How to Get Back to Running After a Sprained Ankle

Get back to running faster after a sprained ankle! 


Ankle sprains are one of the most common traumatic injuries runners face and could potentially wreak havoc on your training whether you are just looking to get out for some mental clearing miles a couple of times a week or have a big half marathon or marathon goal race coming up. 


Proper management is critical to getting back on pavement or trails doing what you love and that is what we are going to help you with today and if you stick around long enough I am going to share with you the most overlooked part of ankle rehab in runners!


The tips I am going to cover in this blog will help you prevent the next ankle sprain because preventative medicine is the best medicine!  


Make sure you check out the blog resource from last week to make sure you’re going through the whole ankle sprain diagnosis and rehab! Click HERE to be directed to that blog!



Listen to the podcast episode or watch the YouTube video below!


Listen to the Podcast Episode during your next run!




Watch the video from our Facebook Live by clicking the video below!


Let’s Get into it!


Phase 2 of Recovery – Mobility and Strength Phase

The first phase of recovery and healing was dedicated to decreasing swelling, early protective motion and mobility, muscle activation and working surrounding muscles (the deep foot and hip muscles).


The main focus of this phase is to restore ankle mobility, specifically restriction of the flexed position of the ankle that we call dorsiflexion and to begin strengthening the muscles in and around the ankle which will be essential for proper healing.


Are you wondering why ankle mobility is important for runners? Well in order to properly run, you need at least 15 degrees of dorsiflexion for normal biomechanics to get your shin over your foot in mid-stance and into the propulsion phase or push off. You need even more when you run up a hill so if you run elevations, this will be key for you to restore while in recovery from an ankle sprain.




How To Test If You Have Full Ankle Mobility?


To assess ankle mobility, you can do what we call a weight bearing lunge test or the knee to wall test. You will need a standard tape measure and a wall. You place your foot so that it’s perpendicular to the tape measure imagining a line drawn through the heel and big toe. Then the participant will lunge forward until their knee touches the wall. The heel is required to remain in contact with the floor at all times. The foot is moved away from the wall to remain in contact with the floor at all times. The foot then moves away from the wall to the point where the knee makes slight contact with the wall while the heel remains in contact with the floor. This is what will put the foot into maximal dorsiflexion. The maximum distance from the wall to the tip of the big toe is recorded. The distance is measured in centimeters with each centimeter corresponding to approximately 3.6 degrees of ankle dorsiflexion.


If you find that you are restricted your ankle motion this with definitely prevent you from running without pain!


Check out the video below to see how to increase ankle mobility.



It is also important to think about the fact that decreased ankle mobility may come from soft tissue! This may stem from the achilles tendon being tight and preventing the ankle from being able to dorsiflex further.


Check out this video to follow a stretching program for the achilles and calf.


Ankle Mobility seems to be the most overlooked part of ankle rehab in runners. Many times, we see a runner in an aircast or a boot for 4 weeks, or even 6 weeks, and once they get out of that, they’re having lots of pain and stiffness and they can’t flex their ankle. Utilizing self mobilization techniques to help improve the ankle mobility is a huge part of this phase.


The other motion that may get locked up is the motion of inverting the ankle. This is because when we roll our ankle we can sublux our fibula bone forward or the tibia. You will know this has occurred if you go to point your toe down and it still hurts and feels stiff. The pain and stiffness is normal within the first 1 to 2 weeks of injury depending of the severity of the sprain, but if this is happening 3 to 4 weeks out then that is when it necessary to see a health care practitioner to help you restore the mobility in your ankle with specific manual therapy techniques such as manipulation or mobilization techniques. However, if you dedicate consistent work to self-mobility exercises then this may not be necessary.


Best Exercises for Ankle Strengthening To Return To Running

The second part of Phase 2 is to strengthen the ankle musculature.

The following part of the blog will go through some great ankle strengthening exercises!

The overall goal for the second phase of rehab and recovery or the moderate protection phase is promoting full mobility of the ankle joint and strengthening the muscles in and around the ankle!


T-band Ankle Eversion & Inversion


Calf Raises With Tennis Ball (Click HERE for the video tutorial)



Achilles Strengthening Progression


Peroneal Mini Band Exercises

Multiplanar Cone Taps (Click HERE for the video tutorial)

Hip Stability (Hip Flexion in Standing)


Standing Clam Shell and Monster Walks


Reverse Lunge into Balance

Rehab Phase 3

This is our third and final rehab phase, known as our minimal protection phase. The main goal here is to strengthen the ankle and develop neuromuscular control of all of your leg muscles from the hip all the way down to your foot. We need to establish normal movement patterns and we want you to have the balance and strength to control your leg when you’re doing single leg activities like… RUNNING!


This is especially important so you can control your ankle when you’re landing from the swing phase of your running gait pattern especially if you run on trails. To restore this neuromuscular control we’re going to focus on more functional exercises. Everything you’re going to be doing in this phase is going to be on one leg and in a closed chain position, meaning your foot is on the ground.


At this point we’re not doing any exercises on the table and we’re progressing forward to those functional run specific exercises so we can ensure a safe return to running.


The key ingredient you must add into your recovery and rehab before you start to add in faster running is…

Specific plyometric training or jump training! It is one of our foundational SPARK Healthy Runner principles to run strong, fast and stay healthy and it is also critical in ankle sprain recovery!

Plyometric exercise helps to re-establish the dynamic neuromuscular control you need to have so your body can control your ankle in space. This is where you’re starting your jump training and you’re starting with two legs, progressing to one leg. You’re doing exercises in different planes, jumping forwards and backwards and side to side. This is going to be the last phase of rehab!

You should never be going from doing band exercises on the table to being back to running and especially back to running hard and doing races. You need this last phase to progress you through plyometric exercises so your body is ready to perform at the high levels you want to push it to again.


Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a back of the packer and you have never done plyometric exercises before then these would not be appropriate for you but if you are a competitive half marathoner like myself or want to run a fast 5k or a marathon especially if you are doing fast trail and ultra-running then this will be necessary to strengthen those ankle muscles to provide you reactivate neuromuscular control so you can react to that root or that rock that you step on or that misstep when you are starting to fatigue at mile 12 of a half mile or mile 22 of a marathon.

We want to re-establish the resiliency of your body, strengthen your body and go through rehab properly the first time to prevent ankle sprains in the future! 


Here are some exercises we like to program for runners during this last phase of recovery


Walking Marching with OverHead Press (Click HERE to be directed to the video)


Airplane Exercise


2 Legs to 1 Leg Jump


Hop Scotch Warm Up Exercise 


Side to Side Jumping Over Objects


Side to Side Jumps


Zig Zag Jumps | Single Leg Cross Hops


Running Level Plyometric Programs 



How Do We Prevent Ankle Sprains from Reoccurring?

The final topic we’re going to talk about is PREVENTION of an ankle sprain! If you’ve sprained your ankle once, unfortunately you are more likely to sprain it again. This is really focused around the strengthening and stabilization of the ankle.

This is what we call Neuromuscular control. So, not only utilizing the muscles in your foot and ankle but also your knee muscles and hip muscles. The outside hip muscles such as the gluteus medius and your rotator hip muscles will play a role in the movement of your foot.

The muscles help to control pronation and supination at the foot, or rolling in and out. We want to focus on strengthening the evertors on the outside of your ankle as well. We want to be strengthening these muscles with not only a TheraBand but with your foot on the ground with you standing so yo can actually work on that neuromuscular control and those muscles. This is going to be vital in helping retain the control of the muscles around the ankles. You also need to train your muscles in a plyometric fashion. These exercises are going to be very important for any type of running or jumping in your activity.


If you are struggling with reoccurring ankle sprains and you want to get your ankles stronger so you don’t have to worry about rolling your ankle on your next run, that is exactly what we help runners do in our Healthy Runner Coaching Program.

Get stronger, run faster, and become a lifelong injury free runner with our 16 week 1-on-1 Healthy Runner Coaching Program.  Get the support, structure, and accountability from experts in the health and running industry.  Personalized easy to follow plans tailored to your unique needs and busy life.


Learn more with this behind the scenes video tour of our coaching program and hear from many of our athletes who were struggling with the same sticking points that you are.  Just head to  https://learn.sparkhealthyrunner.com/coaching



Related Resources:


SPARK Blueprint:  5 Tips To Run Stronger & Healthier



This week’s show brought to you by: 



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Connect with Dr. Duane:


Dr. Duane Scotti, DPT, PhD, OCS is a running physical therapist, run coach, host of the Healthy Runner podcast, and founding owner of Spark Healthy Runner and has been a leader in the rehab and running community for over 19 years.  He is passionate about helping runners feel strong and confident so they can stay healthy and become a lifelong injury free runner!  Dr. Duane truly believes that anyone can run and that all runners should be treated differently as athletes.  He is on a mission to change the traditional thinking that running causes “overuse injuries” and you must “take a break” in order to get better.  Through run specific training (exercises and running progression) you can build your body to be a strong, resilient runner and stay active, stay healthy, and just keep running!


Duane received his Bachelor of Health Science degree and Master of Physical Therapy degree from Quinnipiac University in 2001 and 2003. He then went on to receive a clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2017. Duane is a board-certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist, RRCA Certified Running Coach, Certified Mulligan Practitioner, certified in dry needling and has advanced training in spinal manipulation and rehabilitation for runners.


  • duane@sparkyourtraining.com


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You can listen to all the information in this episode on the Healthy Runner Podcast…available wherever you get your podcasts!



Here is what other runners are saying about the podcast



Thank you (running friends) for taking the time to read and I hope you enjoy the podcast episode!


Warmest regards,


– Duane


Duane Scotti, PT, PhD, DPT

Physical Therapist For Runners

Board Certified, OCS

(203) 376-6514

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“I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude towards Duane Scotti and the Spark Healthy Runner program. When I started working with Duane, I had been dealing with chronic shin splints/posterior tibialis tendinitis for almost a year.

I had worked with multiple other coaches and physical therapists with little success and was at the point of almost giving up on my love for running. Duane is so kind, thoughtful and knowledgeable as both a physical therapist and running coach. Our first virtual meeting lasted two hours because he was so meticulous in his assessment. His strength and running program is progressive and created so that you can continue to build strength and mileage as you heal. His strength program is unique, effective, and fun.

Additionally, his warm-up routine is awesome and includes drills that over time have made me a more efficient runner. His training platform is easy to use, and he is always readily available to chat when problems or questions arise.

Over four months of working with Duane, I have built back to five days a week of running and am almost back up to my pre-injury weekly mileage and long run distance. Whenever I have flare ups or setbacks, Duane reassures me and makes necessary adjustments so that I can continue to progress in my running journey. I have had so much success with him so far that I have signed on for four more months so that he can help me to continue getting stronger as I train for the Dopey challenge in Disney World.

If you are struggling with a running injury and are feeling hopeless, you have to reach out to Duane Scotti. Of course, you will have to put in a lot of hard work, but with Duane by your side, you will be able to achieve your goals and more. Thank you Spark Healthy Runner for bringing the spark back to my running!”

Dipti Pandya

You can teach an old dog new tricks!!!  I have never considered myself a runner and I knew I needed to be smart about it because I am no spring chicken. Spark preached getting strong and healthy to be injury free and they practice what they preach.  I am soooo glad I made the investment in me!  I finished my half marathon last weekend and couldn’t be any happier!  The program fed me all the steps I needed to essentially learn how to run long distance, build strength, nutrition help, a forum of other runners and probably most important was the 1:1 coaching.  I had no idea how to tackle training for a 1/2 marathon and this program broke all of it down, had it individualized for me and we tweaked as we went to make sure I was staying healthy and strong.  I had so many questions the week prior to my race and Coach Cat was always there for me and answering all the questions and issues I had-and believe me there were a lot!  The biggest benefit I think I got was the strength. I am strong and fit. But most important was what I gained emotionally.  I built confidence and strength I didn’t know I had, even at my age.  Honestly could not have done this without Spark Healthy Runners!

Gina J.

My Healthy Runner journey started after I had battled bilateral achilles pain for a few months and was frustrated how it affected my running. As soon as I talked to Duane I knew I had made the right decision. His positivity, enthusiasm and genuine care are infectious. The training plan that was tailored to me included specific exercises to rehab my injury and I was so excited that I didn’t have to stop running. It took patience to only run slow for a few weeks but I trusted the process and it got me me to where I am now: running pain free. We made adjustments to the plan throughout whenever needed having someone in your corner that is always there with guidance and support throughout the process was invaluable.

I just ran my second half marathon, both with Duane’s coaching, and PR’d by over 9 minutes! I got all choked up in the last mile when I realized that I felt strong and could still kick it up a notch.

I’m so thankful for the Healthy Runner program, community and the entire coaching team for all the support!

Katja L.

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