What Can You Do About Your Big Ankles?

When it comes to the search for physical perfection, there's a new word circulating: "cankles" which essentially means big ankles. In most cases, it has nothing to do with your health, but some women go to great lengths-even surgery-to change the size of their ankles.

What's an average size for ankles?  Podiatrists say a 10-to-11 inch circumference is average for women.  Ankle size is usually related to genetics, bone size and how fat is deposited in your body. Other conditions that can contribute to big ankles are overall weight gain or obesity, circulatory issues that cause water retention in the ankles, diabetes, hypertension, lymph edema (swollen lymph nodes) and pregnancy.  If ankles are smaller in the morning and get "puffier" as the day goes by, you may be retaining water. 

What can you do to reduce ankle size?

Podiatrists and fitness experts agree; there's not much you can do about your ankle size specifically. Some diet and exercise tips may contribute to shapelier calves and ankles through overall weight loss, improved muscle tone and circulation.

  • Eat a variety of healthy, low calorie, low fat, high protein, high fiber, whole foods.
  • Reduce salt consumption.  Salt helps the body retain fluid.  Cutting back on salt may help you release fluid more efficiently.
  • Walk for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Try step aerobics classes that emphasize the lower legs in fast-paced cardio exercises

Gold's Gym recommends these exercises:

Calf Raise

(5 reps on 15 steps)
Stand on a stair with your heels hanging off. Carefully rise up onto your toes, pause briefly; then lower back down to the starting position. Move up a step and repeat.

Leg Press Calf Raise

(Three sets of 10 to 12 reps)
Set [weight] machine to a challenging but doable resistance. Sit on the seat, with toes planted shoulder-width apart on the footplate, heels hanging over. Press up onto your toes, pause briefly, and then lower your heels until fully extended. To work your calves one at a time, simply cross one leg over the other.

Modified Shoulder Press

(Three sets of 12 reps)
Holding a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders, bend at the hips and knees until your butt is just off the floor. Still in a squat, rise onto your toes. Push the weights overhead until arms are straight but elbows aren't locked; then lower them. Stay on your toes for the remaining reps.

If you've tried everything and simply can't accept your ankles as they are, there's a growing industry in lower-leg liposuction. It comes with a hefty price tag though, (around $4000 to $8000), not to mention the medical risks associated with surgery and anesthesia, recovery time and potential scarring.  A better plan is to dress appropriately to flatter your body type and accept your ankles as they are.