The Most Common Cause of Ankle Cracking, Clicking or Popping: Peroneal Subluxation / Dislocation.

Have you ever heard or felt your ankle “snap” when you walk, or run, or climb some stairs? Did this sound or sensation make you “feel old?” Don’t worry, there are other conditions which can cause this “snapping” in the ankle besides old age and they should be treated by your podiatrist before they become worse.

A number of foot conditions may cause a variety of sounds in the joints, such as “cracking,” “creaking,” or “clicking,” or a more general noise that is either heard or felt in the joint

Snapping sound in the ankle is most commonly caused by a tendon slipping over the bone. When this happens, it is common to hear a snapping or clicking sound.

Peroneal Subluxation / Dislocation: The Most Common Cause of Clicking and Snapping Ankles

The outer bone of the ankle joint has two tendons that travel behind it, one stacked upon the other, known as the peroneal tendons. These tendons, one short and one longer, work to stabilize the ankle joint, preventing excessive side-to-side motion of the foot as it “roles” during walking. These tendons sit within a groove in the bone and are kept in place via a band of fibrous tissue called a retinaculum.

Should the tendons slip out of this groove, the movement may be felt or the snapping sound may be heard. This condition is known as peroneal tendon subluxation or dislocation. It is usually the peroneus brevis (the shorter of the two tendons) that slips out of place.

The cause of this slippage of the peroneal tendons can vary from patient to patient, but will likely be caused by one of the following:

  • Secondary to an ankle sprain
  • Congenital shallow groove in the bone
  • Weak fibrous tissue band
  • Abnormal muscle position (people with unstable feet have more abnormal force on the peroneal tendons)
  • Unstable ankles
  • Injury

Whatever the cause of this condition, the patient may hear a snapping sound in the ankle, or may feel the tendons sliding over the side of the ankle bone when walking, running or climbing stairs. At the very least the condition is annoying, yet there may also be pain involved, limiting the patient’s activities. Left untreated, the tendons may become damaged, leading to more severe pain and more difficulty treating the condition effectively.

How To Stop Ankle Cracking and Snapping

First, it is not critical that you completely stop the ankle popping. As long as it is not painful it is almost never anything serious. The clicking in your ankles may be irritating, however, so below you will find the best professional and home treatments for ankle cracking. Keep in mind that in some cases it is not possible to completely eliminate the ankle popping.

Treatment of Snapping and Clicking of the Ankle

This condition is almost always treated conservatively and surgery should be considered only as a last resort.  Below are some products that we recommend regularly to our patients. They are also affiliate links so we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if your order from the link.

Strengthening Program for Peroneal Subluxation / Dislocation and Other Causes of Clicking in the Ankle

We will always include an ankle strengthening program when treating peroneal subluxation. This will usually include a combination of balance exercises and direct strengthening exercises.  In some situations we may refer you to a physical therapist to work on the most effective strengthening program.


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During the first months of the strengthening program we have our patients wear an ankle brace such as this McDavid Lace-up Ankle Brace with Support Stays. We like this one because it gives excellent lateral support without taking up too much room in the shoe. The brace is important to maintain correct tendon position while the patient goes through a strengthening program.

We have patients wear this during the first 6 – 12 weeks of their exercise program to ensure proper alignment and prevent re-injury. It is important to remove the brace when doing the actual balance exercises but otherwise the brace should be worn all day.

Orthotics and Arch Supports for Peroneal Dislocation / Subluxation

Orthotics are often used to decrease stress on the specific tendon that is causing the snapping and to improve joint alignment. Orthotics act to keep the tendons in better alignment which helps prevent them from slipping out of place. Some patients do well in over-the-counter arch supports and other patients require a custom orthotic to more effectively stabilize the ankle.

Whether you use a prefabricated or custom orthotic we will modify the orthotic to provide the best stabilization for the ankle and the peroneal tendons.

Over-the-Counter Arch Supports for Snapping Ankles

If you try an over-the-counter arch support you should get one that is firm and conforms as close to the arch as possible in order to stabilize the ankle and the peroneal tendons as much as possible.

For lace-up shoes we usually recommend the FootChair Orthotic with adjustable arch height.  The FootChair Orthotic has a very supportive arch which helps in stabilizing the ankle. It also comes with pads that can be added to increase the arch height for even more support for those who need it.

For women’s flats and heels we recommend the FootChair Slim.  It also has an adjustable arch height but is designed to fit into women’s heels and flats. 

The FootChair Slim is also a good choice for small sports shoes such as soccer cleats.

Custom Orthotics for Snapping Ankles

If you find that the prefabricated orthotics help, but don’t eliminate, the snapping of the tendons, then custom orthotics will likely help even more as they will provide greater support and better ankle alignment.

Orthotics for peroneal subluxation incorporate specific modifications that help stabilize the peroneal tendons. Some of these modifications will be included in the initial prescription and others will be added after you have worn the orthotics for several weeks.

Surgery for Peroneal Subluxation / Dislocation

In rare situations, surgery may be required to resolve the issue. This is especially true of patients with high levels of activity, such as athletes. While every effort will be made to stabilize and support the ankle to improve the condition, and while surgery is always a last resort, it may be required to deepen the groove in the bone or repair the fibrous tissue band, or both. Again, surgery should be considered only as a last resort and every effort will first be made to treat the condition conservatively before resorting to surgery.

Post-surgery therapy will include immobilization and physical therapy before full weight bearing activity may be resumed.

Contact Us Today if you have Snapping Sounds in Your Ankle

If you have begun to experience a snapping sound in the ankle, or pain in your ankles, make an appointment to see us today in our Seattle foot and ankle clinic.

Video: Peroneal Subluxation

Here is a video that we found that provides some good information on peroneal subluxation. The information on the anatomy of the peroneal tendons is excellent. They seem to jump to surgery faster than we would, however. Unless there is pain involved we find conservative care is usually effective.

Dr. Larry Huppin
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50 thoughts on “What Causes Cracking, Clicking or Popping Sounds in the Ankle?

  1. Hi, I have this problem in my ankle, however it doesn’t bother me. What has been bothering me, is I’ve recently started having this problem in my neck (every time I look left it cracks). Chiropractor thinks it’s caused by the same type of thing, ligament scraping over bone. I’m going crazy with hearing and feeling this every time I turn my head. My question is, could this be treated the same way? My ankle cracking has never gone away and I’m fearful this never will either. 🙁

    1. Hi Evelyn – I’m sorry, but I don’t know anything about necks. I would suggest seeing a physiatrist who specializes in the neck and back. A physiatrist is an MD who specializes in physical medicine. This would be the best specialist to see for a neck issue.

  2. So I injured my ankle and initially I had peroneal tendon subluxation but after a while it stopped and I cannot no longer recreate it but my ankle still feels unstable and the tendons appear to be swollen behind the fibula, is it possible that it has healed? As far as non-surgical interventions the only thing I have done is R.I.C.E principles and have kept it in a brace. I put myself in a walking boot for a week, but that was only to prevent the subluxation and soon after I didn’t need it. It’s been 5 weeks since the injury, thanks for any reply.

  3. Hi, I have a OCD in my left Talar Dome. However my right ankle has always popped but it’s getting worse and starting to become uncomfortable. I do not recall injuring it as I did to my left ankle years ago. Should I mention this to my surgeon
    ? Any ideas of what could be the cause of the Constant popping and slight pain? Thank you for your time.

  4. Thanks for the informative video. My granddaughter has this issue which most likely resulted from a sprain. It will be helpful when discussing it again with her doctor, who dismissed it lightly when she first complained about the constant popping. I’ll also see about getting an ankle brace for support.

  5. Hi Dr. Huppin!

    I ran my first marathon back in February. Since then I pop my right ankle constantly. Probably 15 times a day. It will feel like there is tension in my ankle, I’ll move it back and forth several times and it will pop. But then I have to do it again moments later. I mostly notice it when I’m sitting or lying down. I’m currently training for another marathon and it feels fine when I run. Any suggestions on how I could treat it?

  6. Hi, I was playing basketball and I went to block somebody’s shot, and I fell onto that persons ankle with my foot and I heard a loud pop in my ankle. At first it was very difficult to put any weight on, but has gotten better. There was hardly any swelling but pain on my fibula and behind it where the tendons are. About a week later, I am still playing on it but it pops and cracks a lot when moving it up and down and side to side. The popping when this happens is felt on my fibula like a tendon it going over and back on it. It feels just as you have described in this article. If you have any suggestions I am open for them. thanks.

  7. I’ve had problems with my ankle, foot about 3-4 times when I wake up in the morning. Very stiff and very painful to walk on. After a few hours it loosens up and feels fine. Doesent happen everyday. I’ve had problems with “turf toe”with both big toes, but the pain only happens in my right foot-ankle. I am left handed so my right leg gets more strain then my left, not sure if that matters, and I’m up and down stairs a lot through out the day. Any advice would be great, thank you.

  8. i am 14… my right ankle cracks every time i role it in a circle (no egxageration)
    so does my left but no every single time just about 1/5 of the time…it hurts a little but enough to bare… should i ask my parents to take me to the doctor… or is it just beacuse of my age… maybe it will go away when im older?

    1. No way, Booth of my ankles pop, kinda same ting
      also it gets madd annoying. I twass walking in movie theater, 4 real and the popping of my ankles echoed the halls like cray cray. Twilldles

  9. i’ve always heard a creaking sound on my ankle.. even if im on rest.. there’s no pain on my ankle… i dont know what it is?

  10. Without shoes on, my right ankle clicks very loudly with almost every step I take. It doesn’t hurt at all so is there any need to have it checked out?

  11. Hello, I am having severe ankle snapping, it frightens me and my friends when we hear it because it is so random. I do have a food disorder and pressure on my right ankle more, but it keeps doing it and even with ankle braces and foot orthopedics they still snap. Both of them do, more of the right ankle, which leads me to the suspicion that there is something actually in there. I have had many foot and leg injuries throughout my life. As I am young, I used to be incredibly active and athletic, but now I am the opposite because of this.. they said I did not need surgery but all of the other things we did with the artificial leg stuff that did not work, it’s either leg braces, surgery, or the physical therapy. I am going to a doctor soon, but it is always nice to have other’s words as well. This is very painful as well as embarrassing because it is SOO LOUD and it does it IN CLASS and even AT CHURCH. At Church it echoes through then entire freaking building. Sometimes I can feel things slipping and moving inside of my foot when it snaps but it is very brief. The foot is very stiff and this disorder I have there makes my Hamstrings extremely tight and I can not lift my leg high at all.

  12. Hello doctor I’m having the same issue my left ankle make the same noise the pain comes and goes but it has been getting worst, it has been swollen for 4 months hard to put any weight on that foot my foot is not as flexible but still have movement also one leg is bigger than the other help I can’t play basketball anymore

  13. hello! I rolled my ankle by jumping off the last step of my porch. My ankle inverted and i heard 3 loud fast cracking sounds. I was in severe pain for about ten minutes and after resting icing and elevating the pain decreased. I have some ROM but a little limited due to pain. Today my ankle is swollen and turning blue but i can still walk on it with a slight limp. Should I wait a few days and see what it does or should I go to the doctor for an x-ray?

  14. Dr. Huppin,

    I have had two tarsal tunnel surgeries on my right foot. I am 7 months post op on my second surgery. Apparently I have a propensity to scar up more than most people. What would be the best way to prevent further scarring at this stage of the recovery ? what would you recommend ?

  15. i have a problem with a bone spur at the insertion point of Achilles tendon and plantar fascia and my doc sent me to an or tho pedic doc what do u think they will do for the problem

  16. I’m double jointed and my ankles hurt often especially walking or standing for a long periodically time. I can sometimes feel something moving and making a cracking sound in my ankle. i cant even cross my legs and sit now cause when they bend inward its the worst pain ever. I’ve been to therpay and that didn’t help so what can I do now

  17. Hi, I am a 13 year old girl and i have been hearing a loud crack in my ankle when i walk, run and especially when i go up stairs. It does hurt when I run and when I go on stairs, but I’ve kind of gotten used to it. I run in school, but when I do, I wear a compression brace by ACE. However I don’t feel it in my other ankle, only in right. The sound I hear is not a pop, but more like a knuckle crack. Hope I get some feedback!

  18. Hi i fell down the steps and broke my ankle i had a cast on for 8 weeks, then got cast removed and my ankle is still a bit broken im currently wearing a splint for 2 weeks already but still feel like its broken what should i do?

  19. Hi with and without shoe my Unkle make cracking or popping sound both legs.some times when I’m relaxing or sleeping I feel like making them craking or popping sound.though they not painful ,it irritates me as it is a habit can I stop that.

  20. Its been 6 months i had ankle sprain. The swollen part and pain has almost reduced after a month from the injury date. But i had little pain after that month and i went to an orthopaedic doctor. I had an x-ray and after he observed that told nothing problem with the bones they are fine. From that day i used a an ankle brace. After 5 months of using ankle brace swollen part has completely reduced and had no pain while walking. But whenever i try for to and fro motion of my ankle i feel multiple clicking sounds with a very very little pain say almost no pain. Can you please tell what my condition is?

  21. so for about a year now my ankle has been hurting.
    i do athletics 2-3 times a week and often when i’m sprinting it hurts causing me to either have to stop slow down or fall over.
    i quite often on uneven ground roll my ankle and then really hurts
    it doesn’t hurt all the time but a lot sometimes i just wake up or stand up and its hurting
    when i walk or circle my ankles as warm ups it clicks and pops it almost always does this sometimes it hurts sometimes it doesn’t.
    i went to the doctors about a week ago and they are going to refer me to a physiotherapist only problem thats in ages and its getting worse and worse do you have any tips.
    oh and also i strap my ankle with tape here and there which helps a bit
    i also in some shoes when i walk my ankle/foot rolls in a bit
    i got new shoes last week and i was doing that really badly so i got some inasols and they are much better now.
    my athletics coach at first says it might be because i’m growing as i am 13 but my foot size hasn’t changed in a year and i haven’t got much taller,

  22. It’s good to know that cracking sound in your ankles could be due to congenital shallow grooves in the bone. My mom has been telling me about how her ankles crack. I’ll share this article with her so that she can see a podiatrist about it.

  23. I had injured my ankle back in December 6th, 2018, i got an x-ray on it and it is now October 30th, 2019, i have done literally EVER SINGLE THING in this article and i am STILL having some severe pain whenever i walk and multiple times in the same day, my ankle snaps and i can’t walk on it for a few hours, it makes me cry and i cant help but focus on it all day every day, i have already seen my ortho and he said that my foot slides and that he has me scheduled for an MRI this Saturday and i can’t help but leave an ankle brace on it literally 24/7, the only time that i take it off is when i take a shower every day, and even then the ankle brace doesn’t help me with the painful snapping in my ankle and pain killers do absolutely NOTHING for me, i cant focus on anything else because i am in such a severe amount of pain, i leave the ankle brace on for ankle stability, and my ortho said that he is really concerned as to why my ankle still hurts just as much as it did when i had first gotten it injured, on that pain scale it is always at an 8 and i cant take it much longer, i am tired of trying to deal with this severe constant pain every single day at all hours of the day, i cant socialize without just exclusively focusing on my pain, my energy is just drained at the end of every day trying to NOT focus on it, but i can’t focus on anything else, also my ortho thinks that my injury is a LOT worse than we thought that it was and we are thinking that i MIGHT need surgery to correct it. Please ANY AND ALL advice would be extremely helpful and thank you in advance

  24. I have all the symptoms, but an “unremarkable” MRI! It tracks back to hurting my ankle 30 years ago while playing racquetball. The latest flareup started about 18 months ago, and then my lower insertion Achilles tendonosis flared. I’ve come to the conclusion I need a good foot doctor. Too bad I don’t live in Seattle!

  25. Dear Dr. Larry,

    I recently ripped two of my ankle ligaments (ATFL and CFL) around two months ago. I had an MRI and saw an orthopedic specialist and physiotherapist. I have been doing my exercises but I noticed that I wasn’t prescribed any ankle brace (as mentioned above in this article). I have been doing my rehab exercises for a month now but I was wondering if I should be using an ankle brace during daily activity? I can walk around at a slow pace with no changes in direction with minimal pain (as I have been doing for the past 2 months). Should I be limiting activity and resting my ankle? Should I be lying down and resting? Should I be using an ankle brace and if so what kind? I’m just really confused about how I should be moving around and how to rest effectively?

  26. I had a few falls whilst sleeping and hit the floor. Gradually my ankle has been hurting. Now it is extremely painful to walk on and hurts when not walking on it now there is swelling. I had a x-ray and nothing was found except arthritis
    It is clicking and last night I felt something pop.

  27. hello, i had a skating injury a couple of weeks ago where i rolled my right ankle. it swole up and i couldn’t walk on it for a bit but i iced and stretched it as much as i could. over time the swelling left and i was able to walk on it and would stretch it some days. however, there was a certain stiffness to it and when i would move the ankle outwards, it would crack. which never happened before. i recently bought a lace-up brace for recovery in case it didn’t heal the proper way. do you think the cracking sound will ever stop?

  28. me im a track runner love t run fell down 8 stairs and sprin my ancle i go to threpy 3 times a week and all my ancle does is click and pop and they say its normol but im going to see a orthapitic doctors for more answers scard

  29. About a year ago I was playing basketball and went to bock somebody and came down on the outside of my ankle, it had popped and i went to the hospital for an x ray and apparently nothing was broken they gave me a boot and wore it for three weeks. now, a year later…my ankle pops when I move it front and back, and aggressively cracks when I move it side to side or in a circle. Do you have any idea what could be wrong or have any suggestions!

  30. It’s nice to know that custom orthotics can be used for issue with snapping ankles. I will keep that in mind when I consult a sports medicine doctor soon. I would like to make sure that my ankle is still good for going brisk walking during the mornings.

  31. Hello,
    Over a year ago I broke the top of my foot doctor put me in a boot for a few weeks it seemed fine after I came out of the boot well here it is a year later it started out making a small popping sound when I walk across the floor and now it is loud and it hurts a little but nothing I can’t handle I just wonder if this is normal after having a broke foot.

  32. I have pain In right foot inside ankle bone on top. Had surgery several years ago by a Foot and Ankle surgeon. Good guy. This surgery as on the curve on top of foot connecting to leg. Cleaned it out. I have big arches and have rolled my ankles probably over a hundred times working, walking, running, playing basketball, etc. Have VA made orthotics each year. I have them made thick, say one inch. I still run regularly, lift weights and play basketball. Put a waterproof piece of tape above that inside ankle bone and velcro strap around right ankle. Hard to find basketball shoes that allow that pad to fit. I take a 12ww to allow space. My toes usually get squished a bit. I do regular stretches with bands, toe raises, calf raises. Still have to manually cup back of that ankle and turn ankle to right to relieve pain. There is a clique. Do maybe 15 times a day. Question is; Are there any basketball shoes that can fit these orthotics? And any other recommendations to help the clique? Thanks and God Bless!

  33. Hola. It is 5 months now since my ORIF ANKLE SURGERY. ( broke both fibula & medial tibia) & had 8 titanium crews and plate inserted. Attending physical therapist . Now while doing the tip toe excercises I have begun to hear the popping noises but they are painless. What should I do..?

    Thank you

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