Ankle Sprains & Instability

Having a sprained ankle means that you’ve damaged at least one of the five primary ankle stabilising ligaments. These ligaments become damaged when they are stretched and forced beyond their limits to the point of injury.


Unfortunately, ankle sprains are very common – to the point where many people walk (or limp) through them and don’t pay too much attention to them, aside from initially applying some ice. When we don’t properly care for and rehabilitate the ankle ligaments after a sprain, the ankle may weaken and become less stable, making us more vulnerable to spraining it again. This is known as chronic ankle instability.



Ankle Sprains: Causes & Symptoms

The ligaments that surround your ankle help keep the joint in place and moving well every time you take a step. When you roll onto the outside of your ankle, you abnormally stretch the ligaments on the outside of the ankle – often forcefully – and a sprain occurs. Less commonly, you may roll onto the inside of the ankle, and damage these ligaments.


The painful symptoms are instant, producing tenderness and pain on walking immediately after the sprain. Soon, redness, swelling and occasionally bruising may follow, and walking on the injured ankle may become even harder.


Your level of pain can vary depending on how severe your ankle sprain is. At its worst, the ligaments may not just become damaged but may also rupture. Sometimes, other muscles that cross the ankle joint may also get injured in the sprain, with very similar symptoms. This is why it’s important to have your injuries checked by a podiatrist.



Treating Ankle Sprains

When you first sprain your ankle, apply ice to your ankle and avoid any movements that cause you pain. 


Next, see your podiatrist. At Masterton Foot Clinic, we create a unique treatment plan that will let your ankle heal the right way, while minimising your risk of developing chronic ankle instability. As a temporary measure, we often use strapping to minimise any further stress on your damaged ankle ligaments, thereby reducing painful symptoms. 


EXO-L Brace: Our most effective device to prevent ankle sprains

The EXO-L brace is one of the only devices in the world that is proven to prevent ankle sprains, and we’re proud to bring you this brilliant device here in the Wairarapa. It’s a slim, functional brace that lets you use your ankle normally and naturally without restricting your movement – up until the point you’re about to roll your ankle, kicking in and preventing this excessive movement. Think of it like a seatbelt – but for your ankle. To learn more about the EXO-L brace, click here.


From the results of your assessment with us, we may also suggest tools like orthotics if we find that your foot posture and other biomechanical factors may also be predisposing you to ongoing ankle sprains. These will function to help prevent your foot from rolling outwards (or inwards). 


If you already have some level of instability, we can help strengthen your ankle so you can enjoy the activities and sports you love without pain and at your best performance.




Ankle sprains are a common injury. Do they really need treatment?

Just because an injury is common, does not mean that it’s normal. Ankle sprains absolutely need treatment because without it, the ankle ligaments are not properly rehabilitated and can weaken. Weak ankle ligaments do not effectively carry out their role of supporting and stabilising the ankle, which can lead to more ankle sprains, as well as other issues related to ankle instability. Ultimately, you may develop chronic ankle instability. Additionally, evidence shows that ankle sprains are more likely to lead to osteoarthritis.


What are the best shoes to help prevent ankle sprains?

Closed shoes that wrap around the ankle and have a firm heel counter will help add stability to the ankle joint and hence reduce your risk of ankle sprains. For a much greater chance of preventing ankle sprains, the EXO-L anti-sprain brace should be paired with the shoes.


Is a sprained ankle the same as a twisted ankle or a strained ankle?

Yes, these terms are used interchangeably, and ‘twisted ankle’ refers to the fact that during an ankle sprain, the ligaments can twist in positions they’re not designed for, leading them to become sprained and strained.


How can I care for a sprained ankle at home?

If you’ve recently sprained your ankle, start by limiting any movements that cause you pain. This will likely be when you turn the pad (bottom) of your foot inwards towards the midline of your body. You can try strapping your ankle to give it some support, and apply the RICE principles (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Make sure to book an appointment with your podiatrist promptly.


How can I reduce my ankle pain from a sprained ankle?

A lot of the pain occurs as a result of the swelling that happens after an ankle sprain. Try to control the swelling by using ice (for no more than 15 minutes at a time, and avoid applying ice directly to the skin – instead do so through a towel or other protective barrier). You can also elevate your foot and rest to help with swelling, and you can take some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) as directed for both pain and swelling.


What are the grades of ankle sprains?

Ankle sprains have three grades. Grade one is the mildest, with limited straining of the ankle ligaments and no tears. Symptoms tend to be mild and there is usually no difficulty in resuming daily activity or bearing weight on the ankle. The joint still feels stable.


Grade two is more severe. There may be a partial tear in one or more ankle ligaments, and it comes with considerable pain, swelling and discomfort. You may find it difficult to put weight on the foot, and your ankle may feel less stable.


Grade three is the most severe ankle injury, featuring a full tear or rupture of one or more of the ankle ligaments. Pain and swelling is severe, bruising is often present. It is very difficult or impossible to put weight on the injured ankle or walk.


What else can I do to prevent ankle sprains in the future?

Aside from keeping your feet in the right shoes and wearing an EXO-L brace, take extreme care when walking or running on uneven surfaces both in sport and daily life, warm up prior to exercise, address any muscle tightness or weakness, work on strengthening your ankles, and be aware of your surroundings when you’re out and about. Remember that if you’ve already had an ankle sprain, your risk for another is higher.