How to Safely Return to Running After Ankle Sprains

How to Safely Return to Running After Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are a common type of running injury that can sideline even the most experienced runners. Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a casual jogger, a sprained ankle can be frustrating and painful. In this blog post, we will delve into the treatment and recovery process for ankle sprains, focusing on how runners can safely return to their favorite activity.

An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments surrounding the ankle joint are stretched or torn due to excessive force or an awkward twist. Runners are particularly prone to ankle sprains due to the repetitive nature of their activity. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected ankle.

When faced with an ankle sprain, immediate and appropriate treatment is crucial. Some well-known methods include RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), POLICE (protection, optimal loading, ice, compression, and elevation), and PEACE and LOVE. PEACE stands for protect, elevate, avoid anti-inflammatory medication (such as Advil) and ice, compress, and educate. LOVE stands for load (using the injured area in a controlled way), optimism (having a positive attitude), vascular and neural support (making sure the injured area has enough blood flow and nerve function), and exercise (doing specific movements to help the injury heal).

After the acute phase, rehabilitation exercises play a vital role in restoring strength, stability, and range of motion to the injured ankle. Physical therapy exercises, such as range-of-motion exercises, balance training, and strengthening exercises, are often prescribed by healthcare professionals. Gradual progression of these exercises is essential for a successful recovery.

Returning to running after an ankle sprain requires a patient and gradual approach. Rushing the process can lead to reinjury or other complications. Here are some key steps to follow:

1.) Consult with a healthcare professional: Before resuming running, it is crucial to seek guidance from a healthcare professional experienced in sports medicine. They can evaluate your condition and provide specific recommendations based on the severity of your ankle sprain.

2.) Start with low-impact activities: Begin your return-to-running journey by engaging in low-impact activities, such as swimming or cycling. These exercises help maintain cardiovascular fitness while reducing the stress on the injured ankle.

3.) Implement a structured running program: Once your healthcare professional gives the green light, gradually reintroduce running into your routine. Start with short intervals of jogging and walking, gradually increasing the duration and intensity over time. Listen to your body and pay attention to any signs of discomfort.

4.) Strengthen the ankle: Incorporate exercises that target ankle strength and stability into your training regimen. This may include heel raises, single-leg balances, and proprioceptive exercises that challenge your balance and coordination.

5.) Choose the right footwear: Invest in proper running shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning for your feet and ankles. Consult with a knowledgeable professional at a specialty running store to find the right shoes for your specific needs.

Try this out in your next warmup or mobility routine to open up your ankles and get deeper into your squat courtesy of Kinetic Labs (Read the caption)

Ankle Sprains: Treatment and return to running with the help of a Physiotherapist

Ankle sprains are a common type of running injury that can be effectively treated and managed with the assistance of a physiotherapist. These healthcare professionals specialize in the assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal conditions, including running injuries. In this blog post, we will explore how a physiotherapist can play a crucial role in the treatment and safe return to running after an ankle sprain.

A physiotherapist is a highly trained healthcare professional who can assess and diagnose running injuries, including ankle sprains. They have a deep understanding of the human body’s musculoskeletal system and biomechanics, allowing them to provide comprehensive care for runners. Physiotherapists employ various techniques and modalities to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, improve mobility, and restore strength and function to the injured ankle. They play a pivotal role in guiding runners through their recovery journey and helping them return to running safely and efficiently.

When you visit a physiotherapist for an ankle sprain, they will conduct a thorough assessment to determine the extent of the injury and identify any underlying factors that may have contributed to the sprain. This assessment may involve evaluating your gait, range of motion, strength, and balance. Based on their findings, the physiotherapist will develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Treatment modalities may include manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilization, soft tissue massage, and stretching exercises to restore normal joint mechanics and reduce pain. They may also use modalities like ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or laser therapy to accelerate healing and reduce inflammation. Additionally, the physiotherapist may provide guidance on the appropriate use of braces, supports, or taping techniques to provide stability and protection during the healing process.

Physiotherapists are experts in designing and prescribing rehabilitation exercises that target the specific needs of runners recovering from ankle sprains. They will develop a progressive exercise program that focuses on improving range of motion, strength, balance, and proprioception.

Range-of-motion exercises help restore flexibility and mobility to the injured ankle joint. Strengthening exercises, such as heel raises, resistance band exercises, and ankle stability drills, are crucial for rebuilding muscle strength and stability. Balance and proprioception exercises, which challenge your body’s awareness and control, play a vital role in retraining your ankle to handle the demands of running.

Throughout the rehabilitation process, the physiotherapist will closely monitor your progress, adjusting the exercises and intensity as needed. They will educate you on proper form and technique to ensure that you perform the exercises correctly and avoid compensatory movements that could lead to further injury.

One of the essential roles of a physiotherapist in managing ankle sprains is guiding runners through a safe and gradual return to running. They will provide recommendations on when to start running again and help establish a structured running program that gradually increases duration and intensity.

The physiotherapist may suggest a run-walk or jog-walk approach, starting with short intervals of running or jogging interspersed with periods of walking. This method allows the injured ankle to adapt to the stress of running gradually. The physiotherapist will closely monitor your symptoms during the running sessions and adjust the program accordingly to prevent overexertion or reinjury.

Furthermore, the physiotherapist can assess your running gait and offer suggestions to optimize your biomechanics, reducing the risk of future injuries.

Improving ankle mobility courtesy of Kinetic Labs (Read the caption)


This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a physiotherapist or chiropractor on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation on this session is to find out whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

The duration of rest for a sprained ankle can vary depending on the severity of the injury. In general, it is recommended to rest the ankle for at least 48 to 72 hours after the sprain occurs. During this time, it is advisable to avoid activities that put strain on the injured ankle to allow the tissues to heal properly. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist, who can provide personalized guidance based on the specific details of your sprained ankle.

Running is generally not recommended immediately after an ankle sprain. It’s crucial to allow the injured ligaments to heal adequately before resuming high-impact activities like running. Engaging in running too soon can increase the risk of reinjury or hinder the healing process. Instead, focus on following the recommended treatment plan, including rest, rehabilitation exercises, and gradually returning to running under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Icing a sprained ankle is a common and effective method to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. Applying ice to the affected area can help constrict blood vessels and decrease fluid buildup. While it is generally recommended to ice a sprained ankle within the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury, there are situations where icing may not be suitable. Some individuals may have medical conditions or sensitivities that make ice therapy problematic. If you are unsure about using ice or have concerns, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide specific recommendations based on your unique circumstances. They may suggest alternative methods for managing swelling and promoting healing.

About Corey Persic

Corey completed a Master of Science in Physical Therapy degree at the University of Toronto following an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa. He also trained as a competitive powerlifter during his undergraduate degree, where he held the provincial deadlift record.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

Book Your Free Consult

Or Fill Out This Form & Get A Call Back

By submitting this form you are consenting to receiving appointment reminders, exercise plans, plans of care, and any relevant services from Integra Health Centre and Your email will never be sold and you can unsubscribe at any time.