The clinical outcome of anatomical reconstruction or tenodesis in the treatment of chronic anterolateral ankle instability was assessed in a retrospective multicenter study. The anatomical reconstruction group (group A) consisted of 106 patients (mean age at operation 24 +/- 8.4 years) and the tenodesis group (group B) of 110 patients (mean age at operation 26 +/- 11.4 years). Patients were evaluated at a mean follow-up of 5.5 +/- 2.8 years in group A and 5.2 +/- 2.9 years in group B. The review protocol included patient characteristics, physical examination, two ankle scoring scales to evaluate the functional results, and standard anteroposterior and lateral radiographs to evaluate degenerative changes. Mechanical stability was evaluated using standardized stress radiographs. A larger number of reoperations was performed in group B (P = 0.008). At physical examination, more patients in group B had a smaller range of ankle motion than those in group A (P = 0.009). A larger proportion of patients in group B had medially located osteophytes, as seen on standard radiographs (P = 0.04). On stress radiographic examination, the mean talar tilt (P = 0.001) and mean anterior talar translation (P < 0.001) were seen to be significantly greater in group B than in group A. There were no differences in mean Karlsson score between the groups, but more patients in group A had an excellent result on the Good score (P = 0.011). Unlike anatomical reconstructions, tenodeses do not restore the normal anatomy of the lateral ankle ligaments. This results in restricted range of ankle motion, reduced long-term stability, an increased risk of medially located degenerative changes, a larger number of reoperations, and less satisfactory overall results.