The ankle plays a key role in allowing movement and stabilizing the foot and lower leg. Considering the complexity of the joint and the strain it endures every day, it is no surprise that many people experience ankle problems at some point in their lives. Although some traumatic ankle injuries are not avoidable, many strains and stresses are. The following simple steps can lower the likelihood of an ankle injury while offering other benefits for the legs and feet.
1. Choose Shoes Wisely
Even less active people can feel the harmful effects of poorly chosen shoes. Shoes with high heels or excessive padding increase the risk of trips, twists, and other movements that cause injury. People should instead try to buy shoes with a stable base, moderate padding or support, and sturdy sides. Shoes with laces are also a better choice than shoes that slip on or strap on, since shoelaces allow a more secure, snug fit.
2. Make Stretching a Routine
Everyday activities like walking strain the ankles, but most people do not make stretching part of their daily routine. Fortunately, there are several easy stretches that can improve ankle flexibility, including these exercises:
- Rotate the foot in clockwise and counterclockwise circles in sets of 10.
- With toes pointed, write out every letter of the alphabet with each foot.
- Sit at the edge of a chair, lean back, and extend the legs out with toes pointed and feet as flat as possible.
- Sit on the floor with straight legs and use a towel or band wrapped around the foot to pull the toes toward the body.
These exercises shouldn't put undue stress on the ankle, but they can help lengthen muscles and reduce the likelihood of strains, sprains, and pulls.
3. Recognize the Risk Factors
People who are at risk of having an ankle injury should recognize the danger and take early signs of injury seriously. People who have experienced ankle injuries in the past have a higher risk of repeat injuries or osteoarthritis, which is sometimes called "wear and tear" arthritis, because it occurs when joint cartilage wears down. Athletes who do sports involving running and jumping, meanwhile, put more strain on the ankles and may be prone to injuries resulting from missteps or bad landings. People in either group should focus on stretching, developing muscles in the foot and lower leg, and taking any pain that develops seriously.
4. Seek Professional Help Sooner than Later
Seeking medical attention for every ache and pain may not be reasonable, but swelling, redness, and persistent pain are usually reliable signs that professional treatment is needed. Postponing treatment can aggravate the injury and increase the risk of other complications, such as other muscles or joints being irritated by changes in movement. People who pursue treatment early can spare themselves pain as well as future expenses associated with other issues.
Takeaways on Ankle Care
These four changes are easy to implement, but they can make a significant difference in preventing or mitigating ankle injuries. They also offer immediate benefits, including better ankle strength and more comfort during day-to-day activities such as standing and walking. With ankle injuries affecting so many people and opening the door to lifelong conditions such as arthritis, following these tips pays off in both the short and long run.