When Is It Safe to Start Running After an Ankle Fracture?

You will likely be able to run again after an ankle fracture, but it will take some time to recover. Many people can start running three to four months after a break.

You may need to wear a cast for quite some time to allow the break to heal properly. This immobilization can cause your ankle to become weak and the muscles to feel tight, and you might wonder if your ankle will ever be the same.

Fortunately, there is a safe way to determine when to start running after ankle surgery, and physical therapy can help you get there faster.

This article discusses the healing process after an ankle fracture, and how you can decide when it is safe to start running again.

Photo of a woman running
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Healing After an Ankle Fracture

Before you can begin running again, you will need to overcome these impairments that are common after a broken ankle or ankle surgery:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Loss of range of motion (ROM)
  • Decreased strength
  • Scar tissue tightness (if you have had surgery)
  • Decreased balance and proprioception
  • Difficulty walking, running, and driving a car

You may initially be required to walk with an assistive device like a walker or crutches after breaking your ankle. Your physical therapist can help you choose the correct device. They can also make sure that your assistive device is properly sized for you and that you are using it properly.

Your physical therapist can work with you to help you improve your mobility. He or she may prescribe exercises designed to increase ankle ROM. Strengthening and plyometric exercises may be done to ensure that the muscles that support your ankle are strong, and a biomechanical ankle platform system (BAPS) board may be used to help improve balance and proprioception in your injured leg.

Wolff's law states that bone grows in response to the stresses that are placed upon it. Your physical therapist will help you progress through the proper stages of weight-bearing to make sure that adequate and appropriate stress is placed on your healing ankle.

When You Can Start Running Again

Everyone is different, and many factors may limit your ability to return to running after an ankle fracture or surgery. These include:

  • The severity of the break
  • Whether or not surgery was performed
  • The success of physical therapy
  • The amount of effort you put into your rehabilitation
  • A little bit of luck

In general, you can attempt to start running about three to four months after your injury. By this time, the bones in your ankle should be well healed and your ROM and strength should be close to normal. You can slowly increase your distance as long as your pain is minimal and your ROM and strength remain excellent.

By six to nine months after your injury, you should be able to run without problems.

Again, everyone is different and every injury is different. Some people are able to run much sooner after breaking their ankle. Unfortunately, some people continue to be limited by pain, loss of ROM, or limited strength long after their injury and may take longer to return to running.

There are some people who can never get back to running, even after putting in their best effort to regain normal mobility and strength around their ankle.

You must work closely with your healthcare provider and physical therapist to be sure that running is safe for you and to set realistic goals and expectations after an ankle fracture. This includes having a realistic idea of your injury and your own personal capabilities.


Recovering from an ankle fracture can be a difficult process, but most people are able to start running again three to four months after the break. Your physical therapist can help you with strengthening and range of motion exercises that can help speed up the process.

It is important to start running again only when you are fully healed, have excellent range of motion, and minimal pain.

A Word From Verywell

An ankle fracture can be a painful injury, and it may take considerable time and effort to return to your previous level of activity. If you are a runner who has suffered an ankle fracture, chances are you are eager to return to running as soon as possible.

Working with your healthcare provider and physical therapist can ensure that you create a solid plan for you to quickly and safely return to running.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McPhail SM, Dunstan J, Canning J, Haines TP. Life impact of ankle fractures: qualitative analysis of patient and clinician experiencesBMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2012;13:224. doi:10.1186/1471-2474-13-224

  2. Del buono A, Smith R, Coco M, Woolley L, Denaro V, Maffulli N. Return to sports after ankle fractures: a systematic review. Br Med Bull. 2013;106:179-91 doi:10.1093/bmb/lds039

  3. Beckenkamp PR, Lin CW, Chagpar S, Herbert RD, van der Ploeg HP, Moseley AM. Prognosis of physical function following ankle fracture: a systematic review with meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014;44(11):841-51. doi:10.2519/jospt.2014.5199

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.