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How to Start Walking on a Sprained Ankle

by Patty Weasler, RN January 16, 2020 0 Comments

putting on ankle brace

The first time you sprain your ankle you’ll likely have lots of questions. One of the most common is when it is safe to start walking on a sprained ankle. We’re here to answer that question and teach you how to safely start walking again while teaching you a few tips and tricks along the way. Keep reading to learn more about walking after an ankle sprain and how you can stay safe along the way.

Is it OK to Walk on an Ankle Sprain?

You have an injured ankle and now want to get back to walking on it. It is safe to walk on a sprained ankle but only after you’ve had your injury properly identified and diagnosed by a doctor or physical therapist. There are multiple factors that come into play when determining how and when you can walk on an ankle sprain. The medical advice of a healthcare professional is essential in helping you determine if you need x-rays to evaluate your ankle injury or if at home treatment won’t be enough.

Assuming you don’t have a broken bone, torn ligaments, or another contraindication it will be safe for you to walk soon after your injury. Start slowly and use the support of an ankle brace or kinesiology tape to protect your ankle. Walking too early on a severe sprain can lead to further injury and damage. Listen to your body, let your ankle rest but when the pain subsides it’s time to start moving.

Learn other ways to treat a sprained ankle

The Right Way to Walk on a Sprained Ankle

Learning how to walk the right way on a sprained ankle will prevent re-injury and unnecessary pain. After a moderate to mild sprain, you’ll experience some ankle instability. There are many different ways you can support your ankle until you are able to return to normal activities. Some of the best ways to support your ankle are by using kinesiology tape, splints, braces, and scheduling a physical therapy visit so they can recommend strengthening exercises.

Start slowly by gradually reintroducing weight-bearing activities on your foot. Kinesiology tape and braces will keep your ankle from rolling as your ligaments heal. A physical therapist is a perfect sports medicine resource in recommending exercises and stretches that won’t cause more damage but will help you regain your range of motion during the healing process.


Getting back on your feet after a sprained ankle is no small feat. With a few helpful tips, you’ll learn how to safely take your first steps after a sprained ankle.

  • Anti-inflammatory Medication

    Taking ibuprofen or naproxen after ankle sprain will reduce pain and inflammation. This will aid in the healing process, letting you start moving sooner without discomfort.

  • Remove Hazards

    This may seem obvious, but now is not the time to have a messy house. When you get back on your feet the last thing you need is to trip over toys, shoes, or anything else laying around your house. Remove any tripping hazards in your house to keep yourself safe from a fall.

  • RICE

    Apply the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) after an ankle sprain. Rest for the first few days, place an ice pack on your ankle for 20 minute intervals, use an elastic bandage to compress your ankle, and elevate your foot above the level of your heart when possible.

    Click here for more on ice and heat for a sprained ankle

    • Apply Heat After Initial Injury

      Heat helps to improve blood flow, but shouldn't be used right away. After initial injury you'll want to use ice to reduce swelling but once your sprained ankle starts to heal apply heat. This will help loosen stiff joints and improve mobility. 

    Alternating Hot & Cold Therapy for Injuries

    Kinesio Tape

    Kinesio tape can help stabilize your ankle by increasing your body’s proprioception. The tape increases your awareness of your ankle and its relationship to the rest of your body. Use kinesiology tape during activities or rehab for an easy, inexpensive way to aid in recovery.

    How to Wrap a Sprained Ankle

    Ankle Braces

    Wearing an ankle brace when you walk on a sprained ankle will provide the best ankle stabilization. Ankle braces vary in the amount of compression and immobility they provide. Here we will cover a few different ankle braces to help you determine the right one for you.

    Light Support Ankle Braces

    If you have a mild ankle sprain or are looking to prevent a sprained ankle then a light support ankle brace is the solution for you. This is a compression sleeve style brace that doesn’t immobilize your foot. It compresses the entire ankle, thereby reducing swelling, bruising, and pain. The slight compression can also help improve blood flow to the area which will reduce healing time.

    Medium Support Ankle Braces

    A medium support ankle brace will give your ankle more stability and consistent compression. This type of brace is used for more severe sprains when ankle instability is a concern. Medium support braces will have adjustable Velcro straps for maximum protection. Some braces will also have laces as an added adjustable piece.

    Heavy Support Ankle Braces

    The hard, plastic ankle braces are reserved for the most severe cases. These braces reduce or eliminate side to side ankle mobility. They are a good solution for people with the worst ankle stability but shouldn’t be used in less severe cases. Using a heavy support ankle brace can weaken your ankle by not forcing the muscles and ligaments to work as they are intended to. If you are unsure which support brace is best for you talk to your doctor.

    How to Choose the Best Ankle Brace for You

    How Long Should You Wait to Walk on a Sprained Ankle?

    Generally speaking, the sooner you can walk on your ankle the better. If it is not too painful to walk on your ankle immediately after an injury it’s a good sign that you don’t have severe ligament or bone damage.

    Take it easy for the first 24 to 72 hours. Use a compression bandage to reduce swelling and follow the RICE protocol. If you are having ankle pain that is so severe that you can’t walk on your foot then don’t. Listen to your body and it will guide you through recovery. And as always, talk to your doctor to determine if you have a severe injury that will require further treatment.

    Walking on a Sprained Ankle Safely

    A sprained ankle is a common injury whose treatment had historically been to “walk it off”. We’ve learned that ignoring pain and continuing activity is not the best plan. Once you’ve recovered from the acute phase of injury walking on a sprained ankle can be nerve-wracking. Using a support brace and knowing when and how to walk properly can make all the difference in your recovery.




    Patty Weasler, RN
    Patty Weasler, RN

    Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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