Although many forms of arthritis and related conditions can affect the ankles, the most common cause of ankle pain is a sprain. A sprain occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle become stretched or torn. Here is what you need to know about sprained ankles and some other common ankle injuries.

  • Sprains. The most common ankle injury, sprains occur when the ligaments that normally support the ankle become stretched beyond their normal range. This happens when the foot twists, turns or rolls as a result of fall or misstep. Doctors grade sprains on a scale of one to three, based on the severity of the damage, with one representing slight stretching and some damage to the ligament fibers and three representing a complete tear of the ligament.
  • Ankle fractures. A fractured, or broken, ankle may include a break in one of the bones that make up the ankle, or it could consist of several breaks in different bones. An ankle fracture can occur if you twist or roll your ankle while walking, running, going up or down stairs or while playing sports, such as sliding into base during baseball. It can also result from tripping or falling or the impact of a car accident. A broken ankle can cause the same symptoms as a sprained ankle – severe pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness to the touch, or deformed appearance – so it can be hard to distinguish between the two.

In some cases a fracture occurs because a ligament tears and pulls a piece of bone with it. This is called an avulsion fracture.

If you have an ankle injury, it's important to see a doctor who can X-ray the ankle to see if it is broken or sprained.

Learn more about ankle fractures from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

  • Achilles tendinitis. Achilles tendonitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body, which runs from the calf to the heel bone.
    • Noninsertional Achilles tendonitis affects fibers in the middle of the tendon.
    • Insertional Achilles tendonitis affects the lower portion of the tendon where it attaches to the heel bone.

Both types can result from repetitive stress to the tendon or from overstressing the tendon during exercise. Damaged tendon fibers can calcify and bone spurs can form where the tendon attaches to the bone.

Symptoms may include pain and stiffness of the tendon – which may occur from either inactivity (such as first thing in the morning) or after activity – thickening or swelling of the tendon or bone spurs.

Learn more about Achilles Tendonitis from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 

  • Achilles tendon rupture. An Achilles tendon rupture is a break in the Achilles tendon. Most ruptures occur during strenuous activity. The break itself may cause a loud pop and feel like the ligament has been kicked or shot. Symptoms of a ruptured tendon may include severe pain and swelling, difficulty walking and the inability to stand on the toes of the injured foot.

Learn more about Achilles tendon ruptures from the Mayo Clinic.