The High-heel Ankle Sprain

By Dr. Sagar Parikh

Ankle sprains do not only affect athletes. ActuaIly, I most often see the misfortune of an ankle sprain occur during a usual walk to work: by a poorly stepped stiletto.

There is no question that the high-heel is a pillar of high fashion however what is gained in beauty and style is often lost in ankle stability.   Ankle sprains come in all sizes and even the slightest injury can prevent you from wearing your favorite heel.  A sudden misstep that leads to your ankle inverting awkwardly can put unnecessary strain on a set of vital ligaments on the outer aspect of your ankle; the anterior talofibular, calcaneofibular, and posterior talofibular ligament (google it!).

If you’ve accidently misstepped and experience swelling, pain, and an inability to bear weight on your foot, you may have suffered an ankle sprain.  With the proper care, however, you can nurse your ankle back to action.  First and foremost, the swelling needs to be reduced which can be achieved by simple Ice application, compressive garments (ace-wraps), and ankle elevation.  Second, you should have yourself examined by a physician or physical therapist to rule out any calamities like a fracture or a torn ligament.   If you are unable to be examined quickly, just remember the steps needed for the recovery process: reduce inflammation, restore range of motion, strength training, and balance and functional training.  Once the swelling is reduced, elevate your leg and start ranging your ankle in a circle.  You can even “spell” out the alphabet with their ankle to ensure that you are covering every possible angle.

Flexibility of your calf muscle is important and one simple exercise is placing your forefoot at the edge of a staircase with both hands stabilized on the banisters and allowing your body weight to lower your heel to the ground, thus providing a nice stretch.  Strength training is next, and while you should start isometric exercises from day one after the injury, you should graduate to resistance band exercises once range of motion and flexibility are restored.  The final stages of recovery deal with functional training and balance control.  While you may not have a wobble board handy, you can improvise by practicing a single leg stance while riding the subway.  The oscillating movements of the subway car will provide your ankle with decent balance training.  The key to donning your stilettos again is dedicated and focused rehabilitation of your ankle sprain that may last weeks rather than days.  Be patient and your manolos will see the light of day again!


Dr. Sagar Parikh is an Interventional Pain Medicine and Musculoskeletal Medicine Specialist working in Dr. Didier Demesmin’s practice: The University Pain Medicine Center.  He is double board-certified in Pain and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and has a special interest in patient education and research.  Dr. Parikh believes in a holistic approach to treatment including reducing pain and improving functional ability. 

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