Is It Ok To Walk On A Sprained Ankle? | Yes And No, Here’s How To Know

Written by on May 13, 2022 — Medically reviewed by Mich Torres (PT)

So, when is it ok to walk on a sprained ankle, you ask? Well, it’ll depend mostly on how your ankle feels after your injury.

If you’re feeling severe pain, don’t walk on it – you risk worsening the ankle injury. But if the symptoms are mild, you may be good to go if you take some precautions.

Below, we’ll walk you through the things you must consider before walking on your ankle sprain. And yes, pun intended. Here are the topics we cover, tap on any of them to navigate through the content:

When can I walk on a sprained ankle?

1) If you only have minimal ankle pain and swelling

These mild symptoms mean that you may have suffered a grade I (mild) sprain.

This means you likely overstretched your ankle ligaments, but didn’t tear them. They can still keep your ankle joint stable. (1)

In this case, it may take about 7 days before your ankle fully recovers. (2) During that time frame, walk cautiously and refrain from strenuous activities like sports to prevent further injury.

2) Manageable discomfort when weight bearing on your injured ankle

This can mean you have a grade II (moderate) sprain. (1)

In this case, there’s likely a slight ligament tear that compromises your ankle stability and your ability to walk. (1) This may present itself with a noticeable hitch or limp in your stride.

But don’t worry! It usually averages about 15 days for your sprained ankle to heal. (2)

In the meantime, you might want to try using an ankle brace or crutches. (3) These two may help in protecting and reducing excess strain on your healing ligament.

Learn more: The 3 ankle sprain grades and their treatments.

When is it bad to walk on a sprained ankle?

1) You heard a “pop” at the time of your injury

This noise probably means that there are torn ligaments, which may indicate a grade III (severe) ankle sprain. (1)

In this case, the ligaments aren’t capable of stabilizing your ankle, making you particularly prone to injuries. Also, there’s a risk of fracture, depending on which type of sprain you had.

Thus, you shouldn’t walk on it, you risk making it much worse. In this case, please go to the ER to get your injured foot checked.

These usually take 30 to 55 days to heal. (2) As such, it may be best to consult a doctor or physical therapist to guide you as you recover.

2) Inability to complete four steps

If this happens to you, please go to the nearest emergency room. You need to get your ankle checked as you might have a broken bone or two. (2)

Healing rates vary depending on which bone you might have fractured. And based on severity, you will probably be placed on a cast, walking boot, or even require surgery.

Further reading: Ankle sprain vs broken foot – how to tell the difference?

5 tips to walk safely on your injured ankle

Follow these hacks for you to move well and prevent future episodes of sprained ankles:

1) Time your walks

Walking itself is an effective form of sprained ankle treatment. It gives a good amount of stimuli for your ligament to heal properly. (4)

But, start small to avoid flare-ups and use the level of pain as a guide.

For example, if there’s little to no pain during and after your walk, do 5 minutes more. But if there’s moderate pain, ice your ankle to reduce symptoms and walk a little less next time.

Pro tip: Set a timer at 5 minutes. That will serve as a goalpost for you that day as you walk continuously until the timer stops. Check in with your symptoms and repeat the timer if you feel good.

2) Use the right footwear

The right set of footwear may depend on where you plan to walk.

If it’s inside your house, walk on your bare feet. This offers provides a better activation of your lower leg muscles and promotes balance, both factors that help with recovery. (5)

But if you plan to stroll around the park, wear shoes that fit well and avoid high-heeled designs. (6, 7) This will ensure your foot is in a stable position to prevent worsening your injury while you walk.

3) Walk on a flat surface

This may be obvious, but it’s safer for you to walk on a flat surface than on uneven terrain.

It’s much more stable and forgiving for your ankle. It also helps in avoiding tripping over random potholes, rocks, or whatnot that can lead to another ankle sprain.

4) Wear an ankle brace

If you ever feel unsteady or a little “off” when you walk, consider wearing an ankle brace. It can help by (8, 9):

  • Adding more support around your ankle.
  • Enhancing your ability to unconsciously stabilize your ankle.
  • Providing compression to reduce swelling.

Now, there are several designs of ankle braces, each one with its own features and levels of movement restriction. So, make sure to pick one that supports your ankle without being too restrictive on your walking pattern.

But remember that a brace isn’t a permanent tool. It’s a temporary remedy to get you through, as you regain your ankle function.

5) Taping your ankle joint

If done right, taping your ankle, can be as effective as an ankle brace in supporting your sprain. (8)

The downside is that it takes more time and expertise to put on. See, there are specific patterns for each type of tape that you’ll use. And you may need to do a bit of practice to do it well and efficiently.

However, once you go through the learning curve, taping your own ankle gives you more customization than an ankle brace.

Try it today: How to wrap a sprained ankle?

Ankle sprain treatments for a faster recovery time

An ice pack wrapped with an ace bandage is one of many home remedies for ankle injuries. This might do good for the first week of injury to limit the pain and decrease swelling.

If you need a more hands-on approach, head over to physical therapy. Expect your physio to run you through various techniques and exercises to heal your sprain faster.

For cases of recurrent ankle sprains or fractures, you need to undergo surgery. (10) Consult your doctor or surgeon to receive appropriate medical advice for your sprained ankle.

This can help: 8 hacks to heal your ankle sprain fast.

FAQs

How long should you wait to walk on a sprained ankle?

Let your ankle heal and calm down for a couple of days. If your symptoms aren’t improving, you should probably seek medical attention.

Can walking on a sprained ankle make it worse?

For mild to moderate sprains, walking may be beneficial for your recovery. But it might be detrimental in fresh, more severe sprains.

Can I go for a walk with a sprained ankle?

It depends on how your ankle feels right now. If there is mild pain and some discomfort if you bear weight, you can walk on it albeit cautiously.

Conclusion: Should I walk on a sprained ankle?

The answer to whether you should walk or not on your sprained ankle largely depends on how your ankle feels.

If your symptoms are mild then you can walk on it. For some with a bit of discomfort, using a brace or wrapping your ankle with a bandage will probably make walking more tolerable.

But it may be a severe injury if you heard a pop or felt intense pain when standing. In this case, instead of trying to walk it off, go to your doctor instead to get your sprained ankle checked.

Resources

  1. Wolfe, Michael et al. “Management of Ankle Sprains”. Am Fam Physician. 2001 Jan 1;63(1):93-105. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0101/p93.html
  2. McGovern, Ryan P, and RobRoy L Martin. “Managing ankle ligament sprains and tears: current opinion.” Open access journal of sports medicine vol. 7 33-42. 2 Mar. 2016, doi: 10.2147/OAJSM.S72334
  3. Wells, Bradley et al. “MANAGEMENT OF ACUTE GRADE II LATERAL ANKLE SPRAINS WITH AN EMPHASIS ON LIGAMENT PROTECTION: A DESCRIPTIVE CASE SERIES.” International journal of sports physical therapy vol. 14,3 (2019): 445-458. doi: 10.26603/ijspt20190445
  4. Tully, Mark A et al. “Functional management of ankle sprains: what volume and intensity of walking is undertaken in the first week postinjury.” British journal of sports medicine vol. 46,12 (2012): 877-82. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2011-090692
  5. Petersen, Evi et al. “Walking barefoot vs. with minimalist footwear – influence on gait in younger and older adults.” BMC geriatrics vol. 20,1 88. 4 Mar. 2020, doi:10.1186/s12877-020-1486-3
  6. Beynnon, Bruce D et al. “Predictive Factors for Lateral Ankle Sprains: A Literature Review.” Journal of athletic training vol. 37,4 (2002): 376-380.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164368/
  7. Foster, Alicia et al. “The influence of heel height on frontal plane ankle biomechanics: implications for lateral ankle sprains.” Foot & ankle international vol. 33,1 (2012): 64-9. DOI: 10.3113/FAI.2012.0064
  8. Tiemstra, Jeffrey D. “Update on acute ankle sprains.” American family physician vol. 85,12 (2012): 1170-6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22962897/
  9. Maeda, Noriaki et al. “Effect of Semi-Rigid and Soft Ankle Braces on Static and Dynamic Postural Stability in Young Male Adults.” Journal of sports science & medicine vol. 15,2 352-7. 23 May. 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4879451/
  10. Al-Mohrej, Omar A, and Nader S Al-Kenani. “Acute ankle sprain: conservative or surgical approach?.” EFORT open reviews vol. 1,2 34-44. 13 Mar. 2017, doi: 10.1302/2058-5241.1.000010

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