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Ankle Pain

Ankle pain is a common condition that causes discomfort and sometimes problems with freedom of movement in the ankle.

What is ankle pain?

The ankle is a complex joint where the two bones of the lower leg – the tibia and fibula – meet the foot bone called the talus. These bones, and the muscles of the ankle and foot, are held together with various different ligaments and tendons.

Ankle pain refers to pain or discomfort in any part of the ankle. It can affect one or both of the ankles and can occur in people of any age. Pain in the ankle can also affect your ability to walk normally.

What are the symptoms of ankle pain?

There are various different symptom of ankle pain, that can be caused by different reasons ranging from a strain to a broken foot. The most common symptom of ankle pain is pain in any part of the ankle, either at rest or when walking or exercising. Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Redness
  • A dull ache
  • An inability to put your foot to the floor or to walk as you would normally

What causes ankle pain?

There are many different causes of ankle pain, and sometimes you can tell what’s causing your pain by your symptoms. The most common causes of ankle pain include:

  • Ankle sprain – pain and swelling after exercise, especially if you’ve twisted your ankle or rolled your foot, often accompanied by bruising in the following days
  • Bursitis – a dull ache accompanied by redness and swelling
  • Achilles tendonitis – pain in your ankle and heel when your foot is flat, then if you stand on your tiptoes, the pain extends to your calf
  • Broken ankle – a sudden, intense pain in your ankle after twisting or rolling your foot or ankle, quickly followed by swelling (a broken ankle may also be accompanied by a popping or snapping sound at the time of injury)

Although less common, ankle pain can also be caused by conditions such as gout, arthritis and sciatica.

How is ankle pain diagnosed?

Sometimes, ankle pain can be diagnosed by yourself, especially if you have an ankle sprain caused by exercise or injury. Other times, when the cause isn’t obvious, ankle pain can be diagnosed by your GP. They will ask you questions about your symptoms and your lifestyle and if you can pinpoint when your ankle pain started.

In some instances, it may be appropriate for your doctor to perform an x-ray or MRI scan to check for serious damage or other health conditions.

You should always seek medical advice if your ankle pain is severe, preventing you from walking, you heard a popping or snapping sound at the time of injury, you feel sick or dizzy from the pain or if your foot is tingling, extremely swollen or is an odd shape or at an odd angle.

How is ankle pain treated?

Mild ankle pain caused by a twist or sprain can be treated at home by taking over the counter pain fillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, resting and elevating your foot and applying an ice pack for ten to 15 minutes twice a day.

Whilst your ankle is healing, you should wear flat, comfortable shoes and you may find that padded insoles that support your heel will also help.

For more severe ankle pain caused by a medical condition, your doctor may suggest an ankle brace or orthopaedic shoe insert. These will need to be measured and fitted properly to ensure the best result. Your doctor may also suggest stronger painkillers or cortisone injections depending on the cause of your ankle pain.

For severe ankle breaks, you may require surgery, but your doctor will advise you on your best course of treatment.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Professor Roslyn Miller  ›

Professor Roslyn Miller is a leader in the field of foot and ankle surgery, amongst the top foot and ankle surgeons in the UK regularly performing minimally invasive foot and ankle surgery.

Find your specialist in ankle pain at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have ankle pain and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading foot and ankle specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Mr Nadeem Mushtaq  ›
Special interests include:
Foot surgery (+ 21) more
Mr Tim Sinnett  ›
Special interests include:
Foot surgery (+ 13) more
Mr Shelain Patel  ›
Special interests include:
Orthopaedic surgery (+ 13) more

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