Got Cankles? How to Redefine Your Calves and Ankles

First, the colloquial term cankles needs to be defined. According to the Urban Dictionary, cankles are “the area in affected females where the calf meets the foot.” The popular Gold's Gym has defined them as, “when the calf merges with an obese or swollen ankle.” Simply, cankles are fat ankles, which can occur for several reasons.

The Cause of Cankles

Weight gain is the most common cause of cankles. Some people tend to store more fat in the lower leg area, while others are affected by a recent or gradual weight gain. But lack of muscle definition in the lower legs can give the illusion of cankles, even if the legs do not carry excess fat.

Water retention and the side effect of some medications -- especially calcium channel blockers like Verapamil -- can also cause ankle swelling. When swollen ankles streamline with the calf, the result is cankles.


There are some influencing factors, such as genetics, that cannot be controlled when attempting to prevent the development of cankles. However, other factors are more manageable:

  • Weight control is an important component of warding off cankles.
  • Since water retention is a detriment, lowering salt and alcohol intake will help reduce the occurrence.
  • Elevating the legs is a simple and comfortable solution that allows the retained fluid in the ankles to drain and be properly processed by the body.

How the Redefine Your Calf and Ankles

Start by losing excess weight, if this is the source of the issue. In addition, exercise is important in the quest to redefine the calf and ankles.

Here are basic but effective exercises that work to reduce ankle size:

  • Standing calf raises: Stand behind a chair with hands perched on the back of the chair. Rise onto the tiptoes, keeping knees extended. Hold the position, then slowly lower the heels to the floor. Continue 25 to 30 repetitions, gradually increasing to three to five sets of repetitions. Add weights to the ankles for resistance training.
  • Jump squats: Assume the pose of a regular squat -- feet shoulder-width apart, head facing forward, the legs and buttocks lowered as if sitting into a chair, the upper body slightly bent forward, and the lower back somewhat arched -- then jump as high as possible with arms reaching for the ceiling. Land back into the original squatting position. Work up to doing two sets of 10 jump squats per session.

Cardiovascular exercises that help redefine the ankle area include:

  • Jumping rope
  • Walking briskly (three to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes) will help in two ways: weight management and ankle size reduction.
  • Running, especially uphill
  • Swimming provides an overall body workout, but is especially effective in displacing extra ankle fluid
  • Cycling is an effective cardiovascular exercise that reduces cankle symptoms

If the simpler treatment options, including diet and exercise, do not deliver the desired results, there are two surgical options: ankle liposuction and calf implants. Ankle liposuction removes the excess fat cells in order to reduce ankle size; calf implants are inserted using local anesthesia and immediately redefine the calf shape.

Finally, there are camouflage options: tanning and clothing.

  • Spray tanning the ankles a darker tone than the remainder of the leg will give the illusion of a more contoured ankle.
  • Clothing can help camouflage cankles. Do not wear skinny jeans or ankle strap shoes that draw attention to the lower leg and ankles. Wear shoes with wedge heels or platform soles to carry the eye upward.

Cankles are treatable, in most cases, by dieting, exercising or adjusting medications. It is important to seek the proper medical evaluation to diagnose any serious underlying condition.

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