How to Return to Running After a Sprained Ankle

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More than half of all ankle sprains are sustained during athletic activities. A study from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that more 3.1 million sprained ankles were reported in the United States alone from 2002 to 2006. If you have suffered a sprained ankle, you may need to condition your ankle before you begin running again.

Strengthen your ankle joint before you begin running again, as your muscles are weaker from not being used while wearing a splint or brace and keeping weight off of your foot. Perform a variety of exercises using a resistance band or towel wrapped around your foot and holding both ends of the band or towel in your hands to provide resistance. Start with ankle pumps, moving the foot up and down as if you were depressing and releasing a gas pedal. Add ankle bends to each side and finish with circles both clockwise and counter-clockwise. Move slowly and precisely through the full range of motion to target all of the muscles in the ankle girdle.

Initiate balance retraining while you are strengthening to reduce your risk of falling or re-injuring the ankle, as balance is often impaired by an ankle sprain. Place a chair in front of you or to your side to give you something to hold onto in case you lose your balance. Standing on the injured leg, raise the opposite leg off the ground, keeping it away from your standing leg. Hold this stance as long as you can without losing your balance and without needing to hold onto the chair. Build up to 60 seconds. Challenge your balance further by standing on a pillow, which is more difficult than standing on the floor.

Move gradually from walking to running. Start with a brisk walking program. Research reported in 2006 in "Gait and Posture" indicated that power walking at about 4.5 miles per hour offered about 80 percent of the physical intensity as running at the same speed. Once you are able to power walk without pain, add interval training, cycling between walking and running. Start with 30 seconds of running coupled with four minutes of walking and gradually add more time of running compared to walking over the next several months. Slow your progression if you are experiencing pain. Advance only when your ankle is ready to tolerate the intensity.


If you experience pain after walking or running, use ice for 15 minutes to help control swelling and inflammation.


Avoid any exercise that causes pain and see a physician if you are unable to run or exercise your ankle without pain.

Begin an exercise program following a sprain only with physician's approval.