Have you ever noticed you have popping and/or cracking joints in your feet and ankles when you walk?
When walking, our tendons and ligaments stretch and move, and our joints open. Sometimes, if either of these structures is tight, then gases release, causing a popping sound.
Causes of Cracking Joints:
Our joints have synovial fluid within them, which acts as a lubricant. The synovial fluid consists of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When these gases release, we can hear a popping noise. If our joints are tight, when walking we can stretch the joint capsule eliciting a popping sound from the release of these gases.
If we have tighter ligaments and tendons, they too can release a popping sound when our foot moves. This is because these connective tissues will quickly move across a joint then back into place which releases gas.
When Should You be Concerned About Cracking Joints:
There are certain instances however that can also cause popping or clicking joints in the ankle and a podiatry assessment is advisable. This includes noticing a popping and or licking sound after an ankle sprain or associated with pain and swelling. An example of conditions that can cause this are:
After an injury or osteoarthritis, damage can occur to the cartilage at the end of our bones. This may cause the joint to stiffen up and lock, and can also have surrounding swelling and/or pain.
Peroneal tendon subluxation:
Repeated ankle sprains can damage the retinaculum which holds important tendons and ligaments around the feet and ankle in place. In doing so, the peroneal tendon, which helps to stabilise the ankle, on the outside of the ankle is no longer held in place and can rapidly move back and forth from its position behind the ankle. In doing so, a pop sound may occur as it passes the bone.
For the above two conditions, at Well Heeled Podiatry we can assess the cause and provide management. This can include imaging, strengthening muscles around the ankle, footwear advice, mobilisation, and manipulation of the foot and ankle conditions or orthotics to help stabilise the ankle joint.
Therefore, popping and or clicking sounds when walking is not always an area of concern. However, if you notice following an ankle sprain or injury, and if it is associated with a stiffer joint, inflammation, and/or pain then you should have a podiatry assessment.