Thicker ankles are usually harmless. However, swollen ankles could potentially signal a deeper medical issue.

From hip dips to cankles, it seems like society can turn perfectly normal body parts into a prob. Cankles is a not-so-nice slang term for ankles that blend into the feet. Aesthetically speaking, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them.

Thicker bones and more fat in the ankles may simply be due to genes and lifestyle factors. But sometimes, the ankles may swell and retain fluid due to an underlying medical prob like diabetes or hypothyroidism.

Here’s what to know!

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Several factors may contribute to the appearance of cankles, including:


Some people have thicker ankles, and if your mama has them, you may be more likely to have them, too. Genes impact bone structure and fat distribution, which may also impact ankle size.


Being considered overweight or obese can put extra stress on the ankles as well as let more fat collect there.

Not getting much exercise may also cause fluid to accumulate around the ankles.


Certain medications may cause the ankles to swell and appear thicker, including:

  • antidepressants
  • blood pressure medication
  • birth control pills
  • hormone therapy
  • steroids

Injury or infection

Ankle or calf injuries can lead to swelling, including:

  • bruising
  • sprains
  • strains
  • bacterial skin infections

Medical conditions

Several medical conditions may contribute to cankles, including:

  • cellulitis
  • diabetes
  • lipedema
  • pregnancy
  • liver disease
  • lymphedema
  • kidney issues
  • hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • venous insufficiency
  • deep vein thrombosis

If your ankles are thicker or swollen, you may wonder what to do about them. Based on their cause, here’s what to do.

Genetic predisposition or bone structure

Cankles are super common, not necessarily a reason for concern, and def nothing to be ashamed about.

But ultimately, your bod, your choice. If you wanna slim the appearance of your cankles due to fat distribution or bone structure, you can:

  • exercise regularly and eat healthily
  • bulk up your calf muscles with targeted strength training (making the ankles appear smaller)
  • liposuction may be an option, though it comes with risks

Fluid retention or swelling

Some ankles may appear larger due to fluid retention and swelling. If that sounds like you, here’s what to do:

  • Wear compression socks to promote circulation.
  • If you have lymphedema, try lymphatic drainage massages or exercises.
  • Drink plenty of water, and don’t overdo salty foods to reduce fluid buildup.
  • Take diuretics or other medications to reduce water retention. Just check with your doctor first.
  • Visit a healthcare provider for support treating an underlying medical issue like venous insufficiency, lymphedema, or hypothyroidism.

Excess weight

If you suspect you have thicker ankles due to your weight, you may want to try:

  • trying low-impact exercises
  • gradually losing weight with a healthy diet and exercise
  • avoiding rapid weight loss, which could increase swelling

No obvious issue

If you’re not sure what’s causing your cankles, consider hitting up a doc. Diagnostic testing can help rule out issues like blood clotting or infections.

Cosmetic concerns or body dysmorphia

Your ankles may be perfectly healthy and normal. But since we’re used to seeing edited and airbrushed images, it’s easy to see an issue without one.

If you’re picking apart or obsessing over the appearance of your ankles or other body parts, you’re not alone. Body image issues may signal an issue like low self-esteem or dysmorphia that can be resolved with support from a mental health pro.

Practicing self-love, acceptance, and body positivity may also help you embrace your ankles and get back to enjoying life.

If you’re unsure what’s causing your ankle swelling, visiting a doctor is a good idea. You also should seek immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • painful or sudden onset swelling
  • swelling that worsens
  • heat, redness, or inflammation in the ankles
  • ankle swelling with fever, chest pain, or breath shortness

PSA: If you have diabetes and have swollen ankles, visit a doctor ASAP. This could signal heart or kidney issues that need prompt medical attention.

Though ‘cankles’ are usually harmless, swollen ankles may sometimes signal a medical issue like hypothyroidism or diabetes. Visiting a doc for a thorough diagnosis is recommended.

If your ankles are a cosmetic concern, consider speaking to a therapist about body image issues before trying measures like exercise or weight loss.