Ankle sprains are a common injury because the bones and muscles on the outside of the ankle are weaker than those on the inside. The anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) is a small ligament found on the outside of your ankle that’s especially prone to injury—but the good news is that there are some strategies you can employ to keep it intact.
Issue #1: Weak ankles are more likely to be injured.
Building strength in the muscles that control the ankle is key. The exercises performed to prevent sprains are similar to those performed for therapy after you have a sprained ankle. Follow these exercises from the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.
Issue #2: Choosing the correct shoes for your foot and type of activity and then replacing them when they are worn out are the keys here.
- Choose the right type of shoe for the activity. For example, wearing running shoes when playing basketball can set you up for injury. And if you’re going for a hike, a sturdy hiking shoe will support your foot and ankle better than a pair of running sneakers.
- Have a professional such as a physical therapist or orthopedic physician check your feet. A professional can see if you have certain foot or arch abnormalities that might make you more likely to turn your ankle in or out, and then he/she can recommend specific shoes to shop for in a good sport-shoe store.
Replace shoes that are worn. Some experts recommend replacing shoes after three to six months or after about 400-500 miles of wear. Examine your shoes for signs of “wear and tear” such as heels that are worn more on one side than the other, and replace them if you notice this. And if they just don’t feel good on your feet anymore, chances are that you need a new pair.
Issue #3: If your body isn’t properly warmed up for activity, you are more likely to be injured.
- Warming up prior to activity is important and can be as simple as five to 10 minutes of light cardiovascular activity such as fast walking or jogging.
- After you warm up, do some stretching to prepare your muscles and joints for the stresses and impacts to come.
- An alternative to the basic warm up described above is called a dynamic warm-up.
Issue #4: Beware of uneven surfaces and hills.
- Many ankle sprains happen when you step into a hole or onto an uneven surface and turn your ankle towards the inside. If you are out for a run and approach uneven surfaces, slow down a bit, navigate the area safely, and then pick up the pace again once you’re on firmer footing.
- Pay close attention to your running or hiking technique when you are going downhill. Your ankles are more vulnerable in downhill stretches, so proceed carefully.