Ankle Tattoos

Benna Crawford
Training Spirit tattoo

A tattoo on a small stretch of skin is more of a flirtation than a statement. That's why ankle tattoos tend to be more popular among women, although there are some styles that work for men and women.

Ankle Tattoo Pain

The first concern everyone has about an ankle tattoo is pain. Will it hurt? How much? Tats on non-fleshy areas are more painful than tats on well-padded parts of your body. So, you could feel an ankle tattoo, but placement will make a difference.

  • A very tiny tattoo just under the ankle bone isn't going to register as much as one that goes over the bone or decorates the top of the foot and curls around the ankle.
  • A "bracelet" style just above the ankle itself hits a meatier part of your leg, which absorbs some of the shock of the needle.
  • These tend to be smaller tattoos so the process is a lot shorter - and less expensive - than that full sleeve or lower back work of art. Talk to your artist and follow sensible recommendations to mitigate any discomfort.

If you are really sensitive, consider sticking to less thin-skinned body parts.

Ankling Around

Your ankle tat can be revealed or hidden at will - a nice bonus when work requires you to appear conservative but an elegant evening or a weekend at the beach demand something sexier and bolder. To make your ankle tat really personal, you can:

  • Cover up an ankle tat with socks, boots or pants.
  • Show it off with sandals, sling-back stilettos or bare feet.
  • Match tats on both ankles, like a set of wings or mirror flower images.
  • Etch a delicate symbol on your inner ankle like a secret message.
  • Choose from popular designs, but make yours personal with an initial or your astrology sign.

Hearts and Flowers

A tiny heart on your inner or outer ankle, a clutch of pansies encircling an ankle bone - don't be afraid to go girly and romantic. Given the curve of the area, and its relatively diminutive real estate, it encourages softer lines, rounded edges and miniature gems. Why not go for a gem? A faceted ruby, sapphire or emerald under your outer ankle bone marks you as a treasure.

Foot drawing heart in sand

Butterfly Vines

Butterflies withstand the test of time, and they never seem to go out of style. Invite one or a host of them to flutter over and around your ankle. For great butterfly designs, you can:

  • Choose your favorite species or mix and match colorful wings and delicate shapes.
  • Incorporate a single butterfly in a twisting vine that swirls partly over the top of your foot, winds up over the ankle and ends in a flourish just where your calf begins.
  • Add a flower or two to the vine.
  • Do the whole tattoo in color or opt for more abstract black.

Don't be afraid to go barefoot in the garden to display the art curling around your beautiful bones.

Butterfly Vines

Tribal Tats

Stylized black tribal tats grace any ankle, regardless of gender. A "collar" around the top of one or both ankles might be entirely abstract, relying for its power on the bold forms. A tribal ankle bracelet might spell out an inspirational word, a name or a significant date. You can also incorporate kanji into the design, or tuck a tiny lizard in there as a surprise.

Matching Ankle Tattoos

Pain and Pleasure

Clever "realism" will give casual observers pause when they notice a heavy spike entering your ankle on one side and emerging on the other.

  • A fish hook snagged into the skin over the bone is attached to a twirl of fishing line wrapped around the ankle.
  • Twin bracelets of barbed wire signify struggle, and maybe endurance. However, you can turn that barbed wire into a writhing dragon with a lick of flame over the bone.
  • Add a leaping salmon of wisdom to the top of your foot, in front of the hook and line. Color the spike gold to celebrate a monumental task achieved.

Goth or grace, the interpretation and its visual image are up to you.

Baby sitting on feet

Simple Signs

Choose small simple signs for a big impact.

  • An eighth-note is small, plain and graphic enough to fit in the restricted space at the ankle. But, if music is your muse, a stanza of notes can erupt from the ankle and play over the top of the foot.
  • Kanji, Chinese writing, fits perfectly under or over an ankle - just keep your message to one or two characters for clarity.
  • Tattoos that are drawn small can blur and appear indistinct, so stick to simple images - consult with your tattoo artist to marry size and design for a sharp, long-lasting ankle tat.
    Legs and ankles

Dude Designs

Tribals and tough-guy realism are fine ankle tats for men but macho isn't your only choice. An astrology sign, a significant date, an inspirational kanji word, a sports symbol, or a patriotic emblem of military service are all good choices for a man's ankle tattoo. If you're a world-class entomologist, go for that rare kaiser-i-hind swallowtail just over your fibula, and happy hunting!

Tattoo work

Ankle Tat Aftercare

Pamper your new ankle tattoo - follow your tattoo artist's aftercare instructions - as you would any fresh skin ink. However, you should give that ankle a little extra love to help it heal faster and remain healthy.

  • Elevate your leg and foot as much as possible - and stay off it if you can - to minimize any swelling. This tenderness typically goes away after a day or two, so just skip the dance routines and marathons at first.
  • Avoid any fabric rubbing against the open wound - socks, shoe leather, pants cuffs, even bedding.
  • Let the new tat breathe and protect it from dirt. Your ankle is much closer to the ground than most tattoo locations. Don't get it dirty and do change your sheets daily to prevent possible infection.

Once the tat heals, slather it with sunblock for daylight exposure, to keep it from fading.

Tattoo Idea Resources

  • Tattoo Johnny has a large gallery of ankle designs to look at and get ideas for your perfect tattoo.
  • Slodive gives you 30 interesting women's ankle tats.
  • Cuded presents 60 more imaginative ankle decorations, mostly for women.
  • Inked Magazine has something for everyone, with their reliably fabulous ankle tat images.

Tattoo Connections

You have two ankles, and each has an inside and an outside. Both are connected to legs and feet, creating endless possibilities to reveal multiple showstopper or discreet tattoos that star your ankle -- but you don't have to stop there. If you love narrative story ink, work your ankle tattoo into a foot tat or make it the terminus of a fully inked leg. If you just want something intriguing to flash over a pair of killer heels or add extra interest when you're hanging ten, ink your ankle. Brief discomfort but infinite glory is not a bad trade-off for a permanent expression of inimitable you.

Ankle Tattoos