What’s the Cause of Ankle Pain When Walking?

woman grabbing left ankle on steps May31st 2022

When your ankle hurts, your mobility is limited. Not only does your ankle support everyday movements, but it also helps maintain your balance when standing. The ankle is a complex collection of ligaments, cartilage, tendons, and bones.  When a component of this body part is injured, you experience ankle pain when walking. 

Let’s learn more about what causes ankle pain as well as exercises to reduce or relieve discomfort.

What Are the Common Causes of Ankle Pain?

There are a multitude of factors that may contribute to irritation in your ankle bone. Some are attributed to age and lifestyle, while others are caused by trauma and preexisting conditions. Injury factors that commonly cause ankle pain when walking are ankle sprains, ankle strains, and tendonitis.

Ankle Sprain

This type of injury is caused by an overstretched ligament. It could also be caused by a partial or complete tear of a ligament.

Causes of an ankle sprain:

  • Wearing improper shoes when playing sport
  • Walking/running on uneven surfaces
  • Twisting your ankle
  • Landing awkwardly
  • Wearing high heels
  • Jamming your foot

Ankle Strain

Similar to a sprain, this type of discomfort comes from overstretching the muscle or tendon surrounding the ankle. It can be acute or chronic. 

Causes of an acute (single trauma) ankle strain:

  • Car accident
  • Fall
  • Slipping
  • Running
  • Jumping

Activities that cause chronic (long-term) ankle strain:

  • Long-distance runners
  • Gymnastics
  • Dancers
  • Football players
  • Soccer players 


Most often caused by muscle overuse, adults and kids who run or play an active sport may experience Achilles tendonitis.  This pain runs from the calf down to the heel, which impacts your range of motion and explosive power.

Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include: 

  • Heel stiffness
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling

To prevent further injury and find relief from pain, speak with a physical therapist at OSR. They’ll conduct an exam to pinpoint the cause of your discomfort, then tailor a treatment plan to your pain level and range of mobility. 

Tips & Insights: What’s The Difference Between a Sprain and a Strain?

Why Do I Have Ankle Pain Without Being Injured?

The majority of ankle injuries occur during physical activity. There are, however, additional reasons why you have sudden ankle pain without injury.

Peripheral Neuropathy 

Severe damage to your peripheral nerves may lead to discomfort in both ankles. This type of injury usually indicated a life-threatening ailment: disease, trauma, tumor, or infection. 


When uric acid crystallizes in your joints instead of dissolving in your blood, it’s referred to as gout. When you have gout, the pain will likely start in your toes and spread to your ankle and upwards to other joints. 


There are three bones that combine to create ankle function: talus, tibia, and fibula. Over time, the cartilage between these bones will thin and you may experience ankle pain when exercising.

Sudden ankle pain without injury may also be an early indication of rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease. If you suspect this is the source of your pain, request an appointment at your local OSR Physical Therapy clinic.

How Can I Relieve Foot and Ankle Pain?

Listed below are helpful exercises that will loosen the muscles and tendons of your ankle and encourage pain-free mobility. Aim to complete each exercise at least three times each day. Increasing the repetition of the exercises encourages faster recovery. 

  1. Toe bend
  2. Seated foot and heel raise
  3. Big toe lift and hold
  4. Plantar fascia stretch
  5. ​​Standing calf stretch
  6. Sitting plantar fascia stretch
  7. Achilles tendon and plantar fascia stretch

Tips & Insights: Treating Arthritis Pain The Natural Way

Experience Foot and Ankle Pain Relief at OSR

No matter the reason for your ankle discomfort, the staff at OSR Physical Therapy can help. With eight locations conveniently placed around the valley, you’re just a short drive from long-term relief. We provide superior physical therapy care and unmatched customer service. Don’t let ankle pain slow you down! Get in touch with OSR certified physical therapists today.