What To Do If You Roll an Ankle

Alright, let’s set the scene…

It’s a bright sunny day with a cool breeze blowing in the wind. You’re having a great hiking time listening to the birds chirp as you walk pass the saguaros. Then all of the sudden, it happens. You step down wrong on a rock, feel that awful rolling feeling in your ankle, and you’re down on the ground.  What do you do?

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One of the most common injuries to hikers and backpackers occurs in the ankle. Therefore, before going on your next hike, let’s make sure you know how to handle the situation. Better to be prepared then fear it, right?

The first step is not to panic. Remain calm and give yourself a few minutes to relax and assess the situation. Take all the weight off of it, so stay laying down or take a seat.

It might be your first instinct to remove your shoe, but you need to keep it on. I’m going to say it again for emphasis….Keep Your Shoe On. The reason being is that your foot may swell up and then you won’t be able to put the shoe back on. So keep that shoe on!

From here it’s time to assess the situation. Can you wiggle your toes, move your ankle? If you can move it then you will want to wrap it up and do your best to walk out of this situation.

The best thing to reduce the pain is to put something cold on it. So if you have a water pack, you may need to rig it around your ankle. You’ll also want to wrap your foot.

medic treating patient

If you have an ace bandage on you then great! But, if not, trying using a t-shirt, bandana, towel or anything else you might have. Alright, at this point, you might be asking, “how can I wrap my foot if I shouldn’t take my foot out of the shoe?!” Good question.

At this point if it is that bad, try your best to wrap while still having the shoe on or if necessary, remove the shoe, but do it very quickly. I think it all depends on the situation and how your body reacts.

Begin wrapping at the toes and work your way up. Make sure it’s tight but no so tight that it’s cutting off circulation.

Try to hike out of the area, as best you can without putting weight on the ankle. This may mean using a trekking pole or finding a stick that can be used in place of one.

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If the ankle is real bad, then you may have to create a splint for it. To do this, you will need to find object around that you can mold as a hard shell around your foot. Whether it is formed from sticks or material in your pack, try to create something that will hold your ankle steady. Then wrap your ankle and your newly created splint up in an ace bandage or other material.

There are also options to purchase splints to carry around with you in your pack, or even just having the materials to make one in your pack may be a good idea. Again, it’s something to take seriously since it is a common occurrence.

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