Running is a high-impact form of exercise in which both of your feet usually leave the ground at the same time. This repetitive jarring motion can place large amounts of stress on your feet, ankles and legs. Although you can minimize some of this stress by wearing the right shoes and choosing the right environment, overdoing it can lead to foot and leg injuries. See your doctor if you experience any running-related injuries to your ankles or legs so he can assess the damage and recommend a treatment plan.
Running too fast, too far or on uneven surfaces can push your ankle joint out of its normal position and result in an ankle sprain. A sprain occurs when you stretch or tear the ligaments surrounding your ankle. You might hear a popping or snapping sound when the injury occurs; followed by swelling and blue/black discoloration. You can usually treat a mild sprain at home, but more severe strains require specialized treatment.
The constant stress that running puts on your legs and feet can lead to Achilles tendinitis, an inflammation of the large tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. Increasing your speed and distance without conditioning your body properly can make you more susceptible to this condition. Some of the first signs of Achilles tendinitis include pain and stiffness along the back of your legs in the morning and severe pain after exercising. The pain will often worsen throughout the day.
Mild cases of Achilles tendinitis and ankle sprains respond well to home treatment using the PRICE – protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation – approach. Stop running until the pain goes away. If your sprain is severe, immobilize your ankle using an ankle stirrup or brace to keep it in a stable position. Use crutches to help support some of your weight. Rest your ankle completely for 24 hours after the injury. Ice the injury using an ice pack or a slush bath every two hours for 20 minutes at a time, for the first 48 to 72 hours. Use an ankle wrap to minimize swelling. When sleeping or resting, elevate your ankle higher than your waist.
Run on even, paved surfaces to reduce your chances of ankle sprain. Avoid activities like hill running that can exacerbate your risk of Achilles tendinitis. Increase your mileage or speed gradually. Replace your running shoes if they show signs of excessive wear. When you buy new shoes, look for ones with firm arch support and cushioning in the heel area. Include calf stretching and strengthening exercises in your regular exercise routine. Strong calf muscles can help minimize the strain and stress on your ankles and tendons. Alternate your runs with lower-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling.