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Protecting the ankles when exercising: however to avoid injuries and recover from an ankle injury

The ankles play a pivotal part to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Chronic ankle pain, or fear of re-injuring a prior injury can limit a person’s desire to exercise. So how do you prevent an ankle injury when exercising, and if you do experience an injury, when is it safe to return to exercising?

Listen to your body. Whether you are new to exercising or a well-conditioned athlete, is a pivotal part of your success as well as your ability to continue with activities.

Shoes are key. The key to preventing an ankle injury is making sure that you are wearing the appropriate shoe gear for your specific activity. If going for a walk outside, with a loved one or a furry friend, be sure to wear a properly fitted athletic shoe or walking shoe. Prefer weight work at the gym or other exercise? A properly fitted shoe that is laced snug will help you feel more in control and help prevent against injuries. An improperly fitting shoe or a shoe that is not tied properly can cause an unstable feeling and lead to rolling the ankle. Moisture wicking socks during the warmer seasons and socks to maintain temperature (i.e. wool) during the cooler months can help keep you comfortable.

Barefoot exercise. So, is it ever safe to exercise barefoot? The simple answer is: yes…sometimes, in the proper setting. Any outdoor activities while barefoot can place you at an increased risk, but if you prefer to do yoga while barefoot in a controlled setting, then it is safe to be barefoot. Repetitive or high impact activities, like running, however, really are safer with proper shoe gear. Proper shoe gear helps with shock absorption and stability in these types of activities.

If you’ve had an ankle injury…

An ankle sprain or other ankle injury may need to be seen by a physician, depending on the severity. Many times, a mild ankle sprain can be managed with P.R.I.C.E. (protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation). However, if a sprain is severe enough, there can be damage to the soft tissues such as ligaments and tendons or even fractures of the bone.  If there is bruising and severe swelling, the injury should be evaluated by a medical professional.

For a moderate to severe ankle sprain, a walking boot may be needed to protect the ankle and allow the injury to heal properly. Many times an ankle sprain can be treated in a few short weeks. However, if treated improperly this can become a long-lasting issue that can become chronic.  Chronic ankle instability from a previous injury may result in a person needing to wear an ankle brace with many activities. An ankle brace can be beneficial especially on uneven ground or with any other rotational or side-to-side activities following an injury.

Seeing a medical professional for an ankle sprain does not necessarily mean that you will be required to wear a boot, cast, or need surgery. A medical professional’s goal is to get you back to your previous activities as safely and quickly as possible.

If you have any concerns following an injury, or you have frequent ankle sprains it may benefit you to visit a foot and ankle specialist to discuss options to keep you active!

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