About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very "social" patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles --- all geared to improve your quality of life. Please read our Disclaimer

62 comments on “Why Does My Ankle Pop? You Asked, We Answered.

  1. Sometimes I’m randomly walking and I feel my ankle Lock and then I roll my ankle for it to go away but it pops and there is a sharp pain that last for 30 to 1 min, the pain is always to bad it makes me gasp. This prevents me from jogging and jump roping. I’m only 15 years old and this has been going on for about 3 years. Is it possible I have arthritis at such a young age? I just want to be able to go to the gym once again. Should I see a doctor and get an X-ray?

    1. Very unlikely you have arthritis at your age…. but there are many other reasons why your ankle might pop. You need a good exam and perhaps an X-ray to start off with.

      1. I also have this issue and it usually happens when I’m going downstairs. Not when I put my weight on my foot, but rather just before my foot touches the next step. I’m 31 and haven’t had any major sprains or anything like that, but this has been happening since I was about 10 years old. I saw a podiatrist who did an x-ray, found nothing, and figured I had plantar fasciitis. I took hydrocodone for 7 years bc of it and recently went to a pain specialist at the referral of my new PCP bc he was “not comfortable” giving me my pain meds anymore. The pain specialist suggested I was misdiagnosed by the podiatrist and that I was in fact experiencing tendinitis, which would not have been seen in an x-ray. He said the original doctor should have requested an MRI and refused to give me pain meds other than Voltaren gel. It doesn’t help. I’ve tried wrapping it with an ACE bandage for support and warmth (since it happens more frequently with cold weather) and even that doesn’t help. Do you know of any doctors in Georgia that you can recommend? I can’t afford to see anymore “specialists” who don’t know what they’re talking about and I’m ready to get to the bottom of this.

      2. You’ll need a good Orthopedic – foot and ankle exam and perhaps an MRI if the doc feels that it is necessary. Most cases of painful snapping in young folks are treatable.
        Good Luck !

  2. I had a really bad sprain and possible damage to ligaments/tendons when I was 14. I’m now 42 and my ankle is constantly popping and cracking and snapping. At times, it seems to be “stuck” and after some significant pain and even trouble with full weight bearing, it will work itself out over a day or two, with popping almost every time I walk. I don’t expect you to diagnose this, but at my age would I benefit from a surgical scope to check out wear and tear damage and would healing from that be more significantly damaging than just dealing with this?

  3. I recently sprained my ankle. Judging by the pain and ability to bear weight without severe pain, considering I’ve previously sprained the other ankle 6 times, ranging from mild to severe, I did not get it checked out and instead employed the RICE method on my own. It has been a week since the initial injury and most of the swelling, pain, and bruising are gone. There is still some pain with weight bearing and occasionally some tightness in the joint, but it seems to be healing quite nicely.
    That said, it often makes a popping sound when I have to bend it front to back, as with walking down stairs, and indeed going down stairs is when it feels it’s weakest, partly for that reason. I don’t recall experiencing this with any of the previous injuries and was wondering if this is common shortly after a sprain and/or if I should get it examined by a doctor.

  4. My ankle has popped fairly frequently ever since I was a child. I am now 25 years old and it continues to do so. There is no pain or any sensation involved with the popping and it primarily occurs while walking and occasionally at the beginning of a jog. I am overall very healthy and in good physical shape with no other complaints. Is this something I should be concerned with?

  5. I am 15 years old and have been noticing for the past couple months that when I’m walking or running my ankle will ‘pop’ and feel stiff. It then feels sore to move it to certain extents, and going down stairs is sometimes tricky, though putting weight on the ankle is not a problem. I play soccer so sometimes this happens and affects my running. Three days ago, at my soccer game, my ankle popped 2 or 3 times like this, and now there is a small bump that feels hard like a bone. It’s on the inside of my ankle next to the bone that sticks out a bit (not sure what is called. haha) it still hasn’t gone away, though the stiff feeling in my ankle is also there. theres no bruising, and other than the bump it feels like it normally does when I pop my ankle. Any idea of what this is? Thanks!

    1. Hi Syd ..
      There are a few things that could be. At your age and with those complaints you need to see your doctor for an Xray and examination.
      Good Luck!

  6. I have had many many injuries to my ankles while playing all sports in high school I’m now almost 24 and every time I walk it pops. Not a quite pop either. It’s been doing that for months and sometimes they swell now I’m starting to get pain and I’m having to ice it.
    What sort of Dr is suggested for this sort of issues?

  7. Im Brittany,
    Recently I was at a camp where I am a CIT.
    All the younger kids were chasing me. I landed on my ankle wrong, it was very painful, but no swelling or tenderness. The director gave me some ice and I wasnt on it the rest of the day. The next day when I started walking my ankle kept popping.
    I have been very careful and havent done any running activities.
    I play a lot of sports though. I didn’t go to any of my sports last week.
    But it just keeps popping. Sometimes its painful sometimes it is not.
    What should I do?
    Thanks!

    1. That sounds like a situation where you should see an Orthopedist for an exam and possible X-ray.

  8. Hi, I’m 14 years old and for the last year and a half I have been noticing that both my ankles snap/crack every time I take a step. Not all the time but sometimes I have a very stiff feeling in my ankle and sometimes I can feel a sharp pains. I’m a competitive dancer who trains 20-25 hours a week and has had a few ankle sprains. Most of the pain is in my right ankle but can occasionally happen to the left. The pain is normally located on the outer side of my ankles right below the bone. Should I go to the doctor? Thank you for your help.

    1. HI Samantha…
      Being a competitive dance who probably wants to continue to dance I would see an orthopedist with special foot and ankle training to figure out what’s going on.

  9. Hello, I’m 40 years old and I sprained my ankle in Jan. of 2016. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced outside of child birth and a dry socket! It instantly swelled to the size of a softball. I iced it and used ibuprofen for a week ( as well as crutches for 3 days) and within 2 weeks the swelling and bruising was gone. I was still having a lot a swelling and moderate pain so I went to the dr for X-rays. There wasn’t any sign of a break so I sent on my way. My ankle still swells everyday by evening and “pops and cracks” all the time. Should I be concerned??????

    1. Seems reasonable to continue the evaluation process to find out why your ankle still swells.
      Perhaps an MRI would be useful. I can not say whether or not you require anything without examining you.

  10. Dr. Luks,

    Thank you for writing this article.
    Both my ankles snap loudly when I walk ( this makes it very difficult to sneak up on people, by the way). They have good days and bad days; sometimes they won’t snap at all, and other days I walk/run to the rhythm of my popping ankles. I’ve had this condition for eight years (I am twenty one), and never had any pain until a few months ago, when my ankles were sore for a few days after running. Now, every time I do something intense (a good game of basketball, a long run, etc.), my ankles are a bit sore for the next couple days. Just a bit, but sore nonetheless.
    You would no doubt recommend seeing an orthopedist. I no doubt will, but wanted to know what you think it is, and what I should expect.
    Thank you very much,
    Eli

  11. I have had a sprained ankle (or at least I think it’s sprained) for like two and a half months now and whenever I move it it pops and it is swollen. Do you think it is serious?

    1. Popping which occurred after a sprain can indicate a few different potential problems. I would see a good Orthopedist with foot and ankle training,

      1. Good day Dr Howard! Before starting I would say I am not a native English speaker. Thanks for your advices on this site
        2 years ago I broke my left tibia while playing soccer , leg was casted from the foot to the knee but some days later I started suffering ankle pain, I let it know to my doctor and he kept saying nothing wrong until cast was removed. My ankle has been paining me until I did an mri found a fracture of lateral process of the ankle also I did an CT scan 2 days ago which confirm it. What is the diagnosis? Any solution to overcome this problem?

        I look forward to reading you.

        Michel

  12. I think mine is a peroneal pop, Everytime i twist my foot i feel a ligament passing through my ankle and it pops , It hurts until i move the ligament to its original place, What should i do ?

  13. Hello my name is Trista and I’m 16 I have been hearing my ankle pop every time I take a step and it’s never in pain I don’t remember ever injuring my ankle what should I do? Is it something to worry about?

  14. Hi, my name is Bella, and I am 14. Some background info: I have been diagnosed with amplified muscular skeletal pain syndrome for about six months. ( I have seen many doctors to get this diagnoses.) I am taking a drug called Gabapentin to help calm the nerve pain. I run track and cross country and I commonly sprain my ankles. It is rare that I sprain my left ankle, it’s usually the right one. I was a toe-walker until the age of five, and the doctors say that this deformed the tendon in my right foot. Now whenever I stand my foot rolls inwards. I have gotten custom inserts because my feet are different than most, and over the counter inserts weren’t working. I used to play soccer and I sprained my ankles ALL the time. I couldn’t even go to practice without wearing heavy duty ankle braces on both feet. The sport was causing me too much pain so I quit. Running long distance is easier on my ankles than soccer was, but it always seems like I injure myself mid-season, and sometimes the doctor makes me quit. Last year I severely sprained my right ankle and the doctor thought it was a break. It wasn’t, but I had crutches until it healed. I have noticed since about the time the sprain healed my right ankle has been making popping sounds. I don’t have a full range of motion in this foot, but everytime my toes move downwards, if that makes sense, my ankle makes a snapping noise. It hurts slightly in the ankle joint. It is only in the right foot. But I am taking a medicine to reduce my pain levels. Whenever I walk, it occasionally snaps. Even when its not snapping it still hurts. I go to a Rheumatoid pediatric doctor every 3 months, should I be going to an additional doctor to address this problem? Sorry this is so long, thank you so much if you read it!

    1. Hello my name is ivan
      I was playing soccer just yesterday when I felt something on my ankle but I wasn’t sure what it was then a couple of minutes later my left ankle started popping every time I rotated my foot. It is still popping every time I rotate my foot and sometimes when I rotate it it feels like if it locks up and I have to use a little bit of strength to completely rotate it. There is no pain or swelling. Is this bad? should I see a doctor? what can I do myself to stop this popping and locking?

      1. Yes .. I would suggest that your see a sports medicine doctor. There are different reasons why your ankle is becoming locked. A good exam and an Xray will help determine why this is happening.

  15. Hello From France
    I broke my external malleolus 6 weeks ago and am currently out of cast. No bone displacement and no apparent diastasis.
    Am light walking now with crutches and will start therapy on Tuesday. What is considered normal calf pain at this point? I feel the outside of my calf (peronii??) is very sore and irritated. In addition a bit of popping
    On inside of ankle from time to time. I’m still on Lovenox but everyone is the US thinks this is nuts. Thank you for your advice!!

    1. There are a some Orthos in the US who will use DVT prophylaxis for patients in a case/immobilization. Especially for those with high risk factors — family history, birth control pills, smoking, etc.
      Tough to say what “normal” calf pain is. After a while in a cast — which is unusual in the US for a non-displaced lateral mal fracture — it is normal for the muscles to hurt as they start to see a resistance load once again.
      Many people will experience discomfort, popping etc after a period of immobilization due to scar tissue formation, ligament stiffness, etc. Give it some time…

  16. Thank you!
    It’s comforting to have an opinion from back home.
    I’ve been told to keep administering lovenox shots until I can walk for 1,5 hrs/day (far more than an average day for me)
    I am able to walk with crutches on 40% weight but am unclear as to why I need to keep the shots.
    No other Dvt factors….

  17. While I am already going to get a 2nd opinion, that appointment is not for a month.

    2 Fridays ago, and then 2 days ago, my right ankle popped rather painfully resulting in quite a bit of swelling.

    I had ankle surgery on August 11th. It was lateral ligament reconstruction with peroneal tendon transfer and a scope of the talar cartilage.

    2 Wednesdays ago, my ankle was tripped over, and x-rays showed several problems, one in particular was lucency involving the medial talar dome which could indicate focal subchondral osteopenia or osteochondral injury.

    Can you explain what this means? My surgeon says it’s nothing.

    1. An osteochondral injury means that both the cartilage and the bone on a small area of the talus has been injured. These can be traumatic or part of a process we call osteochondritis dessicans (OCD).

  18. My 13 YO son’s ankle has recently started cracking/popping loudly when he walks. It is frequent – every third or fourth step. There is no pain associated with it. Interestingly, our older son had surgery on his knee for Osteochondritis Dessicans last year. We were told at the time there is a genetic link. I was researching the ankle cracking today to determine if I should take him in to have it looked at when I came across the suggestion that one cause can be osteochondritis dessicans. I guess I better get him in to see the doctor.

  19. Injured my ankle. I had an avulsion fracture on the interior? malleolus (I think that is what it is called). I have had tendon issues since. I have had cortinzone shots and MRI/xrays. No diagnosis and continued pain.

    I have a snapping/popping in the outside front of my ankle. The same spot as the popping is painful to firm palpation of the area. I also continue to have paid by the area that was the fracture.

    The MRI was not conclusive and only showed some clouding in some of the tendons (possible longitudinal tears?)

    I am hoping to find something to give some guidance to the doctor or to know what type of injury I may be looking at, but the information is generally vague on the websites for me to find anything.

    Should I continue with the sports medicine expert I am seeing now, or should I go to a surgical podiatrist/orthopedist?

    1. Check out our post on peroneal tendon subluxation. It can happen after these injuries. Then see a specialist for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

  20. I sprained my ankle several times this year. My ankle has recovered now however every time I stand on my toes, or go up on releve, my ankle feels extremely unstable or feels like its going to pop. Sometimes it pops and I end up in extreme pain. Should I seek physical therapy or get an ankle support sleeve?

  21. I sprained my left ankle about 3-4 weeks ago, I let it rest for about 1 week before I started playing on it. I can’t seem to run without limping, its like I can’t put weight on it. Once I warm up and stop paying attention to it then I can run on it without too much difficulty. I feel a lot of pain whenever I stiffen my foot and try to turn it towards my left side. I feel the pain on the inside of my ankle near the back. Whenever I first injured my ankle I felt all the pain in my shin, like I had pulled a muscle. My ankle didn’t swell up until the next day, so I didn’t ice it because I didn’t think I had sprained my actual ankle. After I’m done playing, that’s when I feel the most pain.

    1. Many ankle sprains, especially “high” ankle sprains take much longer to get better than we ever anticipate.
      If you’re concerned it might be a good idea to see a sports doc for an exam and possible xrays.

  22. I am 15 years old. I haven’t ever had any serious ankle injuries, just rolled them a few times, as one does. For a while now, my ankles have been doing this thing where I will feel a sort of pressure in them and I have to pop them to get the pressure to go away. It’s normally not painful, but it makes my ankles feel stiff. I run cross country, so I’m wondering if that is part of the problem. Also, the pops aren’t little. The are pretty “hearty” pops, if you know what I mean. I hope you can help!

    1. HI Josie…
      There are many reasons why your ankle joints are popping. Usually the type of popping you describe occurs more often in the morning. It can be due to a synovitis or inflammation from running. The popping can also be due to other less common issues. At your age it is a good idea to have a Sports Medicine doctor take a look at you. Many of these cases do not require surgery… most will resolve over time or after physical therapy. After a doctor sees you and looks at your xrays they will have a much better idea as to why your ankles are popping.

  23. My ankles pop and click only when I’m jump roping. They’re painless so I don’t really care much for it but the thing is that it pops and clicks every. single. time. It doesn’t sort of, just stop – even for a second. With every jump I take they make a sound. Is that worrisome?
    I’m 21 years old by the way.

    1. Usually not Derek… but if you are concerned it may be worth having a Sports Medicine doctor check out your ankles

  24. Hey I sprained my ankle(left) back on February 14th of this year, its was diagnosed as a Grade 2 sprain, and I was instructed to wear an ankle splint for 8 weeks and follow the R.I.C.E. procedure. Four months down the road and I’m able to walk alright. I play soccer, so every now and then I run a little and jump a bit, but after awhile my foot feels a little tingly, my ankle pops a lot when I rotate my ankle by doing a circular motion, and sometimes when I walk. I’m making progress, because in 3 weeks I went from not even able to run at all, to a slight jog, to a light run. I’m not fully confident by trying any vigorous exercise on it, and it feels like it’s one twist away from going back to square one. Right under the ball of my ankle I feel a bit of a slight pain when I rotate my ankle. So what should I do?

    1. I would see a Sports Medicine doc… a good exam and perhaps an MRI might help determine the cause of your popping. The exam is probably more important. Popping can come from residual instability ( the ligaments are loose), or snapping of the tendons on the side of the ankle…. as well as other less common reasons.
      Good luck

      1. Okay, should I go back to being on crutches and R.I.C.E. or can I still walk around as long as I wear my Ace Wrap?

  25. After a swimming lesson I did last summer, my ankle started popping every time I rotate it. It’s been a year now, and it still does. But it doesn’t hurt. My parents think it’s fine, but should I see a doctor

  26. Hi,
    I recently fractured my ankle and have been healing just fine ( currently rocking an ankle support brace) only as of 2 days ago my ankle crackles and if it fails to there’s a sharp pain that doesn’t last long when I walk. I’m wondering if this is normal or if there’s need to see my doctor before my review date which is in a week? And also what is causing it?

    1. I really couldn’t begin to guess what’s wrong. If you are concerned then you can move up your appointment.

  27. I was working on a roof all last week and my ankle started popping and seems like its unstable. No pain unless I loose balance and it rolls. I bought a velcro brace so my foot doesn’t fall off. 37, no insurance. Think this will eventually go away or should I add it to the list of being old?

    1. You need to be very careful… and you should be tethered/tied off if you continue to work on a roof. If these symptoms continue you need to consider and exam and xrays. I would not attribute this to age… 37 is def not old.

  28. Should I see a doctor if randomly I start to crack or pop my ankle so much to where if I stop cracking it the pain and being uncomfortable is unbearable to where I need to keep cracking it and sometimes I cry because it bothers me so much and sometimes it effects my sleep and I can’t focus on my school work.I am just 11 at the moment I can’t focus on my school work

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