How to prevent an ankle sprain from happening again can be quite a challenging task. But as a physio, I know you can drastically reduce your risk of having one with some changes.
It can involve a bit of a lifestyle modification on your part. You may also need to work on your sleep schedule, and add some important things to your daily routine.
But for an ankle injury that has a 47% risk of repeating itself, all these changes will be worth it. (1) Learn more about each suggestion by tapping on the links below:
10 Tips to prevent ankle sprains
1) Don’t miss out on your warmups
A warmup is a preparatory period before any physical activity. You might think that this is a waste of time, but there are various ways it can reduce recurrent ankle sprains.
Research shows that it prepares your muscles, joints, and nerves for the movements you are about to perform. (2) This potentially makes you less likely to miss your step, preventing further foot and ankle injuries.
A few examples of a good warm-up routine for ankle sprain prevention include (2):
- Calf ankle stretches.
- Barefoot balance exercises.
- Core strengthening exercises.
2) Choose the right kind of shoe
You should wear a shoe that fits well. To make sure of this, look for a shoe store that uses a Brannock device. This tool improves the accuracy of finding the right size for your foot. (3)
Additionally, if your shoes are worn down, please get a better pair. The price far outweighs the price of a sprain’s medical cost and ankle pain.
Finally, for those into sports, you might want to avoid shoes with air-filled heels. Research shows that they increase your risk for a sprain. (4)
3) Get a proper amount of sleep
We now have more reason to get that 8 hours of sleep per night. See, recent research suggests there’s a strong connection between sleep and injury risk.
Specifically, people who sleep less than 8 hours per night have a 1.7 times greater risk of suffering an injury. (5)
The same research shows that lack of sleep is connected to reduced reaction times, mental function, and mood. (5)
So, what can you do to get a night of better sleep? Here are a few suggestions you can try (6):
- Sleep in a cool dark room.
- Avoid using handheld gadgets or watching television in your bedroom.
- Avoid lying in bed for too long.
- Reduce your caffeine and nicotine intake.
Related: How to sleep with your sprain?
4) Wear an ankle brace
An ankle brace is a wearable device you wrap your ankle with. It provides additional mechanical support to boost the stability of your joint.
Most medical research supports wearing one, especially if you are an athlete with a history of ankle sprains. They found that the garment could reduce the incidence of recurrent injuries. (4)
Now, choosing the right brace might depend on your preference and activity. For example, a lace-up ankle brace is a good option for those into basketball. (7) But those who want more ankle mobility might want to consider an ankle sleeve instead.
Learn more: What type of brace is best for an ankle sprain?
5) Tape your ankle
Taping offers a customizable fit for keeping your ankle joint stable. There are different types of tape and techniques that allow various strengths and directions of ankle support.
But unlike a brace, you may need some practice to properly tape your ankle. Also, it only offers a short-term solution as your sweat and movement might loosen it up.
So, taping might be the way to go if you’re looking to keep your ankle well-fitted and protected only during activity or exercise.
This will help: How to tape your sprained ankle in 8 steps.
6) Strengthen your foot and ankle
As they say, you can’t go wrong being strong! Strengthening exercises for your lower leg helps you to be more resilient to any changes in movement and terrain.
If you don’t know where to start, try home exercises. They’re a great way to build foundational strength without costing a ton of money in buying equipment.
You can also try using minimal footwear. They have thinner, flexible soles compared to traditional shoes. This might give you a better feel for the ground, better balance, and stronger muscles.
7) But don’t ignore your hip muscles as well!
Our joints are interconnected, like one big moving chain. This means that poor movement from one joint affects others as well.
For example, those with poor hip strength can also have reduced ankle balance and stability, risking another sprain to happen. (8)
But like our ankle joint, strengthening drills focusing on our hips could address this problem. A few examples include hip bridges, lunges, and squats.
8) Improve your balance
There may be moments when you feel a little off with your stability, making it harder to react to uneven surfaces. Recurrent ankle injuries that have not healed well could cause this lingering issue. (9)
Fortunately, doing proprioceptive exercises effectively improves your sense of balance, possibly preventing recurrent ankle sprains.
One way you can do this is by simply balancing on one leg, all while brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. Eventually, your balance and stability will improve.
9) Work on your form and technique
Using proper form and technique in sports avoids unnecessary stress on your muscles, joints, and ligaments. This can keep you from getting another sprained ankle.
Work on how you land, and take sharp turns and twists consciously. These three are among the common mechanisms of ankle sprain in sports, so the more control you have over them, the better. (10)
One thing you can do is to repeat each movement until you think you have the hang of it. You can also hire a coach to check and adjust your form and techniques.
10) Try physical therapy
If you are still unsure where to start with all the tips above, then head over to your physical therapist (PT). We are movement experts, which may be what you need since sprains tend to result from poor movement.
PTs can also help you recover from your previous ankle injuries.
The treatments and strategies will depend on your injury history and how well you can move. Some of these can include:
- Therapeutic exercises, including strength and balance training.
- Recommend shoes based on your walking and running patterns.
- Teach you how to warm up, choose a brace and tape your ankle properly.
- Show you the proper ways and techniques to move well.
Can I prevent a sprained ankle?
It’s unlikely you’ll avoid ankle sprains entirely. But with the right preventive care, you can drastically decrease your chance of getting reinjured.
How can you prevent a sprain?
You can try taping or wearing ankle braces, changing shoes, and sleeping better. Additionally, improving your body condition and seeking a physical therapist also help.
How can I strengthen my ankle to prevent sprains?
Calf raise and heel walks might do well with lateral ankle sprains, which are the most common type. They help strengthen your surrounding lower leg muscles and Achilles tendon.
Conclusion: How to stop rolling your ankle?
An ankle sprain is one of those nasty injuries that can catch you again when you least expect it. So the best way to stop rolling your ankle is to be proactive about your health.
This includes lifestyle changes, choosing the right equipment, doing exercises, and going to physical therapy.
- Herzog, Mackenzie M et al. “Epidemiology of Ankle Sprains and Chronic Ankle Instability.” Journal of athletic training vol. 54,6 (2019): 603-610. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-447-17
- Padua, Elvira et al. “Effectiveness of Warm-Up Routine on the Ankle Injuries Prevention in Young Female Basketball Players: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania) vol. 55,10 690. 16 Oct. 2019, doi: 10.3390/medicina55100690
- Menz, Hylton B et al. “Evaluation of the accuracy of shoe fitting in older people using three-dimensional foot scanning.” Journal of foot and ankle research vol. 7,1 3. 23 Jan. 2014, doi: 10.1186/1757-1146-7-3
- 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/
- Milewski, Matthew D et al. “Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes.” Journal of pediatric orthopedics vol. 34,2 (2014): 129-33. DOI: 10.1097/BPO.0000000000000151
- Walker, Matthew. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Simon and Schuster, Oct 3, 2017. https://books.google.com.ph/books/about/Why_We_Sleep.html?id=4Nm_AQAACAAJ&redir_esc=y
- McGuine, Timothy A et al. “The effect of lace-up ankle braces on injury rates in high school basketball players.” The American journal of sports medicine vol. 39,9 (2011): 1840-8. DOI: 10.1177/0363546511406242
- Powers, Christopher M et al. “Hip Strength as a Predictor of Ankle Sprains in Male Soccer Players: A Prospective Study.” Journal of athletic training vol. 52,11 (2017): 1048-1055. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-52.11.18
- Hertel, Jay, and Revay O Corbett. “An Updated Model of Chronic Ankle Instability.” Journal of athletic training vol. 54,6 (2019): 572-588. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-344-18
- McKay, G D et al. “Ankle injuries in basketball: injury rate and risk factors.” British journal of sports medicine vol. 35,2 (2001): 103-8. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.35.2.103