Impingement of ankle

​Ankle impingement is a painful condition that prevents full movement of the ankle; it occurs when the soft tissues around the ankle become pinched.

Ankle impingement usually occurs when the ankle is fully bent, either up or down, causing pain at the front (anterior impingement) or the back (posterior impingement) of the ankle joint. Ankle impingement frequently occurs as a result of an ankle sprain, or it can be caused by arthritis.

Patients who have sprained their ankle and subsequently suffer ankle impingement usually experience pain and weakness in the joint for a long time after the original injury.

Ankle impingement is caused by a bony growth at the front or the back of the ankle bone. This bone spur can trap and squeeze soft tissues when the joint is moved fully up or down. This ‘impingement’ causes pain and can restrict movement in the joint.

Anterior ankle impingement is more common; it occurs at the front of the ankle and is frequently caused by a bad or a repeated ankle sprain. In this case, the ligaments get thicker and are pinched between the bottom of the shin bone and the bones of the foot. Subsequent healing can lead to the formation of too much scar tissue in the region, resulting in ankle impingement.

Posterior ankle impingement is less common; it occurs at the back of the ankle and is caused by a bony growth protruding at the back of the joint.

Symptoms of anterior ankle impingement include:

  • Pain at the front or the side of the ankle
  • Pain remaining after an ankle sprain has healed
  • Ankle weakness

Symptoms of posterior ankle impingement include:

  • Pain at the back of the ankle
  • Tenderness behind the bottom tip of the fibula (calf bone).
  • Pain worse at the end of the movement when the foot is pointed down
  • Doing tiptoes may be painful

Your doctor can usually identify the condition by discussing your symptoms and after a quick examination of your ankle. You may be referred for further diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or an MRI scan, after which treatment options can be recommended.

MRI scan

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a special technique that uses powerful magnets, radio waves and computers to produce detailed images (or scans) of the inside of your body.


An X-ray is used to diagnose and explore a wide variety of conditions mostly in the bones and joints, but can sometimes look at problems affecting soft tissues. They can also be used to monitor on-going conditions.

Impingement of ankle

​Ankle impingement (anterior ankle impingement or posterior ankle impingement) is usually successfully treated with rest or a steroid injection. More severe or recurring cases may sometimes require surgery.

What next?

If you are suffering with a suspected condition, you should seek the advice of your doctor who will be able to refer you to Benenden Hospital for diagnosis and treatment.

There are four ways to access treatment at Benenden Hospital which include self-funding, using private medical insurance or your Benenden membership, or through the NHS e-Referral scheme.