Triathlon training is a funny thing in that pain management is a priority for all Triathletes. I can’t think of a sport where pain is such an integral part of the training process. Hopefully endurance athletes can learn a little bit from my suffering.
At the same time I was experiencing knee pain I was also experiencing ankle pain. It took a little longer to figure out why but eventually I resolved these issues with a little research and a lot of trial and error.
Ankle problems for runners are most likely caused by the shoes they wear. Older shoes that have seen a few too many miles are no longer doing the trick and unfortunately it is time for a new pair. This is always the first thing to try when experiencing ankle pain. I don’t change my shoes often enough and usually experience a little suffering before taking my own advice. When I finally listen to my advice it has always fixed my issues. However, there are some additional things to consider if the shoes you wear are relatively new and you are confident that the shoes are not the issue.
If you experience the pain some days and not others, then the route may have something to do with it. The route you choose can impact your lower joints differently. Roads and paths are sloped for drainage. Different roads and different paths will have different sloping and obviously if you run in different directions or take a different path the slope would also impact you differently.
Watch out for changes in your form. You will likely be experiencing form changes if you are running at high intensity or low intensity. If you are running at low intensity, in all likelihood you will do one of two things differently. You may bounce more or you may become a heel striker instead of a mid foot striker when you run faster.
Generally when we run at a slow pace we control our forward momentum by hitting our heel to the ground fist, role to our mid-foot and then push off our toes. If we want to go quicker, we lean a bit forward, land mid-foot and push off our toes, and if we are sprinting we land on our fore foot and push off our toes. If you continually jam your heel into the ground for an hour it will affect all of your lower body, especially any of the joints below the waist including the ankles.
The other option is that you bounce. In order to slow down you try and keep everything the same but the one thing you change is that you have more vertical movement, at a faster pace it is about keeping up the intensity, so you stay more efficient, don’t bounce and keep your movement more horizontal.
It is important to maintain form while running regardless of the level of intensity. You never want to be a heel striker, always a mid-foot striker. Keep your head level and float from foot strike to foot strike. One rule of thumb that has worked well for me is becoming a silent runner. I try to sneak up to people I pass so that they don’t hear me coming. The point of this is simply because I know that if I manage to stay silent, I know that the impact on my feet is lessened and I am likely running more smoothly and more efficiently plus if I am thinking about it then I am thinking about my form which is the most important thing of all to focus on.