View Full Version : Preventative measures for ankle sprains.....

2004-01-20, 00:23
For two tears in a row I've made attempts at The Appalachian Trail.
The firt year I started Baxter State Park. I weighed in at 310 lbs w/ a 55 lb pack. I made it as far as Monson, when after spraining my ankle 7 times in just 90 some odd miles, I just gave up.

Last year I attempted a northbound hike from Springer Mt. Then I was 320 lbs w/a 40-45lb pack. After spraining my ankle 6 times in just over 100 some odd miles, I once again gave up near Franklin NC.

Needless to say I'm still a bit on the chunky side at 320lbs. I mean I've tried eating salads and I've tried high protein low carb diets. That usually lasts about two weeks before I'm ready to rip someone's arms off for a Double Whopper or a Big Mac Super Sized value meal.
Now.... I've been going to the gym for the last month and a half. Upon my first few work-outs the trainer did my lean body mass evaluation with some hand held device and some simple equation which would stupify Albert Einstein. I'm at 320lbs w/26% bodyfat. OK....
I know that sounds like alot. I could lose some weight. The stuff that have to eat to lose weight leaves me with absolutely no eneregy. So I've put losing the weight out of my mind. I don't look fat. If anyone were to see me you'd most likely say, and most people do say "My God That's A Big Dude" When I was in the Army I passed all of my APFT's and weighed nearly 270 lbs. The tape test kept me in because my chest and neck were so large in conjunction to my waist size. I bench press over 350lbs I squat over 500lbs so I feel like I'm in fairly good condition. So here's the problem that I have. Everyone says lose weight and you wouldn't sprain your ankle. I say I'm in fair enough shape to hike the trail. I just have a bad ankle.
First of all.... Is there a technique anyone out there uses to help prevenet ankle sprains going down hill on long hikes? Going up hill is not a problem, I only sprain my ankle going down hill. I believe it's because when going up hill you have a tendancy to look at every step you take, but going down hill, there are too many distractions and I take my eye's off the trail.
Second of all.... Do most people watch every step they take? Or, do they look ahead a couple of 100 feet like when driving a car. It seems like going down hill on steep grades I tend to have to watch every step I take, least I step on a small pebble and bust my rump.
Thirdly.... I've been told to use prosthetics or mediative supports inside my boots which just end up giving me blisters. Some once told me to use a lacing method called the hikers hitch when lacing my boots. Does anyone else know how this is done?
And finally.... Just for common knowledge is it easier going uphill for people or down hill for people. It seems that going uphill is much more simple for me than going down hill.
Any information about lateral ankle sprains and the prevention of would be appreciated.

2004-01-20, 14:48
Im not a doctor but I do have problems with my ankles twisting and spraining. The only thing your body weight has to do with ankle sprains is that being a big guy ,that extra weight coming down on your ankle as it twists can and will cause more damage than if you weighed less. But losing weight is not going to lessen the frequency of those sprains.If you have had ankle injuries in the past(even when you were a kid) that could have alot to do with it. I had a pallet jack loaded with about 1500lbs roll onto my foot back in 93 and when the jack stopped my ankle was bent at a 90 degree angle to the floor!I think the only reason it didnt break is because Ive always done alot of walking. But once you stretch those ligaments(sp?) so far they wont go back to the way they were before and since then that ankle twists pretty easy. TRy to buy hiking shoes/boots that give good ankle support(for me low tops are out!).Also Ive noticed that some hiking shoes have thicker heels than others and these cause my ankles to turn more often. I try to find boots that have lower heels that keep my feet in a more natural position and these help considerably. Also wearing a light brace helps and doing toe raises with the front of my foot on a 2x4 has helped strengthen them also. One of the biggest things you can do to help prevent furthur injuries is always remember to warm up!!! before every hike warm the ankles up and especially in the mornings after spending a night in a cool/cold shelter/tent joints get stiff!! Stretch and warm up before hitting the trail. Besides supporting your ankles another thing a brace does is add a bit of extra warmth to that area which helps alot. Anyway thats what I do and I hope this helps !! Good luck and happy hiking. Streamweaver

2004-01-20, 15:40
Thanks for the info Streamweaver. It makes a lot of sense to stretch beforehand. I'm usually so eager to make up for lost time that I put off stretching. I'll be sure to stretch before I head out of camp this time.
I'm going to try wearing my New Balance 704's this year. It seems that my Technica Boots w/Vibram soles have causes more sprains than any other boot that I've worn. The soles are just so rigid that every little pebble makes my ankle role out from under me. I now have my pack weight down to 25lbs w/food and water.
I had a similar mishap when working on a loading dock. The folding lip from a liftgate opened up when someone dropped the liftgate on the back of the truck and it smashed my ankle.
Once again thanks for the info...
I'm so eager to get back on the trail. I've have such a good time out there, but I absolutely dread ruining my time out there with acute ankle sprains. It's a constant downer.

2004-01-30, 11:51
Check with your local orthopedic Dr. or physical therapy group.
They can usually give you a cheat sheet with some ankle strengthing exercises. I used to manage a clinic and they all have'em.

Build up the collateral muscles and it will help.

2004-01-30, 16:34
Originally posted by doc
Check with your local orthopedic Dr. or physical therapy group.
They can usually give you a cheat sheet with some ankle strengthing exercises. I used to manage a clinic and they all have'em.

Build up the collateral muscles and it will help.
I'm not sure if you got my last post reply, but thanks for the reply Doc.
I've suffered from severe acute ankle sprains since I was a little kid. I'm sure I've done some serious ligament damage over the years, but I've just tried to live with it as best I can. Sometimes being careful just isn't enough. Good advise though. It makes for a very unpleasant trip when the severity of sprains gets worse and worse and worse. Like I said initially, It's a real downer. I've been looking into orthodic inserts for my boots that give both lateral support and which deepen the heel pocket of my boot. I love my Technica hiking boots (which are now broken in like a glove) but the rigidness of the Vibram sole gives me a false sense of security. Going downhill is were I do most of the damage due to the fact that that's where I pick up speed. I tend to overlook little things like roots and small pebbles that go unforeseen due to the scenery. If I take my eye off the trail for one minute down I go. With my size and weight it's usually pretty concerning (along with being loud). I end up hobbled for a couple of days to a week. Rather than spending a lot of money for a couple of days in town I end up buying a bus ticket home. I believe I have two options concerning the prevention of sprains in this matter.
1. Lateral orthodics which would take alot of the pressure off the collateral ligaments in my calf and straighten up my stance. I tend to supinate just slightly in both feet. It doesn't bother me in normal walking but after a long hike my feet get really sore and weak, especially along that tendon along the last metatarsal. It sometimes becomes inflammed and sometimes the pain radiates up the lateral long bone of my foot. Giving me reason to believe that orthodics may do the trick. Or
2. Look for a new pair of boots which offer better lateral support with a deeper heel pocket. Last year I tried an after market product called Superfeet for hiking boots, which were very comfortable but didn't make a bit of difference supportively. I'm wondering if, in concern to the price of new boots today, if I should leave more room in the toe box of my boot to allow for swelling as well. My toes tend to spread out while walking long distances as I'm sure everyones feet do.
Anyway those seem like my options concerning prevention. Those two options, along with stretching before and after hiking should make for an interesting journey.
Again thank you for replying to my post. I've really been worried about this trip as I don't want all this time to be wasted doing research only to find out I had other options concerning the matter.