Ankle Sore After Walking? What’s Wrong and How to Fix It

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Our ankles have a big job to do, carrying around the weight of our entire body, certainly more than other weight-bearing joints, like our hips and knees. If everything is normal in the joint, despite the forces, activity is a breeze. However, when things are amiss, the forces can cause issues. Are you one of those people? Is your ankle sore after walking or running, and if so what’s wrong and how do you fix it?

Let’s first look at the basic anatomy and functioning of the ankle.

Ankle Anatomy

Your ankle is a joint made up of bone, tendons, and ligaments. The main joint is called the tibio-talar joint. This is a hinge joint that connects the ends of the long tibia and fibula bones of the lower leg with the talus bone in the foot.

The ligaments form a very complex system in the ankle and enable precise movement of the joint. These ligaments include the deltoid and the three lateral ligaments: anterior talofibular, posterior talofibular, and the calcaneofibular.

Learn about Regenexx procedures for foot & ankle conditions.

Why Does My Ankle Hurt When I Walk?

What can cause the ankle to be sore? Because our ankle joint is expected to shoulder the burden of our entire body weight, it is prone to sprains, which is when the ligaments get overstretched and damaged.

Untreated ankle sprains cause instability and can lead to arthritis, bone spurs, lesions, and so on (1). If the large ankle joints have arthritis, either at the tibiotalar or the subtalar joint, that can cause pain. There are also tendons on the inside and the outside of the ankle, and these can become inflamed and painful.

By far, however, the most common cause of an ankle sore after walking is instability. So let’s delve into that a bit further.

What Is Ankle Instability?

First, this issue is personal for me, as I had an unstable ankle. I turned it many years ago while running and while it healed, it was never the same. I went to many orthopedic specialists who had no idea what was wrong, as their training didn’t include how to diagnose and treat loose ankle ligaments. While my ankle was fine for daily use, if I carried anything heavy or went hiking, I would be in serious pain. So I became a connoisseur of ankle braces. Years later, I figured out what was wrong and I finally got my ankle ligaments injected and haven’t had an issue since.

Instability means that the ligaments which should be tight and protecting the joint are loose. Since they’re not broken in half, the average family doctor or orthopedic surgeon won’t have a clue what’s wrong. This can be caused by an old sprain, or even wear and tear. You may not even know you have ankle instability. You just know your ankle is sore after walking…or after you walk on uneven ground…or after you carry something that’s heavy, adding more weight to your already highly taxed ankle joint. That may be your only indication that there’s a problem.

You may not even know you have ankle instability. You just know your ankle is sore after walking…or after you walk on uneven ground…or after you carry something that’s heavy, adding more weight to your already highly taxed ankle joint. That may be your only indication that there’s a problem.

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How Do You Treat Ankle Instability?

You may just chalk up your ankle soreness after walking to the normal process of movement or the normal aches and pains of getting older. But the problem with this is that if left untreated, this type of instability can fry your ankle joints over time, leading to significant arthritis, bone spurs, lesions, tears, or other conditions as mentioned earlier. If you have ankle instability, you have to address it before it turns into something worse.

If there is a high-grade ankle sprain or a ligament tear, sadly, surgery is often the course of action, but there are big disadvantages and risks to ankle surgery, including more arthritis later, abnormal motion in the ankle, overtightened ligaments, painful recovery, prolonged rehabilitation, and even ongoing pain (2). Most surgeries of this type don’t attempt to fix the sprained ligament, they just rip it out and try to use a tendon as a poor substitute for the damaged ligament.

The upshot? Is your ankle sore after walking, running, or performing other activities? If so, you need to have the stability of your ankle ligaments checked. You should be able to avoid surgery as loose ligaments can be tightened non-surgically now. How? Using advanced interventional orthopedics.

In our experience, advanced platelet rich plasma injections performed under precise imaging guidance can help tighten lax ligaments. If the damage is greater, stem cell injections may be the answer. But get it done sooner rather than later, before a more serious issue sets in.

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(1) Gehring D, Faschian K, Lauber B, Lohrer H, Nauck T, Gollhofer A. Mechanical instability destabilises the ankle joint directly in the ankle-sprain mechanism. Br J Sports Med. 2014;48(5):377-382. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092626

(2) Pihlajamäki H, Hietaniemi K, Paavola M, Visuri T, Mattila VM. Surgical versus functional treatment for acute ruptures of the lateral ligament complex of the ankle in young men: a randomized controlled trial. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2010;92(14):2367-2374. doi:10.2106/JBJS.I.01176

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.

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