Rolled Ankles, Sprained Ankles, Strained Ankles, and Breaks - What Are They and How Do I Treat Them? - Brace Direct

Rolled Ankles, Sprained Ankles, Strained Ankles, and Breaks - What Are They and How Do I Treat Them?

Ankle injuries are among the most common physical injuries, especially among runners and athletes. But you can easily confuse the different types of ankle injuries, primarily because they manifest nearly similar symptoms.

The baseline of sprained ankle vs. broken ankle is that ankle injuries result from trauma to the joint and can include rolled ankles, sprained ankles, and strained ankles.

Read on to understand what rolled ankles, strained ankles, sprained ankles, and breaks are and how you can treat them.

Rolled Ankles

When discussing sprained ankles vs. broken ankles, it's crucial to understand rolled ankles. Rolled ankles are just that—a twist in the ankle joint. It's a common injury among high-impact athletes.

However, the issue may also affect those participating in prolonged standing, walking, or running activities.

Rolled ankles typically occur when the foot rolls inward on itself, causing an outward shift of the bones in the ankle joint, which causes pain and swelling.

Tight muscles in your lower leg (quadriceps) or upper leg (hamstrings) can become more packed than usual. The issue may result from long periods of sitting or standing with your feet flat on the ground and other activities involving repetitive movements such as running or walking.

A weak calf muscle (gastrocnemius) that doesn't have enough strength to support the weight of your body when you walk or run may also make you more prone to rolled ankles. This issue can cause your lower leg to move inward, resulting in a painful sore on top of your ankle.

Symptoms of rolled ankles

doctor examining injured ankle

The primary symptom of a rolled ankle is pain around the joint where your toes meet your foot. Pain on the top of your ankle may also happen if you twist your foot while walking or jogging without shoes. You may also experience:

  • Pain when walking
  • Swelling in the area
  • Pain under the foot


If you have a fracture or sprain in your ankle joint, you'll likely need a doctor or physical therapist to put you back on track for recovery. If not, treatment will reduce strain on the injured area and prevent further injury. Try these steps:

  1. Place a cold compress on the injured area for 15 minutes every two hours for the first 24 hours after the injury (or until pain stops).
  2. Use a compression support sleeve to improve circulation and ease the pain.
  3. Keep your feet elevated if possible— sitting in an upholstered chair or resting on a pillow are excellent options.
  4. Avoid putting weight on the injured area until it heals completely—you should only put weight on it once it's completely healed and will no longer cause pain when touched lightly with a finger or thumb.

Sprained Ankles

Sprained ankles are a common injury, and overuse is the most common reason for ankle sprains.

If you're someone who walks around all day or spends time sitting down on your computer, it's easy to injure yourself without realizing it.

There are different types of ankle sprains. But the most common yet less known is the Medial malleolar sprain.

This ankle sprain occurs when you twist your foot inward as you run. The medial malleolus bone, located on the inside of your foot, can also be injured during this ankle sprain.

Sprained ankles are commonly caused by overstretching or twisting of the ankle joint. The injury may result from a fall, an abrupt change in direction or speed, or jumping.

Symptoms of Sprained Ankles

The first symptom you may realize is a sharp pain around your ankle that may be accompanied by swelling. Other symptoms include the following:

  • A feeling of instability and weakness on the foot
  • Tenderness when you press on your ankle
  • A limp feeling when walking


person holding ankle in pain

The key to treating a sprain is rest. Your ankle needs time to heal, so don't try to walk it off right away.

When you first try walking again, it may hurt a lot, so be sure you have plenty of time to slow down and ensure your foot doesn't twist while you walk.

If it hurts when you try to move your foot, stop moving it entirely until the pain disappears. The pain can take up to two weeks if there's no damage done to the ligaments—but if there is damage done, it could take longer for them to heal completely.

Apply ice packs to the affected area every 20 minutes for two hours and then two times per day for another two days. Before applying ice packs, you can also use a topical pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Elevate your leg if possible. Elevating an injured leg will help reduce swelling and keep blood circulating through the area faster than if it were just lying flat on its own (which may cause more damage).

If possible, elevate your leg by placing pillows under each knee and stretching one leg at a time.

For better stability, protection, and pain relief, use a recovery ankle brace. Using a boot for sprained ankles will speed up your recovery.

Strained Ankles

If you feel a sudden pain in your ankle, it's because you're doing something that stresses your ankle. A strain is an injury that occurs when a ligament or tendon has been stretched beyond its standard limit.

A strained ankle is a common problem for runners and other athletes. It's the most common type of running injury, and it's caused by the overuse or overstretching of a foot or lower leg muscle.

The lower leg features two bones: the tibia (the backbone) and the fibula (the smaller foot bone). The shoes you wear daily can stress these bones if you walk around for long periods or run.

Strained ankles happen due to excessive pronation (where you roll inward on your foot) and improper alignment of your feet with respect to each other when running.

One of the most common causes of a sprained ankle is wearing high heels. If you're wearing heels that are too high or have too much arch, it can put your ankles in a position where they aren't able to support your weight correctly—this can lead to an injury.

Another common cause of a sprained ankle is being on your feet for too long. If you're standing for hours at a time, your feet will become tired and sore, which can lead to an injury like this.

To prevent this kind of injury, don't over-pronate while running, especially if you've been doing it for a long time; avoid wearing high heels; wear supportive, well-made shoes; stretch before and after each run, and make sure your shoes fit correctly.

Strained Ankles Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms of a strained ankle:

  • Pain when walking or running
  • Pain when trying to put weight on the affected foot
  • Stiffness in the affected ankle
  • Possible swelling of the ankle


icing an injured ankle

If you're experiencing a strained ankle, the best thing you can do is to rest it as much as possible. To treat an ankle strain, apply ice as soon as possible after an injury occurs to help reduce swelling and inflammation.

Resting for 24 hours is also recommended for someone who has suffered an ankle strain so that their muscles can heal appropriately without putting added pressure on their joints.

If you still feel pain after this, try wearing shoes with a shorter heel, more support, and a thicker sole. If your ankle has swelled in size, you should see a doctor to ensure there are no other injuries or fractures involved.

After resting from sports activity for 24 hours, begin physical therapy as soon as possible with a trainer who specializes in treating sprains and strains of this nature so you can return to your favorite activities sooner rather than later.

Broken Ankles

Also known as an ankle fracture, a broken ankle is probably the most severe type of ankle injury.

Despite the severity of this injury, you can still get treatment and regain your healthy walking style. But, first, you need to understand the causes and symptoms of ankle breaks.

A broken ankle may result from a minor misfortune such as a fall or a misstep. However, the injury may also result from severe trauma, perhaps after a car or motorbike accident.

The severity of the ankle fracture differs depending on the degree of the trauma. For instance, a person who sustains ankle fractures following a car crash is likely to experience more severe symptoms than someone who sustains breaks after a misstep.

The reason is that the fractures range from small cracks to significant breaks that could pierce through your skin.


Here are some symptoms that you may experience after ankles breaks:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness around the area
  • Sharp or throbbing pain
  • Trouble walking
  • Deformed ankle

You may notice sounds such as a crack when your ankle breaks. But in some cases, the injury may be a sprain, so let a medical expert assess and diagnose you.

Although anyone can sustain broken ankles, some risk factors make some individuals more prone to this injury. For instance, if you engage in high-impact activities such as gymnastics, soccer, and basketball, you are at a higher risk of fractures due to the stress and hard impacts.

In the same way, if you are a beginner at the gym, you may not be well-versed with proper equipment usage, which puts you at risk of falls and twists that could cause ankle injuries.

If you are an athlete and suddenly increase your frequency or activity level, you put yourself at a higher risk of an ankle injury. And if your space is cluttered, you could easily hit yourself or fall, resulting in severe leg and foot injuries.

Surprisingly, smokers are at a much higher risk of ankle injuries. The reason is that tobacco makes individuals susceptible to osteoporosis, which may cause fractures that may take even longer to heal.


doctor wrapping an injured ankle

If you believe you have sustained a broken ankle after an accident, seek immediate medical attention. This step will allow your doctor to immobilize your ankle and may try to align the bones based on the severity of the fractures.

If the doctor can't align the bones, you may have to undergo an operation. But before that, try the RICE treatment (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) and take painkillers to manage the pain.

Sprained Ankle vs. Broken Ankle

Most individuals tend to use an ankle sprain and fracture interchangeably. However, while both injuries' symptoms are similar, the causes and treatment differ.

First, a sprained ankle happens when the ligaments around your ankle get torn, perhaps due to overstretching. The ligaments are stretchy, but if the stretch exceeds the limit, you will sustain a sprain.

On the other hand, a broken or fractured ankle is when a bone or several bones in your ankle fracture. Note that the broken bones can also cause ligament damage, but in this case, the injury will be termed as a fracture rather than an ankle sprain.

Both injuries may cause swelling, but you may get a deformity in the case of a broken ankle. The other difference is in the location and degree of pain. If you only feel pain in the tender area of your ankle, a sprain is the most likely cause.

On the contrary, if you experience pain over the hard area of the ankle where the bone is located, you probably have a fracture.

You can treat a sprain with ice or invest in a brace & reusable foot gel ice pack. Your ankle should get back to normal after some time. But in the case of a fracture, you need medical evaluation and probably undergo surgery for recovery.

Final Thoughts

Now that you understand sprained ankles vs. broken ankles, you are better positioned to protect yourself and take the proper measures if the unfortunate happens. Remember to always get a doctor to access and diagnose you to ensure your ankle injury heals.