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Help! You've Got Cankles!

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Thanks to the media, you now know there’s a term for those less-than-shapely lower legs of yours—they’re called “cankles.” Since the condition is widespread and bothersome enough to have an official name, does that mean there’s something you can do about your cankles?

Well, maybe.

Cankles, or calves that descend straight into the ankles without an attractive curve, can be caused by a variety of factors. One is edema, or swelling. If you’re pregnant and suffer from puffy ankles, that’s not unusual. Chances are excellent your lower legs will regain their former look once your child is born and your body’s normal circulation pattern is re-established. It’s also not surprising if a recent ankle injury causes swelling that lasts a long time. Eventually it should resolve itself.

But if you should develop swollen ankles somewhat suddenly, with no apparent cause, a trip to your doctor is in order. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition can be caused by kidney disease and heart problems among other serious health issues. It can also arise courtesy of less serious but still troublesome problems like gout.

If you have a clean bill of health but still have cankles, it could be that your diet is at fault. High levels of sodium can cause fluid retention that can settle in your ankles. Gold’s Gym, in its tongue-in-cheek “Say No to Cankles” campaign, suggests measuring your ankles in the morning and again at night to see if you’re retaining fluid. If the answer is “yes,” try reducing your salt intake and see if you notice a difference.

For many people, cankles are simply a result of being overweight. Fat deposits can take up residence up and down your legs just as they do elsewhere. Though there’s no such thing as “spot reducing,” a high-intensity, cardiovascular exercise program will help you shed fat everywhere, including your ankles. Gold’s Gym recommends exercises that promote circulation in the legs, such as brisk walking.

Exercise will also help you further develop your calf muscles. Some people lack definition in their calves, contributing to that straight-up-and-down leg look.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.