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Written by our Human Movement Specialists

What is Lateral Ankle Instability?

Ankle sprains can be caused by stretching or tearing the lateral (outside) ankle ligaments, which are responsible for stabilizing the ankle joint. This can lead to an unstable ankle joint and a higher risk of future injuries.

A man running on a boardwalk at sunset after recovering from an ankle sprain

What Causes It?

Although a single ankle sprain or repeated sprains can lead to lateral ankle instability, there are other factors which can make an individual more vulnerable to injury:

  • Certain foot types can be predisposed to lateral ankle sprains. An example is a high arched foot

  • Poor balance can lead to unexpected foot placements

  • A previous ankle sprain can increase the risk for re-injury

  • Certain activities, such as basketball and volleyball, may lead to this type of injury ( lateral ankle sprain) is often the result of either a sudden change in direction or landing from a jump in an awkward position

  • Uneven surfaces combined with the individual factors listed previously can compound the risk of re-injury

Close up of the feet of a female tennis player wearing an ASO ankle brace

How does it feel?

  • A constant dull ache within the ankle joint or in some cases a sharp pain during activity.

  • Swelling and stiffness around the ankle.

  • Ankle giving way or perceived ankle weakness.

How we help

1. Rest, ice, compression and elevation immediately after injury and throughout recovery.

2. Supporting the foot can redirect pressure away from the lateral aspect of the foot and assist in mobility and stability. Examples of support are custom foot orthotics and supportive footwear.

3. Providing ankle joint stability with an ankle brace or taping can offer protection, help control swelling and assist with mobility.

4. Strengthening and range of motion exercises as prescribed by a health care professional can help to restore muscle strength and the perception of joint stability (proprioception).

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