What Are Cankles?

Ah, the never-ending quest for body perfection! In today’s article, I shall shed some light on a unique phenomenon called cankles. Curious to know what they are? Well, cankles are the fascinating fusion of the calf and ankle, forming a seamless transition without a distinguishable curve. Wondering what they look like? Stay tuned as I unravel the mysteries of this often misunderstood and unfairly judged body feature.

What Are Cankles?

Cankles, a portmanteau of the words “calf” and “ankle,” refer to the condition where the calf of the leg blends into the ankle without a clear distinction between the two. This lack of definition can make the ankle appear swollen and rounded, resembling the shape of a can. While cankles are often seen as an aesthetic concern, they can also be indicative of underlying medical conditions or lifestyle factors. In this comprehensive article, we will explore the definition, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and management of cankles.

Definition of Cankles

Cankles are characterized by the absence of a visible tapering from the calf to the ankle. Instead of having a defined ankle area, the leg appears to continue straight from the calf to the foot. This lack of distinction can give the ankles a swollen and puffy appearance. While cankles can affect both men and women, they are more commonly observed in women due to their natural tendency to store more fat around the ankle area.

What Are Cankles?

Causes of Cankles

Several factors can contribute to the development of cankles, including medical conditions, genetics, hormonal factors, pregnancy, obesity, fluid retention, inactivity, and muscle weakness. Let’s explore each of these causes in detail.

Medical Conditions and Cankles

Certain medical conditions can lead to cankles. Lymphedema, a condition characterized by the buildup of lymph fluid, can cause significant swelling in the ankles. Additionally, conditions such as venous insufficiency and deep vein thrombosis can impair the proper functioning of the veins, resulting in fluid accumulation and the appearance of cankles.

Genetics and Cankles

Genetics can play a significant role in the development of cankles. Some individuals may have naturally thicker ankles and calves, making it difficult to achieve a defined ankle area. If your parents or close relatives have cankles, you may be more prone to developing them as well.

Hormonal Factors

Hormonal imbalances can contribute to fluid retention, which can lead to the appearance of cankles. Changes in hormone levels during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can all affect fluid balance in the body, potentially causing swelling around the ankles.

Pregnancy and Cankles

Pregnancy often leads to fluid retention throughout the body, including the ankles. As the uterus expands, it can put pressure on the veins, impeding blood flow and causing fluid buildup around the ankles. Pregnancy-related weight gain can also contribute to the appearance of cankles.

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Obesity and Cankles

Excess body weight can put increased pressure on the ankles and contribute to the development of cankles. The accumulation of fat tissue around the ankle area can make the ankle appear less defined. Losing weight through a balanced diet and exercise can help reduce the appearance of cankles.

Fluid Retention

Generalized fluid retention, often caused by factors like a high sodium diet or certain medications, can result in swelling around the ankles. The excess fluid can accumulate in the lower extremities and contribute to the appearance of cankles.

Inactivity or Lack of Exercise

A sedentary lifestyle or lack of regular exercise can weaken the calf muscles and contribute to the development of cankles. When the muscles are not engaged, they cannot effectively pump the blood and fluid back up from the lower extremities, leading to swelling.

Muscle Weakness and Cankles

Weak calf muscles can contribute to the appearance of cankles. The calf muscles play a vital role in pumping blood back to the heart, and when they are weak, blood and fluid can accumulate in the lower legs, causing swelling and the appearance of cankles.

Symptoms of Cankles

Recognizing the symptoms of cankles can help in its diagnosis and treatment. The most common symptoms include swelling around the ankles, visible loss of definition between the calf and ankle, difficulty in wearing shoes, and pain or discomfort.

Swelling around the Ankles

The primary symptom of cankles is the visible swelling around the ankles. This swelling can range from mild to severe and may worsen throughout the day.

Visible Loss of Definition

Cankles are characterized by the absence of a clear tapering or definition between the calf and ankle. Instead, the leg appears to continue straight from the calf to the foot, making the ankle area appear wider and less defined.

Difficulty in Wearing Shoes

Due to the swelling and lack of distinction, individuals with cankles may experience difficulty in finding shoes that fit properly. Shoes that are too tight around the ankle may cause discomfort or pain.

Pain or Discomfort

In some cases, cankles can be accompanied by pain or discomfort. This may be due to the pressure and strain on the ankle area caused by the swelling or underlying medical conditions.

What Are Cankles?

Diagnosing Cankles

To diagnose cankles and determine the underlying cause, healthcare professionals may perform a physical examination, measure the ankle circumference, and utilize medical imaging techniques.

Physical Examination

During a physical examination, a healthcare provider will visually assess the appearance of the ankles and legs, looking for any signs of swelling or lack of definition. They may also feel for any areas of tenderness or discomfort.

Measurement of Ankle Circumference

Measuring the circumference of the ankles can provide quantitative data on the extent of swelling and help in tracking changes over time. This simple measurement can be done using a tape measure and comparing it to standard reference values.

Medical Imaging

In some cases, medical imaging techniques such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to evaluate the structure and function of the veins, lymphatic system, muscles, and surrounding tissues. These imaging techniques can help identify any underlying conditions contributing to the appearance of cankles.

Treating Cankles

Treatment for cankles often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, exercise, diet modifications, compression therapy, leg elevation, massage, medications, and surgical interventions. The specific treatment approach will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition.

Lifestyle Changes

Making certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the appearance of cankles. This includes avoiding prolonged periods of inactivity, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying hydrated.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Engaging in regular exercise and physical activity can help strengthen the calf muscles and improve blood circulation, reducing swelling and the appearance of cankles. Focused exercises targeting the ankle, calf, and leg muscles can be beneficial.

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Balanced Diet

Following a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can aid in weight management and reduce overall body fat, including around the ankles. Additionally, maintaining a low-sodium diet can help reduce fluid retention and decrease swelling.

Compression Therapy

Using compression garments such as compression socks or sleeves can help improve blood flow and reduce swelling in the ankles. These garments apply gentle pressure to the lower legs, encouraging the movement of blood and fluid back up towards the heart.

Elevating the Legs

Elevating the legs above the level of the heart can aid in reducing swelling and improving blood circulation. This can be done by propping up the legs with pillows or using leg elevation devices.

Massage and Lymphatic Drainage

Massage techniques and lymphatic drainage can help stimulate blood and lymph flow, reducing fluid buildup in the lower extremities. Gentle, upward strokes should be used to encourage proper drainage and decrease swelling.


In certain cases, healthcare professionals may prescribe diuretic medications to help reduce fluid retention and decrease swelling. These medications help increase urine output and promote the elimination of excess fluid from the body.

Surgical Interventions

In severe cases of cankles that do not respond to conservative treatments, surgical interventions may be considered. Procedures such as liposuction or ankle contouring surgery can help remove excess fat tissue and create a more defined ankle shape.

What Are Cankles?

Preventing Cankles

While not all cases of cankles can be entirely prevented, there are steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk and minimize the appearance of cankles.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise and a balanced diet can help reduce the accumulation of fat tissue around the ankles and minimize the risk of developing cankles.

Regular Exercise

Engaging in regular exercise, particularly activities that involve the calf and leg muscles, can help strengthen these muscles and promote healthy blood circulation. This can prevent or minimize the development of cankles.

Avoiding Prolonged Inactivity

Avoiding prolonged periods of inactivity, such as sitting or standing for long durations, can help prevent fluid buildup and swelling in the ankles.

Balanced Diet

Maintaining a balanced diet that is low in sodium and rich in nutrients can help prevent fluid retention and reduce the risk of developing cankles.

Adequate Hydration

Staying adequately hydrated helps maintain proper fluid balance in the body and can prevent or reduce the appearance of cankles.

When to See a Doctor

While cankles are often a benign condition, certain situations warrant a visit to the doctor for further evaluation and management.

Severe Swelling

If the swelling around the ankles is severe, sudden, or accompanied by pain, it is important to seek medical attention. Severe swelling may indicate an underlying medical condition that requires prompt treatment.

Pain and Discomfort

Persistent or worsening pain and discomfort associated with cankles should be evaluated by a healthcare professional. This can help identify and address any underlying causes or complications.

Accompanying Symptoms

If cankles are accompanied by other symptoms such as redness, warmth, skin discoloration, or ulcers, it is crucial to consult a doctor. These symptoms may be indicative of a more serious condition such as cellulitis or venous insufficiency.

What Are Cankles?

Managing Cankles in Pregnancy

Cankles during pregnancy are common due to hormonal changes and fluid retention. While they may resolve on their own after childbirth, there are several strategies to manage and reduce the discomfort associated with pregnancy-related cankles.

Wearing Appropriate Footwear

Choosing shoes that provide proper support and have adjustable straps can help alleviate discomfort and accommodate any swelling.

Elevating the Legs

Regularly elevating the legs above the level of the heart can help reduce swelling and improve blood circulation. This can be achieved by propping up the legs with pillows or using leg elevation devices.

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Stretching Exercises

Gentle stretching exercises that target the calf and leg muscles can help improve circulation and alleviate swelling. Consult with a healthcare provider or prenatal fitness specialist for safe and suitable exercises during pregnancy.

Avoiding Salt and Excessive Fluid Intake

Reducing sodium intake and moderating fluid consumption can help manage fluid retention and minimize the appearance of cankles during pregnancy.

Regular Prenatal Check-ups

Attending regular prenatal check-ups allows healthcare providers to monitor the progress of the pregnancy, address any concerns, and provide guidance on managing cankles.

Exercises to Reduce Cankles

Incorporating specific exercises into your routine can help reduce the appearance of cankles by strengthening the calf muscles, improving circulation, and reducing fluid retention.

Calf Raises

Calf raises involve standing on the edge of a step or elevated surface and lifting your heels to raise your body up. This exercise targets the calf muscles, helping to strengthen them for better ankle support.

Ankle Pumps

Ankle pumps involve moving the ankle joint up and down while seated or lying down. This simple exercise helps promote blood circulation and reduce swelling in the ankles.

Toe Raises

Toe raises involve lifting the toes while keeping the heels on the ground. This exercise helps engage the calf muscles and can be done throughout the day to improve blood flow.

Leg Circles

Leg circles involve rotating the leg in circular motions, making circles with the foot. This exercise helps improve flexibility and circulation in the ankle and calf area.

Resistance Band Exercises

Using resistance bands, individuals can perform exercises such as ankle flexion, extension, and inversions to strengthen the calf muscles and improve circulation.


Swimming is a low-impact exercise that can help strengthen the calf muscles, improve circulation, and reduce overall body fat. The buoyancy of water also helps reduce pressure on the joints and ankles.

Walking or Jogging

Regular walking or jogging exercises can help improve blood circulation, strengthen the calf muscles, and aid in weight management, reducing the appearance of cankles.

Yoga or Pilates

Yoga and Pilates incorporate exercises and movements that engage the calf muscles and can help improve muscle strength and flexibility. These practices also focus on overall body alignment and balance.

Cycling or Stationary Biking

Cycling or using a stationary bike can help strengthen the calf muscles, improve blood circulation, and tone the legs. These exercises can be adjusted to fit various fitness levels and can be incorporated into a regular exercise routine.

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics classes provide low-impact exercises that can help improve circulation, reduce swelling, and strengthen the calf muscles. The water’s buoyancy also provides support and reduces stress on the joints.

What Are Cankles?

Dietary Interventions for Cankles

Certain dietary interventions can aid in reducing fluid retention and minimizing the appearance of cankles.

Reducing Sodium Intake

Lowering sodium intake can help decrease fluid retention and swelling. Avoiding processed and packaged foods, as they tend to be high in sodium, and opting for fresh, whole foods can be beneficial.

Increasing Water Consumption

Drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day can actually help reduce fluid retention. Proper hydration promotes the body’s natural balance and can prevent excessive fluid buildup.

Following a Balanced Diet

Maintaining a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can support overall health and weight management, which can contribute to reducing the appearance of cankles.

Avoiding Processed Foods

Processed foods, such as fast food, snacks, and pre-packaged meals, often contain high amounts of sodium, unhealthy fats, and additives. These foods can contribute to fluid retention and should be limited or avoided.

Choosing Foods with Natural Diuretic Properties

Certain foods, such as cucumbers, watermelon, celery, parsley, lemon, and ginger, have natural diuretic properties that can help reduce fluid retention and decrease swelling. Incorporating these foods into your diet may aid in managing cankles.

Herbal Remedies

Some herbal remedies, such as dandelion tea or supplements, are believed to have diuretic effects. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedies, especially if you have underlying medical conditions or are taking medications.


Cankles, the lack of distinction between the calf and ankle, can be a source of concern for many individuals. Although cankles are often viewed as an aesthetic issue, they can also be attributed to underlying medical conditions, genetic factors, hormonal changes, pregnancy, obesity, and lifestyle choices. Recognizing the symptoms, understanding the causes, and implementing appropriate treatment and prevention strategies can help manage cankles effectively. Whether through lifestyle changes, exercise, diet modifications, compression therapy, or surgical interventions, there are various options available to address cankles and improve overall ankle appearance and comfort. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. With the right approach, cankles don’t have to be a source of distress – embrace your uniqueness and take steps towards better ankle health!