The Dos and Don’ts of Running on a Sprained Ankle

The Dos and Don’ts of Running on a Sprained Ankle


 Running is a highly popular and beneficial form of exercise. Yet, it can also place significant stress on the body, particularly running on a sprained ankle. Sprained ankles are a common injury among runners, and many may feel inclined to continue running despite the pain (Malliaropoulos et al., 2018). In this article, we will delve deeper into the dangers of running on a sprained ankle from a Functional Patterns perspective. We will discuss the importance of prioritizing proper biomechanics and recovery in order to prevent further injury, regain optimal performance, and promote long-term health and stability.


Should I run on a sprained ankle?

Running on a sprained ankle can lead to further damage and prolong the healing process. When the ligaments and surrounding tissues are already compromised, additional stress can exacerbate the sprain, increasing the risk of chronic instability and pain, as well as heightening the likelihood of re-injury. Continuing to run on a sprained ankle may also lead to the development of scar tissue, and ankle pops, which can restrict movement and contribute to long-term dysfunction.

Sprained ankle  


Compensatory Movement Patterns: A Chain Reaction of Imbalances

When experiencing pain from a sprained ankle, the body instinctively adjusts its movement patterns to avoid discomfort (Nigg et al., 2015). These compensatory movements can have far-reaching consequences, as they can alter your biomechanics, leading to muscle imbalances and placing undue stress on other joints such as the knees, hips, and lower back. This misalignment can result in a domino effect of additional injuries and long-term issues, including chronic pain, reduced mobility, and joint degeneration. When the body is not aligned or stacked properly, the body compensates and creates adhesions or 'knots' in the muscle tissue, slowly leading to muscle atrophy. It is important to note that even after the pain subsides, lingering compensations at the ankle may persist and travel up the chain, potentially causing further dysfunctions and contributing to continued muscle atrophy in the body.


What does muscle atrophy mean?

Muscle atrophy is a condition where muscles lose mass and strength due to a lack of use or activity, and it can result from altered biomechanics and compensatory movement patterns caused by a sprained ankle

So now that we have an understanding of compensatory movement patterns, we need to ask ourselves how we prevent the ankle injury from happening in the first place.


Impaired Gait Cycle: Should I run if I sprained my foot?

Running on a sprained ankle can result in an altered gait cycle, as the body attempts to minimize pain and discomfort. Leading to the question that people ask if they can walk on a sprained ankle or can walking on a sprained ankle makes it worse. This disrupted gait can contribute to movement dysfunctions, imbalances, and other biomechanical issues that can be challenging to correct later. Functional Patterns emphasize the importance of addressing gait cycle imbalances as the foundation for preventing further injury and promoting optimal movement patterns, biomechanics, and overall functionality. 


How long should you wait to run with a sprained ankle?

Ignoring the pain and continuing to run with a sprained ankle can delay the healing process. Functional Patterns promote a holistic approach to recovery, focusing on biomechanics, full-body movements, and addressing the root cause of the injury. By running on a sprained ankle, you may prolong your recovery time and increase the risk of long-term complications, such as chronic pain, joint degeneration, and reduced mobility. Integrating corrective exercises, manual therapy, and movement re-education can help facilitate healing and restore proper biomechanics.


Decreased Performance: The Impact of Altered Biomechanics

Decreased performance

Running with a sprained ankle can negatively impact your overall performance. The altered biomechanics and compensatory movement patterns can reduce efficiency, leading to decreased speed, endurance, and power. Rest and rehabilitation are essential for regaining your optimal performance levels (Malliaropoulos et al., 2018). By addressing biomechanical imbalances and focusing on recovery, you can restore your strength, flexibility, and movement efficiency, ultimately enhancing your running performance. While some may wait for the pain to subside for the sprained ankle, addressing one's dysfunctions of the ankle and our body's alignment will be a way for these injuries not to occur later on. 


Solutions and Alternatives from a Functional Patterns Standpoint:

To mitigate the risks and negative consequences associated with running with a sprained ankle or after a sprained ankle has “healed”, it is essential to consider solutions and alternatives from a Functional Patterns perspective. By focusing on proper biomechanics, recovery, and addressing the root cause of the injury, runners can optimize their performance while minimizing the risk of long-term issues. Here are a few strategies to consider: 


Before and After running

 Figure 1: Before and After Running: Knee valgus (caving in), hip pain, and ankle pain.


  1. Prioritize Rest and Recovery: Allow your body to heal properly by taking time off running and other high-impact activities. Engage in low-impact exercises, such as Functional Patterns recovery movements, to help maintain a strong recovery while your ankle heals. Then take the much-needed time to let the ankle heal by doing little exercises and resting. 


  1. Implement Corrective Exercises: Work with a Functional Patterns practitioner and address any biomechanical imbalances or movement dysfunctions that may have contributed to your sprained ankle. Incorporate corrective exercises into your routine to strengthen and stabilize the muscles surrounding the ankle joint, improve proprioception, and restore proper movement patterns.


  1. Movement Re-Education: Retrain your body to move optimally by focusing on improving your gait cycle, posture, and overall biomechanics utilizing the FP BIG 4. Movement re-education can help you break free from compensatory movement patterns, enhance your running efficiency, and reduce the risk of future injuries.


 FP Big 4

Figure 2: Functional Patterns BIG 4


  1. Myofascial Releases Utilizing the Functional Patterns 10-Week Online Course: The Functional Patterns 10-week online course offers a comprehensive approach to addressing myofascial restrictions and improving overall biomechanics. The course provides guided instruction on various myofascial release techniques designed to alleviate muscle tension, enhance circulation, and promote optimal muscle function. By following the course, you can effectively target and address muscle imbalances and adhesions, which will contribute to improved movement patterns and overall functionality.


  1. Gradual Return to Running: When your Functional Patterns practitioner clears you to resume running, do so gradually. Start with corrective exercises implementing gait cycle-type movements as done in functional patterns. Then with shorter, slower runs and incrementally increase your distance and pace as your body adapts and strengthens. Try not to exceed the distance the practitioner recommends as this would help the healing process. 


  1. Injury Prevention Strategies in Functional Patterns: Rather than using BOSU ball exercises or wobble board training, Functional Patterns focus on training the body in relation to the gait cycle. This approach highlights corrective exercises, such as controlled leg movements and step-and-press exercises, which are designed to improve the way we move and strengthen the muscles involved in walking and running. Movements that are specifically designed to improve biomechanics and movement patterns associated with walking and running. Concentrating on these exercises and addressing imbalances in the gait cycle can effectively strengthen and stabilize the muscles surrounding the ankle joint, enhancing stability and reducing the risk of future injuries.



In summary, adopting systems vs symptoms perspective and implementing these strategies can help runners recover from a sprained ankle, restore proper biomechanics, and prevent future injuries. By prioritizing rest, recovery, and addressing the root cause of the injury, individuals can optimize their performance and maintain long-term health and stability.



From a Functional Patterns perspective, running or walking on a sprained ankle can lead to a myriad of issues, including exacerbating the injury, creating compensatory movement patterns, impairing the gait cycle, and potentially making the sprain worse. Prioritizing proper biomechanics, recovery, and addressing the root cause of the injury, such as inversion or lateral ankle sprains, is crucial for long-term health, stability, and injury prevention. By choosing a systems approach that emphasizes intentional training, gait cycle improvements, and holistic methods, you invest in a sustainable and effective solution for optimizing your performance and overall well-being. Always consult with a Functional Patterns practitioner before resuming running or any other physical activities after a sprained ankle, and consider factors like the sprain's grade and the appropriate time to wait before running again. By understanding the consequences of running on a sprained ankle, recognizing the importance of the gait cycle, and taking into account the grade of the sprain, you can embark on a path to achieving a strong, healthy, and efficient running experience.





  1. Malliaropoulos, N., Callan, M., & Alaseirlis, D. (2018). Ankle sprain injuries and risk factors in sports: A narrative review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(9), 572-579.
  2. Nigg, B. M., Baltich, J., Hoerzer, S., & Enders, H. (2015). Running shoes and running injuries: Mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: ‘Preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(20), 1290-1294.


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