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3 Tips to Prevent Ankle Injuries in Older Adults

3 Tips to Prevent Ankle Injuries in Older Adults

It’s no secret that staying active is very important for a healthy lifestyle — particularly as we age. But today, an estimated 31 million older Americans aren’t getting the exercise they need. Lack of exercise can increase a person’s risk for many health issues, including ankle injuries.

Older adults can improve their health, mood, and quality of life by adding more movement to their routine, but it’s important to take precautions to avoid injuring muscles and joints. Whether you’re new to the fitness world or a seasoned pro, we have a few helpful tips that can prevent ankle injuries and keep you on your feet and feeling great.

Why Are Ankle Injuries Common in Older Adults?

As people age, they lose muscle mass, bone density, and cartilage in their joints. These changes can lead to a variety of problems in the ankles, including the following:

  • Arthritis: This occurs when cartilage breaks down and the ankle bones rub against one another.
  • Sprains: Sprains happen when the ligaments on either side of the ankle are stretched or torn.
  • Fractures: A fracture can occur when the ankle bone sustains a traumatic impact, like a fall.

The good news is that many ankle injuries can be avoided by taking proper precautions.

Here are a few tips for preventing ankle injuries:

1. Wear Proper Footwear

Proper footwear

Shoes are a great way to express yourself and elevate your look — but they are also essential for protecting your ankles. Whether you’re hitting the gym or grabbing some groceries, you should always wear shoes that give your ankles the support they need.

The ideal shoe should fit you well and have extra support in the midsole (the material between the outsole, bottom of the shoe, and your foot), a deep heel cup, and plenty of arch support. These features help absorb shock and prevent stress on your feet that can contribute to sprains, fractures, and other injuries.

2. Don’t Overstress Your Joints

As we age, our bodies find it more difficult to withstand the same bumps and bruises they could in our younger years. Activities like sports, biking, or hiking could lead to ankle injuries or other problems for older adults, so it’s so important that you don’t overstress your joints. Pay attention to how your ankles feel during and after any physical activity. If you need a break, take one! A short break can prevent plenty of pain later.

3. Replace Your Shoes on a Regular Basis

Shoes

Shoes wear down with use; eventually, they can’t give your ankles the support they need, so make sure to replace them regularly.

The average walking shoe is designed to last about 500 miles, or about six months, for people who walk at least a half hour every day. But even if you’re not moving that much each day, it’s still wise to replace your shoes anytime they start to feel uncomfortable. A new pair of shoes will help make sure you always have enough support for your daily activities.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Ankle Pains

Older adults need to take extra care to keep their ankles as healthy and strong as possible. Your ankle strength plays a significant role in your balance — weak ankles can increase your risk of injury from falling.

Ankles are also critical for shock absorption as we walk, run, or jump around. If your ankles are weak or injured, your body may compensate by absorbing shock in other joints like your knees or hips — which can lead to other painful problems down the road.

It can be easy to dismiss ankle pain, especially if it comes along with other age-related aches. But if you notice ankle pain that increases over time or other symptoms typical of an ankle injury, like swelling, bruising, or a grinding sound when you move, it’s vital to get help from a medical professional right away.

Hopefully, these tips will help you stop ankle injuries before they happen — and help you keep active, happy, and healthy!