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Ankles hurting while riding, causing extreme pain.

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  • Ankles hurting while riding, causing extreme pain.

    I've been having this problem for the past 4 years now, and it's affected my riding tremendously. I had been riding without this pain for years before it started to happen.

    When I ride, my ankle starts to hurt. At first it'll be one, but then both will start hurting. It gets to the point where the pain starts shooting up through my calf and my knee becomes stiff. My toes turn inward and it's very painful to turn them out and push my heels down. This causes me to grip onto the saddle with my knee and lean forward which throws me off balance whenever I do transitions, whenever the horse changes his pace, in jumping - everything. I have even fallen off sometimes or have had to stop lessons early.

    I have gotten x-rays, MRIs, and have gone to an ankle specialist. The x-rays showed that one of my bones was growing into another on my right ankle? But the MRI showed nothing. I have used bandages around my ankles and lower calf and under my foot, which helped for a little while but then started to wear off. I used pain killers which also stopped having an effect.

    This is really a problem, and it's so painful to ride - physically, and emotionally, because it prevents me from moving onto bigger fences and new levels.

    What could really be the problem? Could it be my seat? I'm 4'11" and have short legs, and I notice when I ride ponies and very small horses I have less of a problem with this and there's no pain when I'm able to wrap my leg around a horse.

  • #2
    You might try playing around with some of the fancy jointed stirrups that are out there.

    I have bad ankles also, have had a couple surgeries on them, and they still bother me when I ride. I had a pair of the older, kind of crappy jointed stirrups that I used for a while and they helped. I've really been wanting to try a pair of the new 4-F Bow Balance.
    Cascadia- OTTB mare. 04/04-05/10
    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever


    • #3
      Definitely try the flexible jointed stirrups. Herm Sprenger's are the best but there are cheaper varieties out there. I know of people who were unable to ride due to knee and ankle pain but these enable them to keep riding.


      • #4
        I'd get a referral to a good physical therapist. If your ankles don't hurt you when you are not riding, it may be a soft tissue problem (ligaments etc) that are only aggravated during exercise, something an Xray will not show and unless you had a fMRI (functional MRI, not very common) unlikely to show up there either.
        We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


        • #5
          Try yoga. It'll help strengthen and stretch all your muscles. And if you're a good yoga student, you'll be able to identify where you hold tension which might be causing your ankles to hurt.

          Make sure you don't roll your feet in either when you ride. Your weight should be equal across the whole ball of your foot, and your toe turned out to about the angle of your knee.


          • #6
            Yoga and physical therapy really helped me. I've had a few surgeries on my right ankle and it's pretty much completely made up of metal, so especially in the winter it would get REALLY stiff and I could barely trot for 5 mins before I had to get off. You don't really realize it until you do some of the exercises in PT or Yoga, but often it's an ankle instability issue and the PT especially improved it in no time, but I still had pain. I broke down and bought jointed stirrups and while I'm completely pain free most of the time I did notice that I have a harder time keeping my leg solid over fences in them so it definitely took some getting used to. A few exercises you can do at home:

            1: get some plastic cups, little balls, etc (something relatively small that will stay put) and place them in a half-circle in front of you so that they're all just within your reach when you try to pick them up from a fixed point. Stand on one foot and lean down and pick up one item at a time. After picking up an item you have to stand all the way back up before you go back down for the next. After you pick them all up, do the same thing but put them all back down. Then rinse and repeat with the other foot.

            2. Get one of those stretchy exercise bands, sit on the ground, and make a "stirrup" on one of your feet (put it on the ball of your foot and hold the two ends with your hands). The resistance is up to you, but point and flex your foot, trying not to move your heel. Then attach it to something and make a right angle with your leg and the band, pull your foot to the outside without moving your heel. Turn around and pull it to the inside, etc. I think you get the picture. Start with one set of 10 and slowly work up to 3 sets for each position.

            3. If you have access to a gym, set the leg press to a weight you're comfortable with. Push the platform all the way out without locking your knees and use just your toes to flex and relax the weight, try to do 3 sets of 10. It works just like the elastic band exercise but with this you also have resistance when you relax your foot.

            Good luck! Ankle problems suck!
            Who needs wings when you've got a jumper?


            • #7
              I have the offset eye stirrups and they did help....riding is the one thing that does NOT hurt the bum ankles!(Torn ligaments and no surgery in both ankles....mine are hypermobile, not stiff).
              I have the Wii fit program. I have also noticed the ankle stability is better after doing the Wii fit balance exercises.
              Providence Farm


              • #8
                I would try the jointed stirrups, also. I like the HS, but I hear some of the knock-offs are just as good.

                I have a friend with bad ankles. She says it helps to ride in her tall boots - more support.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks for the input, everyone. I will definitely do a lot more stretching and yoga exercises. The stirrups I'll take a look at and try out; I never thought stirrups would really help this situation!

                  Go Fish - That's funny, I have the worst pain in tall boots. I find riding with full chaps and paddock boots doesn't cause as much pain. Maybe the stickyness of the chaps keeps my leg in a more secure position on the saddle?


                  • #10
                    I wrap my ankles in vetwrap. I put them in the position I would ride in, and then wrap once, so it isn't too bulky.
                    save lives...spay/neuter/geld


                    • #11
                      try jointed stirrups. i have a very hard time riding without them, because i have bad knees (go figure, i am only 17 :/)

                      also try yoga, pilates, and physical therapy.

                      Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3


                      • #12
                        Get thee to an podiatrist! Not to scare you or to even suggest that this is what it is, but what you are describing is the exact pain I've been having for the last 12 years...I'm having major reconstructive surgery to correct it tomorrow. If your foot is turning in and your ankle is locking, you likely have a subluxing peroneous longus over the lateral malleolus. When the peroneal tendon dislocates from its grove behind the lateral malleolus, the fascia can become lodged in the joint space that joins the fifth metatarsal and the distal portion of the malleolus. The pain you are feeling sounds like what I was experiencing from the dislocation and entrapment; I also experienced referred shin pain and even had trouble with my ACL because of how damaged my ankle became. Now, let me backtrack by saying that I have a very rare collagen disorder that makes problems like this a whole lot worse for me than for the average person and the surgery I am having is for more than just this issue, but they will repair the tendon while I'm in there. But before trying exercises, find a GOOD podiatrist or foot and ankle specialist that understands sports medicine (I went so far as to find one that rode!). Explain the pain you are having and explain what you are feeling when your ankle gets stuck. Unless they do a functional MRI (one in which you are weight bearing, torqued, or in a physically active position) it is very difficult to diagnose this problem with that technology. Does your ankle ever pop or crack? Do you roll it easily? If you rotate it with pressure on either malleolus, do you feel anything moving? How long does the pain last for after activity? Is there any other activities that exacerbate it? Best of luck in resolving this issue, I know how awful it is to have ankle pain while riding!
                        Nine out of ten times, you'll get it wrong...but it's that tenth time that you get it right that makes all the difference.