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Foot Injuries

Foot Injuries

At one time or another, everyone has had a minor foot, toe, or ankle injury that has caused swelling or pain. Generally our body movements do not cause problems, but it's not surprising that symptoms sometimes develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury.

Foot, toe, or ankle injuries most commonly occur during:
  • Sports or recreational activities.
  • Work or projects around the home.
  • Work-related tasks.

In children, most foot, toe, or ankle injuries occur during play, sports, or accidental falls. The risk for injury is higher in sports with quick direction change, such as soccer or football, or in sports with jumping, such as basketball. Any bone injury near a joint may injure the growth plate in a child and should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Certain athletes, such as gymnasts, dancers, or basketball or soccer players, have an increased risk of foot, toe, or ankle injuries.

Older adults are at higher risk for fractures and injuries because they lose bone strength and muscle mass as they age. They also have more problems with balance and vision, which increases their risk for accidental injury.

Sudden (acute) Injury

An acute injury may occur from a direct blow, a fall, a penetrating injury, or from jerking, twisting, bending, or jamming a limb abnormally. Your pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after your injury. Acute injuries include:
  • Bruises. After an ankle injury, bruising may extend to your toes from the effects of gravity.
  • Injuries to ligaments that support your joints.
  • Injuries to tendons, such as ruptured tendons in your heel (Achilles tendon). Young boys between 8 and 14 years old may have a condition known as Sever's disease, which causes injury to the growing bone where the Achilles tendon is attached.
  • Injuries to your joints, such as sprains. If a sprain does not appear to be healing, a condition known as osteochondritis dissecans may be present, causing persistent symptoms.
  • Pulled muscles or muscle strains. Muscles of the foot and ankle can be strained and can also rupture.
  • Broken bones and bone fractures, such as a broken toe.
  • A bone moving out of place or bone dislocation.
  • A crushing injury, which can lead to compartment syndrome.

Overuse injuries

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 tenderness of the heel and swelling. Pain usually gets worse while wearing shoes and during activity and improves during rest.
  • 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 foot, toe, 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 foot injury.
  • When the injury occurred.
  • Your age, your overall health condition, and your activities (such as sports, work, or hobbies).

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