Ankle Pain after Hiking? Learn How to Recover Fast With These 5 Easy Steps

Hiking is a fantastic way to exercise while enjoying breathtaking views of nature. But walking up and down steep, uneven terrain can do a number on your ankles! Ankle pain after hiking is common, ranging from mild achiness to debilitating soreness.

Ankle Pain after Hiking? Learn How to Recover Fast With These 5 Easy Steps

You know how unpleasant this can be if you’ve ever limped back to the car after an extended trek nursing throbbing ankles. The good news is that proper treatment can relieve ankle pain quickly and recover quickly.

My friend Anne thought her hiking days were over after she badly sprained her ankle coming down a steep trail. But using the RICE technique—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—she was able to recover and get back out on the trails in just two weeks!

In this article, we’ll go over the top 5 steps to alleviate ankle pain fast so you can get back out on the trails pain-free. We’ll also cover essential prevention tips, specific treatments, and exercises to build ankle strength.

Step 1: Rest Your Ankles

It may seem obvious, but the first thing to do when you notice ankle pain after hiking is to give your ankles a break! Stay off your feet and avoid strenuous activity on your ankles for at least a few days. This gives the soft tissues and joints time to heal after being overworked.

Limit any exercise to low-impact activities like swimming, gentle yoga, or cycling to let your ankles fully recover. Sit with your feet above your heart whenever possible to promote circulation and reduce swelling.

Please don’t push it and jump back into hiking until the ankle pain subsides. Give those hard-working ankles the rest they deserve!

While resting your ankles initially is essential, there are some key preventative measures you can take before hitting the trails to help avoid ankle pain in the first place.

Prevent Ankle Pain Before Your Hike

  • Wear proper hiking shoes or boots that provide ankle support and stability. Boots with waterproofing, ankle support, and rugged traction are best for keeping your ankles stable on rough terrain. Break them in by wearing them around before longer hikes.
  • Do ankle and lower leg strengthening exercises to condition muscles and tendons before hiking season. Activities like toe raises, ankle eversions, alphabet tracing with toes, and calf stretch build strength to prevent injuries.
Ankle Pain after Hiking? Learn How to Recover Fast With These 5 Easy Steps1
Infographic with five illustrated ankle stretches
  • Warm up ankles before hiking with gentle range of motion exercises and light stretching. This boosts blood flow and prepares the joints and tissues for activity.
  • Use hiking poles to take some pressure off your lower body and provide stability on steep slopes or uneven ground.
  • Tape or brace vulnerable ankles that are prone to rolling or previous injuries. This provides added support and stabilization.
  • Start with shorter, more accessible hikes and gradually increase distance and terrain difficulty. Building hiking endurance over time stresses ankles less.

Step 2: Apply Ice

Applying ice is one of the most effective ways to find immediate relief from ankle pain and inflammation after hiking. Ice helps constrict blood vessels, slowing circulation and reducing swelling around the joint. It also numbs pain receptors providing temporary pain relief.

Wrap some ice cubes or a gel ice pack in a thin towel and apply it to the sore ankles for 10-15 minutes. You can repeat this every 2-3 hours but never apply ice directly on your skin. Also, avoid icing any area for over 20 minutes to prevent frostbite.

When David felt a sharp pain in his ankle after a long hike, he loaded on ice packs and ibuprofen for the first 48 hours. He said icing brought the swelling and throbbing down quickly so he could ditch the crutches after just a few days.

The cold therapy works wonders to quickly diminish post-hike ankle soreness so you can get back on your feet!

Step 3: Compress With a Bandage

Compressing your ankles with an elastic bandage or ankle brace provides gentle support and limits swelling. Wrap an elastic bandage snugly (but not too tight!) around the sore ankle. This compression helps restrict fluid build-up and minimizes inflammation.

You can also wear an over-the-counter ankle brace designed to provide mild compression. Look for one with stabilizing straps and adjustable closures for a customized fit. Wearing a brace can support weakened ankles and prevent re-injury. Please rely on something other than one long-term, as it can lead to ankle stiffness.

Marie swears by compression sleeves for keeping post-hike ankle swelling to a minimum. She slips them on after icing and keeps them on for a day or two to stabilize her ankles and prevent painful inflammation.

The light compression aids recovery by keeping swelling at bay so you avoid added discomfort.

Step 4: Elevate Your Feet

Here’s an easy one – keep those feet up! Elevating your ankles above the level of your heart helps promote blood and fluid drainage away from the ankles to diminish swelling.

Ankle Pain after Hiking? Learn How to Recover Fast With These 5 Easy Steps2
Feet elevated on pillows

Prop your feet up on a couple of pillows, an ottoman, or a coffee table anytime you are resting or sleeping. You can even elevate the affected ankle higher than the other one to target the sore spot.

Gravity will work hard as fluid flows away from your feet and ankles when elevated. Stick with this simple trick anytime you are idle to curb swelling.

Aim to elevate feet for 30 minutes 3-4 times daily to minimize post-hike ankle inflammation effectively.

Step 5: Take Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) can provide pain relief from ankle soreness and inflammation. They work by blocking the production of inflammatory chemicals that trigger pain and swelling.

Always follow dosage instructions and don’t exceed the recommended amount. While anti-inflammatories can help alleviate symptoms, they aren’t a cure. Use them judiciously along with other treatments for the best results.

With the combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, ankle pain from hiking should subside within a few days to a week. But if the soreness persists for longer than a week or two, see your doctor to rule out potential fractures or other injuries.

When to See a Doctor

Consult your doctor if:

  • Pain does not improve after two weeks of home treatment.
  • You hear/feel a popping sound at the time of injury.
  • Ankle pain is accompanied by significant swelling or bruising.
  • You are unable to bear weight on the ankle or have difficulty walking.

Seeking prompt medical care is crucial if you have severe ankle pain and other red-flag symptoms. Getting the proper treatment sooner can aid recovery and prevent complications.


Ankle pain after hiking can be a drag, but it doesn’t have to hold you back for long. Following these five simple treatment steps and preventative measures can help you bounce back fast so you can get back out enjoying the trails again. Rest up those ankles initially, then apply ice, compression, and elevation to reduce swelling and discomfort. The anti-inflammatory medication also alleviates pain and inflammation.

James thought he would never hike again after a bad ankle sprain left him in a boot for weeks. But taking time to fully rehab and strengthen his ankles before hitting the trails meant he could get back to hiking pain-free.

Remember pre-hike prevention! Taking measures to strengthen and stabilize ankles beforehand will help you avoid pain in the first place. With a bit of TLC for your ankles, the soreness should subside quickly, and you’ll be hiking happily again in no time!

About The Author