What It Really Means When Your Ankle Pops

If you notice that when you walk, run, stretch in a yoga class, or pedal a bike, your ankle makes a popping noise, don't worry. Most of the time, ankle popping is akin to knuckle-cracking: a little annoying when it happens during a quiet moment in a yoga class, but safe. 

The cause of ankle popping is also similar to when knuckles crack. Either built-up nitrogen gas bubbles are releasing, or the tendons around your ankles are rubbing over the bones. The release of gas pockets is often caused by tighter tendons, so if you notice your ankles popping as you step out of bed in the morning or during your first walk of the day, that's perfectly normal. If you've had ankle sprains or strains, it's likely that your ankle pops are caused by those tendons rubbing over bones. As long as pain doesn't accompany the pop, don't stress (via Healthline).

Can ankle popping be stopped?

Studies have found that ankle pops aren't a problem (via the Feet First Clinic). While it's not therefore necessary to put a stop to ankle cracking, if you find that it happens often or simply hate the sound or feeling, you can take steps to avoid it. 

Improving ankle mobility may, over time, decrease the amount of popping and crunching that your ankle does. The Feet First Clinic recommends doing calf raises to strengthen ankle joints, lying down and writing out the alphabet with your foot while focusing on slow ankle movement, doing foot circles in the air slowly to work through your ankle's range of motion, and focusing on single leg balance to improve both the strength and mobility of your ankle joints. 

However, if your ankle popping is causing swelling or pain, or hindering your ability to walk or run comfortably, it's time to seek medical attention. The cause could be osteoarthritis, a tendon injury or something more serious (via Medical News Today).