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A plastic surgeon tells us all about cankles, including how they develop to how to get rid of them.

Cankles: What They Are, Why They Happen, And How To Get Rid Of Them


March 14, 2018

Cankles are technically defined as the appearance of thick ankles or calves. Some might say that the ankles tend to blend with the calves, thus the origin of the creative term “cankles”. Let’s explore the causes behind cankles, and how to get rid of them.

Why do cankles occur?

An attractive lower leg shape involves a well-formed, muscular calf which gradually narrows towards the Achilles tendon in the back of the ankle area. When there is a lack of definition of the calves and ankles, cankles appear.

The visible thickening is usually caused by fat accumulation under the skin. This obscures the tapering between the calf and ankle. In other cases, the thickening is due to swelling from any number of medical causes—problems with blood circulation or lymphatic drainage, for example.

Are they genetic?

As with most physical characteristics, there is a genetic component to the form and contour of a person’s calves and ankles. Cankles are not, however, inherited like some medical conditions or diseases are.

Can exercise cause cankles?

Exercise does not cause or exacerbate fat accumulation around the calves or ankles. On the contrary, physical activity usually improves blood flow and reduces overall body fat. This often results in a more toned, defined, and slender appearance of the lower legs.

Excessive bulk in calf muscles—which may occur in bodybuilders, for instance—is limited to the upper portion of the muscles below the knee, and does not extend to the lower area in the ankles.

Can you prevent them?

A healthy lifestyle, including a well-balanced diet and regular exercise may diminish the fat layer under skin and reduce the appearance of cankles. The condition is not entirely preventable, though, as it is partly caused by a person’s genetic background.

Can thin people get cankles too?

Although overweight people have a larger overall percentage of body fat, cankles may be seen in individuals of all ages and body types.

What surgical options are available?

The best surgical option to treat cankles is liposuction. This is a surgical procedure designed to remove fat deposits from areas that are recalcitrant to diet and exercise, such as the calf and ankle area.

Liposuction of the calves and ankles is performed through tiny incisions—using very thin cannulas—and a very precise technique to remove fat and produce the desired results.

Is liposuction safe?

When performed by an experienced aesthetic plastic surgeon, liposuction is a very safe and effective procedure that produces improved definition and contour of the calves and ankles.

What is the downtime? How does it impact walking and exercise?

After surgery, patients will be able—and required—to walk immediately. But they should not resume vigorous activity or exercise for two weeks.

In the immediate post-operative period, it is normal to have some fluid seeping from the incisions for the first day. The treated area will also swell, with the most noticeable swelling occurring two to three days after surgery.

Patients need to wear compression stockings as much as possible for the first few weeks after surgery, to help minimize swelling and improve healing. Swelling will gradually resolve, but will most likely last four to eight weeks. It may take longer if significant amounts of fat need to be removed.

In order to avoid complications and a prolonged recovery period, patients should keep their legs elevated as much as possible. They should also restrain from unnecessary physical exertion, and closely follow their surgeon’s post-operative instructions.

How much does the procedure cost?

The overall cost of surgery depends on the plastic surgeon’s fees, as well as the costs of anaesthesia and the facility. There will also be a significant amount of variation in fees based on geographic location. Your cost can be anywhere from $3000 to $5000.

How should you choose your surgeon?

When choosing a plastic surgeon for liposuction—or any other cosmetic surgery—patients should select an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in aesthetic plastic surgery.

While discounted procedures might sound like great bargains, it’s in your best interest to avoid them. Cost-cutting could be a sign of compromises to safety and care. This could result in unnecessary and avoidable complications.

When is the best time to do this procedure?

Deciding on the best time to treat cankles depends on several factors, including your personal requirements and lifestyle. Your job, level of activity, and the amount of fat deposits all should be considered.

Another consideration is sun exposure, which may negatively affect scar appearance. Although the incisions used for liposuction are tiny and imperceptible, patients should avoid the sun and UV rays as excessive exposure may cause scar hyperpigmentation.



Dr. Hutchinson also gave us the ins and outs of the Mommy Makeover.
Find out more about fat grafting, which uses liposuction to enhance breasts.


Read client reviews, book appointments, and get advice from the experts in Charlotte’s Book. Only the best cosmetic doctors, skincare gurus, nutritionists, and fitness and wellness professionals make it into our book.

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