Why Does My Ankle Hurt When I Play Soccer? Reasons, Treatments, and Strengthening Tips and Tricks

Physical injuries are frustrating, but even more so when you can’t figure out why you’re getting them. As a former soccer player, I know all too well the classic ankle pains associated with the sport, which can result from various issues.

The most common reason for ankle pain during soccer play is improper kicking technique. Another potential possibility is cleats that are too tight. These put a lot of pressure on the bottom of the shin guard and cause pain (typically) towards the front of the ankle.

Engaging in any sport requires understanding its specific techniques and careful stretching before and after practice or game sessions. The rest of this article will offer guidance on identifying the particular causes of soccer-related ankle pain, what to do about them, and how to strengthen your ankles for soccer.

Why Does My Ankle Hurt When I Shoot a Soccer Ball?

Your ankle hurts when you shoot a soccer ball because of applying an incorrect technique when kicking the ball. Other probable causes could be weak ankles or wearing ill-fitting cleats. 

How Do I Stop My Ankle From Hurting in Soccer?

You can stop your ankle from hurting by kicking properly, wearing fitted gear, and placing your non-kicking foot in the right position. This is because the impact of a strong kick on a hard, inflated ball can cause bruises and strains. 

Let us explore each of these strategies in greater detail.

Soccer Plays and The Proper Kick

Growing up, I played soccer regularly. It took years of practice before I could proudly admit to being good at the sport. Even so, many of those years were characterized by physical challenges.

Initially, I loved sprinting fast and hammering the ball with the toe of my cleat in hopes that the ball might somehow end up in the opponent’s net. Over time, though, I learned that being a strong soccer player meant learning the techniques of the game. The real footwork. As a result, I avoided having unnecessary ankle, knee, and leg injuries.

There are multiple kinds of plays in soccer that involve shooting and passing the ball. Each play requires specific footwork to make the shot most accurate. The four most commonly used are the standard, straight shot, and the short and long passes, each with proper kicking techniques. 

Standard Shot

The standard shot is a goal-scoring play meant to curve past the keeper at waist level or higher. To make the shot, one should use the top of their foot, specifically near the knuckle of the big toe. This puts the ball’s connection on both the foot’s top and inner area. 

Straight Shot

Straight Shot In Soccer
Straight Shot In Soccer

A straight shot is similar to the standard shot in that it is meant to be used when attempting to score a goal. With this play, the player should use the same part of the foot as the standard shot– the top of the foot, by the toe knuckles.

Short and Long Passes

During play, short and long passes are meant to connect the ball from one teammate to another. Short passes are also called push passes because one teammate essentially pushes the ball a short distance to someone else. A short pass is completed with the inner length of the foot. 

On the other hand, a long pass is meant to cover a large portion of the playing field and therefore needs a little more power and a different kicking technique. When attempting a long pass, one should use the inner top portion of the foot for accuracy and strength.

Non-Kicking Foot Placement

The placement of your non-kicking foot is also essential so as to avoid injury and complete an accurate shot or pass. 

To aim, your non-kicking foot should be next to the ball and pointing in the direction you plan to kick in. Foot placement that’s too far or too close can result in an inaccurate shot and the possibility of tripping or rolling your ankle.

Unfitted Equipment

Wearing equipment that is either too big or too small can be the culprit for sore ankles during gameplay. Soccer doesn’t use much protective equipment besides socks, shin pads, and cleats, but they all need to fit snugly to be beneficial.


Soccer Cleats
Soccer Cleats

Cleats are special shoes used by soccer players to help with footwork and ball control. They are meant to fit tightly on foot and sometimes cut below the ankle bone. Low cuts on cleats are meant to accommodate the ankle padding attached to the shin guard. A cleat that doesn’t fit properly can rub against the ankle, causing discomfort.

Shin Guards

Shin Pads
Shin Pads

A shin guard is a plastic, curved protective cover that is strapped to the shin with velcro closings around the calf. They also typically sport padded stirrups at the bottom of the guard that one slips their foot through. The padded stirrups protect the ankle bone.

If the shin guard is ill-fitting and loose, the plastic bottom of the guard can repeatedly push into the top of the ankle. Over time, this can create bruising and pain.

When purchasing soccer equipment, try on your cleats, shin guards, and socks to ensure they all fit correctly.

How Do You Strengthen Your Ankles for Soccer?

To strengthen your ankles for soccer and, in turn, prevent them from hurting, you should engage in a number of stretches and exercises both before and after playing. Weak ankles can contribute to ankle pain in soccer. 

This particular sport primarily requires strong legs, ankles, and feet. The stronger one’s lower half is, the more powerful and sturdy their shots will be. 

To develop more strength in your ankles, a variety of exercises can be implemented during soccer practice. For example, standing heel raises and balancing activities target the ankles and leg muscles.

Does Stretching Your Ankles Help With Soccer Shooting?

Soccer Shooting
Soccer Shooting

Stretching the ankles plays a big part in how kicking and shooting will make your ankles feel since the stronger your ankles are, the better your shots will be. Ankle rolls, calf, and hamstring stretches are recommended before and after your game. 

The following exercises target your ankles and calves, helping to increase your ankle strength and soccer skills.

Standing Heel Raises

A standard heel entails lifting onto your toes and lowering back again in a controlled manner. The good thing is that you can perform this exercise anywhere. The exercise targets the muscles in the shin responsible for lifting and lowering the foot. 

Balancing Exercises

Balancing exercises are great for ankle strength because they encourage the brain to focus body weight on one foot versus standing with equal weight on both. Balancing on one foot helps identify which muscles need more work.

Why Should You Lock Your Ankles When You Shoot a Soccer Ball?

You should lock your ankles when you shoot a soccer ball because this provides more drive and power to the kick. Additionally, it prevents your foot from twisting.

Locking your ankle when you kick a soccer ball is highly recommended. If you shoot with a loose foot, your kick will be inaccurate, and you could hurt yourself.


If you experience ankle pain when kicking a soccer ball, this usually points to an improper kicking technique. If the wrong part of the foot is used during a powerful kick, it can strain the ankle and shin muscles. 

Other causes could suggest improperly fitting equipment or the need to develop ankle strength through specific exercises. With snug equipment, healthy muscles, and consistent kicking practice, any ankle pain should be gone in no time.


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