At one time or another, everyone has had a minor foot, or ankle injury that caused pain or swelling. Sometimes symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury.
Foot or ankle injuries most commonly occur during:
- Sports or recreational activities.
- Work-related tasks.
- Work or projects around the home.
Sudden (acute) injury An acute injury may occur from a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or a fall, or from twisting, jerking, jamming, or bending a limb abnormally. Your pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after your injury.
Acute injuries include:
- Bruises (contusions). After an ankle injury, bruising may extend to your toes from the effects of gravity.
- Puncture wounds. Sharp objects, such as nails, tacks, ice picks, knives, teeth, and needles, can all cause puncture wounds.
- Injuries to ligaments that support your joints.
- Injuries to tendons, such as ruptured tendons in your heel (Achilles tendon).
- Injuries to your joints (sprains).
- Pulled muscles (strains). Muscles of the foot and ankle can be strained and can also rupture.
- Broken bones (fractures), such as a broken toe.
- A bone moving out of place (dislocation).
- A crushing injury, which can lead to compartment syndrome
Overuse injuries occur when too much stress is placed on your joint or other tissue, often by "overdoing" an activity or repeating the same activity over and over. Overuse injuries include:
- Retrocalcaneal bursitis, which is inflammation of the bursa. This condition causes swelling and tenderness of the back of the heel and ankle.
- Achilles tendinitis or tendinosis (tendinopathy), which is the breakdown of soft tissues in and around the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
- Stress fracture, which is a hairline crack in a bone.
- Plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a broad, flat ligament on the bottom of the foot that extends from the front of the heel to the base of the toes and helps maintain the arch of the foot.
- Metatarsalgia, which is pain in the front (ball) of the foot.
Treatment for your toe, foot, or ankle injury may include first aid measures (such as the application of a brace, splint, or cast), a special shoe (orthotic device), physical therapy, medicine, and, in some cases, surgery. Treatment depends on:
- The location, type, and severity of your injury.
- When the injury occurred.
- Your age, your overall health condition, and your activities (such as work, sports, or hobbies).
- Most ankle sprains can be managed conservatively. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) therapy is instituted as soon as possible following an acute sprain
Tips to prevent foot and ankle injuries:
- Avoid problems by wearing comfortable, supportive shoes.
- Do not walk barefoot in areas such as streets and parks where you have an increased risk of stepping on an object.
- Use a rubber mat to stand on if your work requires you to stand on hard surfaces. This will help to reduce stress on your feet.
- Buy new running shoes often. Experts recommend getting new athletic shoes every 3 months or after 500 miles of wear.
- Reduce your risk of re-injury by wrapping your foot or ankle or wearing a supportive brace during activities or exercises where injury is a risk.
- Do exercises for heel pain and tightness. This is especially important for athletes before they participate in sports. It is also helpful for people who are not involved with sports.
- Wear good athletic shoes, such as shoes with cushioned soles (especially heels) and good arch support.
- Buy new shoes every few months, because padding wears out.
- Stretch your foot, ankle, and leg muscles before and after exercise.