How Bad Do Ankle Tattoos Hurt and Should I Get One?

You’ve been told you have amazing ankles and want to emphasize them even more. But how? A tattoo, perhaps? You start to wonder if you can handle the pain. How bad do ankle tattoos hurt anyway?

Ankle tattoos are one of the most painful tattoos you can get because the skin is so thin, and the nerve endings are sensitive.

Now, you might be wondering either how to gain fat in your ankles or how to handle the pain. Well, you won’t find the answer to your first inquiry here.

And if you already have a couple of tattoos and are addicted to getting inked, chances are you’re going to go ahead and endure the pain.

So, what can you expect when getting an ankle tattoo? How long does the healing process take? Can you still wear those super cool socks you got for Christmas? Let’s take a look at a few things to consider before you get that ankle tattoo.

How Much Pain Can You Expect?

Although pain levels vary from person to person, ankle tattoos rank 9 out of 10 on most people’s pain scale. To put that into perspective, it is relatively as painful as getting a tattoo on the top of your head.

Just thinking about that is probably giving you a headache.

But before you decide not to get inked, remember that location matters too. If you get a tattoo on the back of your heel (the Achilles tendon), you’re looking at immense pain due to the sensitive nerve endings. If you get a tattoo on the side or front of your ankle, it will not be as painful.

Why do ankle tattoos hurt so bad?

The main reason is that the needle is penetrating an area with little to no fat. Often times, these tattoos are placed on top of the thin skin covering the bone. With so many delicate nerve endings, the ankle is not a location to get tattooed if you want to avoid any pain.

Why You Should Still Choose to Get Your Ankle Tattoo

Despite the pain you may experience, there are still great reasons to get ankle tattoos!

  • Ankle tattoos are generally small and don’t take long to do.
  • Endorphins start to kick in after a while, dulling the pain a little.
  • Some tattoo artists are talkative and can distract you a bit.
  • They’re easy to conceal whenever you need to.

Ankle tattoos are a popular choice for a first tattoo. They are quick and don’t cost much. And if you have a more experienced tattoo artist, they’ll likely strike a conversation with you the whole time. You’ll be surprised when they tell you they’re finished.

But what if you don’t want to grit and bear it?

Before You Reach for That Pain Killer…

You may be thinking that if you’re going to be in pain, why not take a pain reliever or apply some numbing cream? It would only make sense, right? Not exactly.

Numbing cream can make your skin slightly puffy. This means the tattoo artist would have to work harder to get the ink into your skin. Inflicting more trauma means a longer healing time. And this inevitably means more pain and discomfort.

Pain killers like aspirin and ibuprofen thin the blood to reduce clotting. This is great for people at risk of heart attacks and strokes. But not so great for an activity where you want to keep bleeding to a minimum.

Excessive bleeding during the tattoo process can cause decreased visibility for the artist. All those tiny little needle pricks may become bigger pools of blood.

The tattooist will have to continuously wipe the area to ensure the linework and shading underneath still look good.

This causes more pain for you while getting your tattoo. And it also causes excessive swelling and bruising. This inevitably leads to an extended healing time. So, ironically, pain killers may end up causing you more pain in the end.

If you must take a pain reliever, Tylenol is a safe option. It won’t thin the blood, but it hasn’t proved to be very effective at masking pain during the tattoo process either. At best, it’ll provide a great placebo effect!

What You Should Consider When Getting an Ankle Tattoo

You’ve decided that the hand-drawn outline of your childhood cat is worth the pain. Great! There are two main things you still need to consider to prepare yourself further.

  • What to wear during and after getting your tattoo.
  • What you can expect during the healing process.

What You Should Wear During and After Getting An Ankle Tattoo

When getting an ankle tattoo, it’s crucial that you don’t wear anything that will hinder the artist from doing their job.

99 percent of the time, the tattooist will make you hold an article of clothing that is in the way. For example, if you get a tattoo on your ribs, the artist will have you hold your shirt up.

But if you’re wearing extremely tight jeans, rolling them up might not be an option. It’s better to wear shorts, a skirt, or any other bottoms that won’t interfere with the needle.

It’s also a good idea to wear sandals. This way, you won’t have to worry about your socks or shoes being a bother either.

The same rules apply the following days proceeding the tattoo session. If you must wear socks that might rub up against your tattoo, try to frequently take them off. You want as little friction as possible with new tattoos to prevent interruption of the healing process.

You now know that an interrupted healing process causes a lot of pain. But it can also cause your tattoo to fade quicker.

Do Ankle Tattoos Wear Off?

You must know this: all tattoos eventually fade. The degree and quickness in which they fade will vary. What causes tattoos to fade? Besides the natural process of your skin cells regenerating, tattoos fade because:

  • The area gets a lot of contact, friction, or sweat.
  • The tattoo was done with light colors, especially white.
  • The ink quality was poor.
  • The artist was inexperienced and didn’t have the needle deep enough.
  • The tattoo was unprotected from the sun’s UV rays.

By limiting how much friction your fresh ankle tattoo gets, choosing a reputable tattoo shop, picking darker colors, and applying sunscreen, you will prolong the darkness of your tattoo.

Your ankle tattoo will fade, but it will only wear off entirely if the ink wasn’t deposited into the skin deep enough in the first place. And most of it will wear off if you forcefully pick off the scabs as it’s healing.

How long do ankle tattoos take to heal?

Tattoos tend to look healed after 1-2 weeks, but this is not the case. They will generally take 3-5 weeks to heal completely. Sometimes even longer. The length of healing time heavily depends on your tattoo’s location.

Getting inked anywhere near a joint will take much longer than a place that doesn’t move as much. So, walking after getting an ankle tattoo is completely possible. But it may be painful for a while, and the healing process will be extended.

One common side effect of an ankle tattoo you may experience during the healing process is swelling.

Why do Tattoos Swell?

Swelling is what naturally happens after there is an accumulation of blood or fluid in a certain area.

Ankles have a higher probability of swelling than the shoulder, for example, since gravity is working to bring down the blood. By keeping your ankle raised above your heart after getting it tattooed, you’ll bring the swelling down a bit.

Pain killers like aspirin and ibuprofen can safely be taken after you get your tattoo. Since they are anti-inflammatories, they will also help bring down the swelling.

Ice packs are also a common remedy for swelling, but the tattooed area will be extremely sensitive, so that might not be the best option.

The amount of swelling also depends on the individual. Your swelling might be minimal or moderate. For any inflammation that looks abnormal, contact your tattoo artist.

They will either validate your suspicion and tell you to seek medical help, or they will tell you it seems normal and to continue other methods to reduce the swelling.


Getting an ankle tattoo is definitely not for the people who don’t tolerate pain well. Ankles are the most sensitive areas on the body to get tattooed due to the thin skin and prominent nerve endings.

Taking pain relievers probably won’t help much during the process, but they can help reduce swelling afterward.

During the healing process, avoiding friction, picking scabs, and avoiding direct sunlight can help protect the tattoo. You went through so much pain, you wouldn’t want your precious ink to fade so quickly. Or worse, fade completely.

If you decide to take the leap, it can be worth it.

You’ll have a discreet design that likely took less than one hour  to complete and didn’t break the bank. Your nice-looking ankles will now look even nicer with a personalized design on them!