Breast implants. Nose jobs. Liposuctions. Mommy Makeovers. You name the part of the body and there’s probably a plastic surgery procedure to fix it. There’s even a solution for a body part that doesn’t get all that much attention, but still draws ire from those who have them: cankles.
The good news: there is a surgery that can help reduce the size of your ankles.
The not-so-good news: the post-op recovery.
“The recovery is very, very long,” says Constantino Mendieta, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon in Miami. “So they swell up a lot because it’s the most blood-dependent area of the body. It takes six months for you to see the effect of the results. And when we’re doing liposuction in that area, it’s so thin, you can get a lot of irregularities and bumps so you have to be really, really careful. This surgery takes a lot longer. it takes a lot more care and finesse by the surgeon. It can be done and the results are good. But the surgery takes longer and you have to wait longer for the results.”
What are Cankles?
They are not just in the imagination of the beholder. “Cankles are real,” says board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Ashley Gordon of Austin. “And I think it’s a really sad situation for patients who do have cankles. It’s a genetic lack of definition in the lower part of the leg and I think it forces women to feel self-conscious and they always need to wear pants and that they can never wear skirts.”
What causes Cankles?
There are a few common things that can cause cankles, but some are more worrisome than others. First, weight gain can lead to cankles by increasing fat stores in the leg, which are then pulled downward by gravity.
Second, if your body is retaining too much fluid, the tissues in the lower calf and ankle may swell, making the ankles appear wider. This commonly occurs during pregnancy and usually resolves after the baby is born, but it can also be due to kidney disease, heart failure, a blood clot, or a blockage in the lymphatic system, among other medical problems.
Third, some people may simply be genetically predisposed to having thicker ankles.
Are Cankles Treatable?
“For the longest time we didn’t have any treatment for it because that area in particular is a little bit difficult to liposuction because the boney structure is right there,” Dr. Gordon continues. “So I think Kybella as an off-label treatment is awesome for cankles because you can just do the injections precisely where the excess fat is and really sculpt the leg without any downtime at all. And usually after two or three treatments, they look fabulous.”
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Clifford Clark of Florida also weighs in on the weighty ankle issue. “Some people do have fat that goes all the way down to their Achilles and we’ve done liposuction down in that area. It’s a very difficult place. It stays indemitous longer than we would like, but there are candidates for liposuction in that area.”
Dr. Clark reminds, however, that sometimes it’s not fat or tissue: “There are some who are just big boned people. “
Dr. Christine Hamori, a board certified plastic surgeon in Massachusetts, says cankles can actually impair some foot fashions. “It’s really bad for these patients because they say I can’t wear boots,” she shares. “They cannot get the boot up over their leg. If it’s thick muscle, you could use neuromodulators or Botox in the calf muscles. And if there’s just a little bit of fat, you could consider using an off-label use of Kybella.”
Potential Non-Surgical Home Treatments for Cankles:
Here are some other non-surgical approaches people try:
- Hemorrhoid cream: Over-the-counter hemorrhoid creams can temporarily firm and tighten the skin. This isn’t a good long-term fix and should only be used occasionally, but it can be a quick help if you’re dressing up for a night out. This may not be a good solution for everyone, so always ask your doctor before trying a new remedy or supplement.
- Parsley tea: Parsley can act as a natural diuretic, helping your body release excess fluids. You can buy this in a health food store or make your own by boiling fresh parsley in hot water. Drink a cup a day.
- Pointed-toe flats: Shoes with pointy toes can make your feet look longer, which gives the illusion of lengthening the whole leg. Nude-toned shoes can also have the same elongating effect.
- Jump rope: Without expensive surgery, it’s impossible to remove fat just from the ankles, but you can tone your calves to make your ankles look smaller. Numerous gyms now have classes that specifically target this problem area. Many of these exercise programs center around a childhood favorite – jumping rope. Try jumping rope for 10 minutes a day to help thin out your cankles.
Is this whispered anatomic anomaly an equal gender disorder?
In other words, are cankles only an issue faced by women?
“I’ve only seen women. I can imagine men can get them too, if they’re really overweight,” says Dr. Hamori. “But the fat deposits are really more subcutaneous in women, so I would think they would get them more than men.”