What Are Cankles?

Thick ankles? From exercise to surgery (to acceptance), experts weigh in on the best options.

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 14, 2012
1 min read

“Cankles” is slang that blends “calf” and “ankles.” People use it to describe legs in which the calf doesn’t taper down to the ankle.

If you don’t have a condition that causes swelling, cankles aren’t a health concern. Exercise physiologist Rich Weil, director of the New York Obesity Research Center Weight Loss Program, says, “Cankles is not a medical term, nor is it a medical condition.”

If you’re overweight, losing extra pounds may help, but you can’t target any particular area for weight loss. “We've known for a long time that you can't spot reduce," Weil says. "Body fat is body fat and it doesn't matter if it's on your ankles, thighs, hips, or belly.”

Ankle liposuction is possible, but it “seems a little drastic," says Jessica LeRoy, clinical director for the Center for the Psychology of Women in Los Angeles.

You could also choose to:

  • Accept your body as it is now.
  • Wear pants if you’re self-conscious about your legs and ankles.
  • Play up other parts of your body you like. You may feel rankled by your ankles, but maybe you love your hair. Show off an attribute you adore.
  • Get help if you find yourself obsessing over them or any other part of your body.

"If you have serious body issues, speak to your therapist, a doctor, a personal trainer, or a nutritionist," LeRoy says.