3 Reasons for Thick Ankles

Learn three of the most common causes of oversized ankles—and what you can do to help slim down your lower legs.


The word "cankle"—or slang term for thick ankles—was made popular in 2001 when Jason Alexander's character in the movie Shallow Hal used the term to criticize a person's lower leg saying, "It's like the calf merged with the foot, cut out the middleman." Although the term is cringe-worthy, for some people, developing thick ankles could be more than just cosmetic. Here, three distinctively different types of thick ankles and what can (and cannot) be done to get rid of them.

Genetic Predisposition

Many women who have thick ankles are genetically predisposed to this type of lower leg, meaning that if one of your parents had larger ankles, you might have inherited them too. This may be caused by obesity or the structural absence of a well-defined calf muscle—even if you are physically fit.

What can I do? I'm not a proponent of this type of procedure, but surgery may work. Many people have gone under the knife in what is known as ankle liposuction. This one-hour, outpatient surgery is becoming extremely popular among people hoping to reduce their ankle circumference. However, with every surgery there are risks and nothing is guaranteed.

Will exercise help? As I've said time and again, you cannot spot reduce! This idea is still around, even after exercise physiologists and the medical community have proven that it cannot be accomplished. If you are predisposed to this body type, embrace the body you have and focus on nutrition, wellness, and sticking to a exercise regimen that is fun and boosts your confidence.

Fluid Retention

Fluid buildup in the ankle generally comes from a heavy sodium intake. It can be a reflection of one's sodium intake or the body's inability to rid itself of sodium, which can occur when someone has heart disease.

What can I do? If you notice that your ankles have begun to swell and/or feel as though you are retaining water, visit a healthcare provider or schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian. Remember that 80% of your overall wellness is based on what you eat, not what you do physically.

Will exercise help? A structural wellness plan can be established with a certified personal trainer. But again, you cannot spot reduce—exercise is just part of the equation. Walking, running, hiking, or simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator will contribute to a healthy overall lifestyle.


My wife recently gave birth to our son Max, and I had the personal pleasure of witnessing the physical changes of a person during pregnancy. During those nine months, my wife's ankles swelled a great deal, which is quite common due to poor circulation.

What can I do? To help minimize swelling, avoid high-sodium, processed, and fast foods.

Will exercise help? Stay active. Regular exercise throughout pregnancy promotes circulation, just be sure to consult an OB/GYN before starting any fitness program. Massage and elevation also help with circulation and fluid retention.

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