Healthy Living

Cankles: Causes, Treatments and Exercises

Get rid of Cankles


Cankle is known to be a common occurrence in women. Cankle appears when the ankles tend to thicken and the calf appears to merge along with the ankle. This appears to be quite an embarrassment to both men and women and they feel very uncomfortable about their feet and legs. 


There are certain reasons for the emergence of cankles. Some can be minor and would go away with little treatment and exercises, whereas some would be problematic.

  • Increase in weight: The most common reason of cankles is weight gain. Due to weight gain, there is an increased amount of fat stored in the legs, which then gets pulled down due to gravity, which leads to cankles.
  • Fluid Retention: Another reason for cankles is when the body is retaining too much fluid, the tissues which are present in the lower calf and the ankles would tend to swell, thus making the ankles to appear wider than the normal size. This would be a common occurrence in pregnant ladies and would resolve on its own post the delivery.
    Other reasons for fluid retention would be heart failure, kidney related issues, clotting of the blood, blockage in the lymphatic system and any other medical problems. Fluid retention also happens due to high intake of sodium or salt. This leads to the body absorbing too much water and getting bloated. Hence, to avoid such instances, cut down on the intake of salt and drink a lot of water.
  • Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to swelling or thickening of the ankles, it would be a hereditary issue. If either parent or both the parents have wide ankles, then the same condition would have been passed on to the child as well. While there is no way to avoid or change the genes, one can work on minimizing the issue by doing certain exercises.
  • Drugs or medications: Medicines such as blood pressure medicines, hormone medicines such as birth control pills and antidepressants can lead to the swelling of the ankles. Hence, one should report the same to the doctor right away so that another drug option can be prescribed which would suit the body.

Cankles from Lipoderma

Lipoderma is termed as an incurable disease which is said to mostly impact women. It leads to accumulation of fat on the lower part of the body. This medical condition is very rare, however due to lack of information on lipoderma, this condition can go unnoticed or misdiagnosed for some other medical condition. Women suffering from this condition tend to gain weight in the lipedemic area, which is also called as the lower body or the cankle area.

When To Visit the Doctor

Most of the instances of cankles are nothing to worry about and is not a serious sign of disease since it would be either due to weight gain, pregnancy or genetic factors. However, it should be time to worry when the cankles which appeared shortly start to worsen or become swollen and painful. In certain cases, the skin feels much warmer or cooler than the skin in other parts of the body or there is redness in the overlying skin. In such cases, one should not delay and should visit the doctor immediately.

The doctor would carry out certain physical examinations such as a simple test to decide if the cankle condition is indicating towards something which is more serious. Take a finger and push it into the cankles. The fat and normal fluids would bounce back quickly but if the pressed finger has left a dent in the skin, then it indicates that there is buildup of abnormal fluids and it needs some treatment.


For alarming signs of cankles, one should visit the doctor immediately and in some instances when it is a minor case, one can go in for over the counter creams or medicines along with certain exercises to be carried out to tone the calf muscles and make them leaner.

  • Use of hemorrhoid cream: There are certain hemorrhoid creams available over the counter or can be prescribed by the doctor. These would be able to temporarily firm and tighten the skin on that section. However, one cannot take this as a long term fixed treatment and they should only be used occasionally. But this cream can be used as a quick help. However, there can be cases wherein the cream would not work, hence it is best to reach out to the doctor before you go ahead with any of the creams or medicines.
  • Lose weight: If you fall in the obese category, then probably those extra flabs are leading to a lot of pressure on the feet which is ultimately causing cankles. Look to lose weight and return to the ideal weight. Visit a nutritionist to decide on a healthy eating pattern and also look out for some exercises which target the entire body, including the calf muscles. One can go in for brisk walking, running, jumping jacks or jumping ropes. These exercises involve the major portion of your feet and targets those core muscles to bring them back in shape. These exercises help to bring about firmness along with toning the ankles and the area of the calf by reducing the wide appearance of the cankles and ultimately eliminates them altogether.
  • Keep a check on the water retention: Edema or water retention leads to swelling of the ankles, which can then make you have cankles. It doesn’t matter if you are skinny or healthy. To get rid of cankles caused due to water retention, ensure to drink at least one liter of water in a day so that you do not allow the body to hold on to the water if there isn’t enough fluid in the body. Apart from water, you can also drink certain other diuretics such as carrot juice, green tea, coffee, cranberry juice etc. Drinking enough of fluids is also important to prevent signs of bloating and it would also aid in digestion, thereby providing relief from gas and constipation.
  • Keep a check on salt intake: One should monitor the amount of salt being taken on a daily basis. Excessive intake of salt or sodium would lead to more water retention in the body, which would ultimately make the stomach look bloated and fat. Hence, one should drink water throughout the day between hours so that the excess water weight build-up in the body gets flushed out. Also, one should try and limit the intake of salt in a day. An average person should not eat more than 2500 mg of sodium in a day to prevent water retention in the body.
  • Genetics: As mentioned earlier, one can be genetically having cankles, which they cannot change. If it’s from the genes it cannot be modified, but there are certain guidelines one can follow to avoid this condition from worsening or to try and minimize the effect of cankles. One should ensure to not do anything which would lead to increase in the swelling or cause retention of water in the body. However, if one has done everything, but still the cankles condition doesn’t seem to subside, then the only option left would be surgery.
  • Avoid Drugs and Medications: If the cause of cankles is the medications which you have been taking currently, then before you abruptly stop the intake of those medicines, it is best to talk to your doctor and let them know the details. Based on the severity of the issue, they would either lower the dose of the medicine or replace the medicine with another one which could suit your body.
  • Surgery: For individuals whose cankles has lead them to a worrisome condition, they can opt for surgery after weighing in the pros and cons of the surgery. This surgery is also known as ankle liposuction. Now-a-days, this surgery has become very popular for cankles treatment. It is a one-hour surgery and it claims to reduce the ankle circumference, however there are certain risks associated with the surgery which one should discuss with the doctor first.


Below are a few of the exercises which can be performed to tone and firm the calf muscles:

  • Jumping Rope: Without the need for a surgery or any other heavy treatment, it becomes extremely difficult to remove the fat from the ankles. But one can go in for toning the calves so that the ankles look graceful and toned. There are also certain gym exercises or yoga postures (asanas) which specifically target the problem area. Jumping rope is one of the common exercises which does not require any heavy equipment and can be done in the comfort of your home.
  • Calf raises on stairs: This exercise should be carried out on a stair which has a drop of at least five inches. Usage of weights is optional. This exercise is known to target the deep and superficial calf muscles.
  • In place high knee job: This is a simple exercise which targets the lower leg muscles. You can start this exercise in a standing position, then raise your right leg and left arm in front, hop and switch such that the left leg and right arm should be in front of your body. While carrying out this movement the main focus should be that one should stay on the balls of the feet.
  • Calf raises with weights: This exercise is known to work on the deep and the superficial calf muscles. The method of carrying out this exercise is by first standing in an upright position with the feet in shoulder width apart. Hold the weights on each side. Ensure that the shoulders are relaxed and the arms extended. The weight of the body should be shifted on the balls of the feet. By pressing the weight down, push your body upward and at the same time raise the heels off the ground in a slow movement. Hold this moment for ten seconds. Now, gradually bring the heels back on to the ground and ensure that all this while the motion of the body should be controlled. The knees should be in an athletic position slightly bent, but do not lock the knees to the ground. Do three sets of this exercise with 15 repetitions. You can adjust the weight in your hand as and when it feels necessary.
  • Lunges: One can go in for carrying out calf raises in the lunge position. This workout provides more balance, mobility and works on the calf areas. To carry out this exercise, first stand in an upright position and hold the weight in front of your chest. Bring your left foot ahead taking a large step and dip into a lunge position. Now both the legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Now, elevate the heel of the front foot by pushing your toes into the ground. Hold this position for few seconds. While doing so, ensure that the knee is on track and do not allow it to move inward or get rolled out. It can lead to losing the balance. Now get the heel back on to the ground.

While performing these motions, ensure that each and every motion you carry out is in a controlled fashion, while the core is kept tight. One can feel that this exercise and every movement is challenging since there is a big requirement of maintaining the balance along with managing the weights while performing each repetition. You can perform three sets of this exercise and ten repetitions for each leg. While carrying out this exercise, it is not necessary to use heavy weights since the main focus out here is to improve balance and stability along with working on the calf muscles so that they tighten up and look more toned.