The ankle is a flexible joint that bears up to 5 times a person’s body weight with each step.1 After activities such as walking or jogging, people with ankle arthritis may have a gradual onset of pain, stiffness, and swelling. These symptoms are sometimes mistaken for an old injury "acting up."

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that involves two primary processes:

  • the cartilage in the joints breaks down
  • abnormal bony growths, called osteophytes or bone spurs, develop in the joint
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The foot has 26 bones and 30 joints, and distinguishing "ankle pain" from "foot pain" can be both difficult and arbitrary for patients. Both ankle pain and foot pain can be addressed by doctors who specialize in the area, such as doctors of podiatric medicine (DPM) and orthopedists certified in foot and ankle surgery (even though surgery is rarely needed).

See Foot and Ankle Pain Due to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

The osteoarthritic process is gradual, and symptoms may come and go and eventually worsen over a number of years. Chronic ankle pain should not be ignored. Understanding the symptoms and causes of ankle osteoarthritis, getting an accurate diagnosis, and following an effective treatment program can encourage long-term healthy ankle function and increase the likelihood of walking with minimal pain.

This article contains an in-depth description of ankle osteoarthritis and potential causes as well as its symptoms, diagnostic process, and treatment options, including surgery.


  1. Stauffer RN, Chao EY, Brewster RC. Force and motion analysis of the normal, diseased, and prosthetic ankle joint. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 1977;(127):189-96. PubMed PMID: 912978.