bruised ankles??

Hi Folks. As I build up my training distances in prep for my 24-hour marathon next month, I am increasingly experiencing bruising and tenderness on the bony insides of my ankles. I’m not knocking them, so I’m worried that I may be developing a stress injury as a result of the new kind of stress on the ankles. I only started unicycling 2.5 months ago. Does anyone have experience of this?

Hi there

When I started unicycling 2/3 years ago I used to get very sore knees. Back then the obvious cause of pain was that I wasn’t used to do much exercise. Nowadays I still get pains for a couple of days that come and go (mainly the ankles, knees and also my neck but I think the latter is from a bad fall on my back a few months ago) but I think my pains are for trying to do too many things with not much rest: Trials unicycle (I am not a teenager anymore!), Giraffe, Muni, 36er etc…

To be honest I don’t think I would be ready for a 24 hours marathon! (neither for a 12 hours one). I would be aching everywhere if I was training very hard for such an event.

Hopefully your ankles will get better. Maybe you should see a doctor if they feel very bad?

You have riding unicycles for 2 1/2 months and you are planning a 24 hour ride? Wow that’s great

Sounds like too much too fast.

I agree it would probably be a good idea to see a doctor, if you tear a tendon loose you will be an unhappy camper.

Tendon injuries are slow to heal even if they are minor, stay off your ankles for a couple weeks, remember to gently stretch them, and see if they improve.

I’d drop the idea of a marathon until you get your ankles squared away.


The location, and description of the pain makes me think that maybe you are knocking them a bit. What makes you so sure that you’re not? The only time i had similar pain was from my leg armor slipping down as i rode. I’m still not sure how it caused bruising, but switching to shoes that came up above my ankles stopped the armor from drifting down, and fixed the problem.

Of course the right doctor could help identify the nature of pain for you.

As a learner you may be making a lot of abrupt ankle jarring balance corrections which is why as a learner you shouldn’t be contemplating long distance riding.

You should practise in moderation until you develop a smooth energy efficient cycling technique.

I don’t believe in pain. If you’re ankles are bruised and sore then take a break until they heal.

One other consideration is your set up.

Are your cranks too long?

Is your tyre too hard?


As unibokk says, there is a very good chance you are just hitting your ankles without even noticing it. Something similar just happened to me. I suddenly started having bruises on my left calf. I wasn’t aware that I hit it anywhere but later figured out that I do indeed hit the frame during failed freemount attempts on my big wheel.

On the other hand there is the possibility of “too much too soon”. Chris, you are a runner (as am I) and know how easy it is to get into that trap. The last thing you want to happen now is a more serious condition such as a stress fracture. You may want to have things checked out by a doctor asap to hopefully rule that out. Or take off a few days and try again. If it still hurts the same after a few days of staying off the uni then it is probably not just a bruise.

If you’re insistent on still riding instead of waiting to recover fully (I tend to do this) I would try riding with your foot farther forward on the pedal (middle of your foot instead of the ball) so you don’t stress your ankle. You’ll have to lower the saddle a tad bit. This is generally a good practice for large drops on muni too so you don’t flex your ankle on drops, but I’ve found it effective for riding with shorter cranks where I want a more one-to-one with my leg, or my ankle hurts a bit.

My contribution may not be worth much as I am very much a beginner myself, but maybe cranks with different q-factor would be worth a try? Or, depending what you currently use, pedals with a larger platform to allow more positions for your feet? I like the superstar el plastiques, or if superstar isn’t available in Australia nukeproof do a very similar pedal on Chain Reaction Cycles.
Also, maybe check your seat height. If it’s out it could be putting more stress on ankle and knee joints.

Lots of good suggestions so far. They tend to revolve around don’t mess up your ankles by attempting a 24-hour ride with only 2.5 months’ riding experience. Unless that’s the point. But all indicators point to the potential of an overuse injury that could lead to something much worse if you keep pushing it without understanding what’s going on.

24 hours of riding? What are you riding? Road or dirt? Are you using an approprate seat height? Crank size?

My shoes keep my ankles from being able to connect with the cranks unless I’m in a distorted position. They are 5.10s with a semi-high top shape. Something like that would protect from that sort of friction, if that’s even happening. But sounds more like you are just doing zillions of ankle flexes and it’s causing damage. At minimum, take a few days off and see how your ankles react.

Thanks for the input

Once again, awesome input from this community. Thanks heaps folks. The event is in Thailand in ten days (it’s on bitumen). It’s a charity event that I have received a lot of support for so if I’m totally honest, my gut says to take complete rest between now and then and, if it’s feeling ok, go ahead, incorporating some of the technical advice offered here. I know from my running background that the ‘too much too fast’ comments are very wise, so I will be prepared to pull out mid-event if I need to. Thanks again for all the input everyone.

So if you’re committed to that event, I recommend doing some form of cross-training that will be easy on your ankles. This can keep up your aerobic fitness while letting your ankles have a rest.

But not knowing what the problem is leaves it a mystery. Attempting a straight 24 hours could be pretty hard on those ankles, so keep monitoring. Again, if you don’t have an optimum riding setup, you might be making your ankles do more work than necessary. Probably the most common fit problem among new riders is riding with the seat too low. You haven’t shared any details about your uni or setup, so we can’t help with that.

In any case, I recommend taking at least a full day off before the event. That’s what the pro’s do (other sports, that is).

When it was light in the evenings when I got home from work, I always rode 3-8kms. Now it is dark and cold after work and I’d rather stay indoors - I’m lazy that way. It doesn’t hurt so much while riding, but my knees are stiff when I get off or go for a walk. I reckon with stretching it will go away as well as with making my legs stronger by continuing to ride. I’m sure everyone has that. I refuse to let them heal and not ride a whole week, because I’m way too addicted now :slight_smile:

Got some cheap amazon bike lights to helmet mount. Works great for night-muni. Tried it out the other day. Don’t let the winter blues win!!!

I do agree with you, and I also bought a light I can attach to my helmet, but since I’m a beginner, winter is a good time to practice riding backwards and idling. In the weekends, I can go for the many kms, though yesterday I got a flat when riding in the forest. I thought unicycle tires were supposed to be tougher than mtb tires.

I read most of the responses the other day and then today on my muni ride I was thinking about it a little, as a few people had speculated that you might actually be hitting it on the uni… it seems like to me that I don’t ever hit my ankles when riding muni (24/26/29/36") or road (although for 20" trials often yes). But as you haven’t been riding long it does seem like overuse is a candidate… in that case then soft spots could be some kind of muscle strain/muscle tear, sort of like shin splits. So as has already been suggested, it should be handled like other overuse injuries: rest until the pain is fully gone and then gradually increase the training time: gradually! Of course this may also mean that the 24h race is not doable this year…

Winter here is … uhh … not beginner friendly : ) I’m going to see multiple rides of 5+ inches of fresh powder. Nowhere to ride but inside, or up on a very fat tire.

Unicycle tires are the same tires that bikes use (minus the 36er tires), though some of the downhill (the classic duro for instance) tires have thicker sidewalls, and more tread. Puncture protection doesn’t necessarily follow from more rubber under you.

Typically you’ll wear out tires on a unicycle faster too due to simply more weight, and friction caused by that and the twisting motion from turning. (among other factors…let’s not bust out the engineering breakdown of reasons)

Thanks JohnFoss

Thanks a lot for the input, John. My uni is a Nimbus 29 with a Schwalbe Big Apple tire. Not sure the exact height of my saddle (have just packed it for travel) but I’ve tried to ensure that my leg is almost straight at full extension.

I’ve booked in for a consult with an orthopedic surgeon when I arrive in Bangkok, with possibly an MRI, as I have a few days in the country before the event. I’ve also decided to take the full nine days before the event now to rest completely, as my cardio fitness is pretty good and it’s a good time to be tapering my training anyway. Hopefully I can be ok for the event, but I’m ready to throw in the towel if the consultant says otherwise.
Thanks again for all the help.

Unicycle tires are the same as mtb tires.