According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 25,000 Americans deal with ankle sprains and injuries every day. If you're a runner, an ankle injury can be debilitating. But recovery is possible, and you should even be able to run again after some rehabilitation. Following a routine that helps to rebuild strength, range of motion and flexibility in your ankle should get you back out pounding the pavement soon. Be sure to see a doctor before you start any rehabilitation exercises to rule out serious injury. Exercising on a serious sprain or fracture could cause significant damage.
After an ankle injury, you should obviously take it easy and avoid doing any running. But you can still perform some exercises to keep the rest of your body in shape. Seated exercises that work your abdominals or upper body that put no strain or weight on your injured ankle are best, says Body Results. Use exercise machines to work out your lower body and to isolate muscles that aren't affected by the ankle injury. One thing that may be particularly helpful is one-legged biking.
As your ankle is healing, and once you receive approval from your doctor, you can begin to perform range-of-motion exercises. These are simple exercises that increase the flexibility of your ankle and will prepare you to run again. No resistance is used for these exercises. An example involves hanging your foot over the edge of a pillow and trying to draw the alphabet with your toes, says Body Results. Another is to rotate your ankle very slowly in both directions. Do this on both ankles to see what your normal range of motion is as compared to the injured ankle.
Isotonic exercises are another kind of exercise you can perform to get back to running after an ankle injury. These exercises are very similar to range-of-motion exercises but add resistance into the mix. A simple resistance band is all you need to perform them. One example is to press your foot against the resistance band outward and hold for several seconds, then press your foot inward against the band, says the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.
Add Cardiovascular Exercise
After your ankle has gained back its typical range of motion and you can comfortably perform isotonic exercises, it's time to get back to performing cardiovascular workouts as a precursor to running. Biking, swimming or low-impact walking are good choices.
When to Run Again
It will be time to run again once you can perform mild cardiovascular workouts without much effort. Of course, you should confirm this with your doctor before resuming a running routine. No pain or stiffness is usually the signal that you're ready, however. Begin running on flat ground and wear very supportive footwear. After you've regained some strength, you can return to running on different surfaces like sand or dirt trails.
Brenda Barron is a writer, editor and researcher based in Southern California. She has worked as a writer since 2004, with work appearing in online and print publications such as BabyZone, "Cat Fancy" and "ePregnancy." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from California State University, Long Beach.