddenly changes his or her position when moving. Accidents can likewise be a culprit. Falling or colliding with another individual or objects can injure your ankle. Athletes are more prone to this cause.
  • Rupture of the Achilles tendon: A damage in the Achilles tendon due to stressful activities can cause severe pain in the ankle. There is also an inability to move the toes and walk [2].

Medical ankle pain causes:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: This chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease of the joints commonly affects the ankle. The immune system attacks the synovium, which acts as a protective membrane lining the joints. This causes severe inflammation and pain [3].
  • Gout: An increased uric acid level in the body will cause a deposition of crystals in the joint. This is very painful [4].
  • Infection: Bacterial joint inflammation is a serious condition and causes severe pain in the ankle joint. This is often referred to as septic arthritis [5]. Bacteria gets into the joint and causes severe cartilage destruction and bone damage. If not treated, it can lead to septic shock.

Whether you're incredibly active or spend most nights on the couch, an ankle injury can happen to anyone. If you find yourself with an ankle that's not cooperating, it's time to look into treatments.

9 Possible Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced ankle pain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

  1. 1.Ankle Arthritis

    Arthritis of the ankle is a degenerative joint disorder occurring in the ankle. It presents with joint pain and stiffness that is typically worse with activity.

    Arthritis is considered irreversible, but symptoms can be effectively managed with treatment. Newer, more effective treatment options have become available in recent years.

    Top Symptoms:
    swollen ankle, swollen foot, joint stiffness, pain in one ankle, ankle stiffness
  2. 2.Broken Ankle

    An ankle fracture is a break in 1 or more ankle bones.

    Depending on the type of fracture, recovery may take up to a year.

    Top Symptoms:
    difficulty walking, constant ankle pain, swollen ankle, pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with broken ankle:
    pain in one ankle, swollen ankle, ankle pain from an injury, constant ankle pain
    Hospital emergency room
  3. 3.Ankle Sprain

    Ankle ligaments, which connect bones to one another, stabilize the ankle joint. A sprain is an injury to the ligaments caused by a twisting motion of the joint.

    An uncomplicated ankle sprain should improve in 3-6 weeks.

    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury, swollen ankle, bruised ankle, ankle twisting
    Symptoms that always occur with ankle sprain:
    pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury
    Phone call or in-person visit
  4. 4.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Primary care doctor

    Ankle Pain Symptom Checker

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  5. 5.Osteochondritis Dissecans

    At joints where bones meet, bones are covered with a layer of cartilage which provides shock absorbance and lubrication. Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition where a piece of cartilage with a thin layer of bone detach from the larger bone, causing pain.

    Conservative treatment should resolve the problem in 3-6 months.

    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one knee, knee stiffness, knee instability, knee pain that gets worse during a run, pop in the knee
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Posterior Tibialis Tendinopathy

    Posterior Tibialis Tendinopathy is the dysfunction of a tendon (muscles to bones) in the back of the foot, which can lead to having flat feet. It's unclear why exactly it happens, but might be related to poor blood flow and mechanical issues specific to the person.

    Progressive and relapsing, needing several attempts to fix the problem

    Ultra rare
    Top Symptoms:
    swollen foot, pain in one foot, limping, pain in one ankle, spontaneous ankle pain
    Symptoms that never occur with posterior tibialis tendinopathy:
    recent cutting accident
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Ankle Bruise

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the ankle are common, often due to minor injury.

    Bruises tend to begin healing within one week.

    Top Symptoms:
    constant ankle pain, pain in one ankle, ankle pain from an injury, recent ankle injury, swollen ankle
    Symptoms that always occur with ankle bruise:
    ankle pain from an injury, recent ankle injury, constant ankle pain
  8. 8.Gout

    Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint. The big toe is often affected.

    With proper medical attention, relief is possible within the first 24 hours of treatment.

    Top Symptoms:
    swollen toes
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Cellulitis

    Facial cellulitis is a skin infection that typically comes from other parts of the face like the mouth or the sinuses and needs antibiotic treatment. Symptoms can be pain, redness, warmth and swelling of the affected area.

    Dependent on severity of infection

    Top Symptoms:
    fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain
    Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis:
    facial redness, area of skin redness
    Primary care doctor

Ankle Pain Treatments, Relief and Prevention

Mild ankle pain can be treated at home.

See a doctor if you're experiencing any of the following:

  • Severe swelling
  • Intense pain
  • Open wounds
  • Noticeable deformity
  • Signs of infection
  • Unable to put weight on affected foot

When managing ankle pain symptoms, consider both treatments and preventive measures. Both can help ease your pain.

Ankle pain treatments:

  • RICE Method: If the pain is due to an injury, provide first aid to control the swelling and pain. Rest the ankle. Put Ice on for about 20 minutes and repeat three times daily. Compress the ankle, but not too tightly, by putting on an elastic bandage. Elevate the ankle above the heart level [10].
  • Medications: Ankle pain can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, analgesics, and other OTC pain relievers [11].
  • Devices: Crutches and walkers are helpful for mobility and rest.
  • Therapy: Exercises facilitated by a physical therapist can help restore the ankle's strength and flexibility.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgery can be necessary for the reconstruction of damaged ligaments and fractured bones.

Preventive measures for ankle pain:

  • Watch your step closely when walking, particularly on uneven surfaces
  • Warm up before doing any strenuous exercises or sports
  • Avoid wearing high heeled shoes
  • Exercise and stretch regularly
  • Watch your weight
  • Eat a balanced diet

Free yourself from ankle pain by knowing its symptoms, causes, and treatment. You'll be back on two healthy feet in no time.

FAQs About Ankle Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about ankle pain.

Can bunions cause ankle pain?

Generally, bunions do not cause ankle pain. A bunion is a deformity of the big toe in which the toe is deformed outward and the joint protrudes inward [6]. Studies have been performed on whether bunions are associated with any particular injury of the foot. While some authors have drawn those conclusions, it has not been conclusively proven. It is possible, however, that bunions affect balance which may lead to falls in the elderly.

What causes ankle pain without swelling?

Ankle pain without swelling can be caused by a stress fracture of an ankle bone or partial ligament tear causing instability of the ankle. Swelling is caused by traumatic damage to the cells of tissue within the body. As the contents of the cells spill out, they can cause the body to send in immune cells to clean and repair the wound. This requires swelling to "make space" for the immune cells.

Why would someone experience ankle pain while walking?

Ankle pain while walking may be due to swelling and an increase in inflammation following a mild injury to the ligaments, joints, or bones of the ankle. The most common of these conditions are ankle sprains (partial ruptures of a ligament), arthritis, or inflammation of the tendon (tendinitis) [7].

Will insoles help relieve ankle pain?

This depends on the cause of ankle pain. If ankle pain is caused by an excessive motion of the foot (inversion, eversion, pronation, or supination) then an insole can take stress off the foot and decrease repetitive stress injury. Other causes of ankle pain include ankle fractures or sprains and plantar fasciitis [8]. Ankle fractures need medical evaluation and stabilization to ensure strong healing. Plantar fasciitis is worsened by a flat shoe but can be improved significantly by stretching, avoiding flat shoes or barefoot walking, and silicone insoles.

Can ankle pain be related to back pain?

Yes, ankle, knee, and hip pain can all contribute independently to back pain. Each of the joints is designed to direct the force of gravity to another point on the next joint that is designed to bear the pressure. If one of the joints is out of alignment, the entire structure of bones and cartilage can suffer increased wear and tear — causing pain in the hips or back [9].

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Ankle Pain

  • Q.How would you explain your ankle pain?
  • Q.Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our ankle pain symptom checker to find out more.

Ankle Pain Quiz

Ankle Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced ankle pain have also experienced:

    • 12% Lower Leg Pain
    • 10% Upper Leg Pain
    • 9% Knee Pain
  • People who have experienced ankle pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 33% Over a Month
    • 26% Less Than a Week
    • 21% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced ankle pain were most often matched with:

    • 66% Broken Ankle
    • 22% Ankle Sprain
    • 11% Ankle Arthritis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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  1. Arthritis and Diseases that Affect the Ankle. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation.
  2. Achilles Tendon Rupture (Tear). OrthoInfo. Published May 2012. OrthoInfo Link.
  3. Weatherford BM. Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Foot and Ankle. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Published September 2017. OrthoInfo Link.
  4. Gout. MedlinePlus. Published March, 2016. Medline link.
  5. Septic Arthritis. Wikipedia. Updated Sept, 2018. Wikipedia Link.
  6. Haddad SL. Bunions. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Published February 2016. OrthoInfo Link.
  7. Ankle Anatomy. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link.
  8. American Orthopaedic
  9. Arthritis and Diseases That Affect the Back. Arthritis Foundation. Arthritis Foundation Link.
  10. Healthwise Staff. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE). University of Michigan: Michigan Medicine. Published November 29, 2017. Michigan Medicine Link.
  11. Medications to Treat Ankles. Arthritis Foundation. Artritis Foundation.