8 Common Foot Injuries

  • doctor holding a model of a foot skeleton
    What to Know About Foot (and Ankle) Injuries
    Inside your foot lies machinery that would impress any engineer. A total of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles and ligaments work in tandem to support your weight and propel you through your daily routine. Just as the highest-tech machine can malfunction, flaws in the inner workings of your feet—or overwhelming demands from the outside—can cause injuries. Here are eight problems that can strike your feet, along with solutions.

  • Businesswoman massaging her foot
    1. Neuromas
    Too-tight or high-heeled shoes, among other causes, can compress the nerves between your toes. Most often, this occurs between your third and fourth toes, a condition called Morton’s neuroma. The pain, tingling, and numbness of a neuroma can often be relieved with padding, icing, orthotics, and wearing shoes with a wide toe box and low heels.

  • Sports Trauma of a Man's Foot
    2. Stress Fracture
    Among the more severe sports injuries, stress fractures often occur when you overdo a high-impact activity like running, dance or basketball. Fatigued muscles transfer stress to the bone. A small, hairline crack forms, causing potentially severe pain. Though stress fractures can occur in any part of your foot, they most often form in the second and third metatarsals, or long toe bones. Rest allows your bones to heal, usually in 6 to 8 weeks.

  • Tired and Aching Feet
    3. Plantar Fasciitis
    Does the first step out of bed in the morning have you howling in pain? You likely have plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the band of tissue—facscia—connecting your toes to your heel on the bottom of your foot. High-impact sports, extra weight, and jobs that require walking or standing on hard surfaces increase your risk. Stretch your foot and calf frequently, and consider wearing a night splint that lengthens your plantar fascia while you sleep.

  • Pain in the female foot_517503231
    4. Heel Spurs
    Heel spurs occur when calcium deposits build up on the bottom of your heel bone. Often, they don’t cause pain themselves—but they can irritate the plantar fascia, triggering pain along the arch and heel. Calf and foot stretches work well to relieve it; rarely is surgery to remove the spur necessary.

  • Orthopaedist at work
    5. Bunions
    This bump of bone and tissue at the base of your big toe forms when the joint connecting it to your foot shifts out of place. Narrow-toed and high-heeled shoes cause most cases, though heredity plays a small role. Left untreated, bunions can cause pain so severe it limits your ability to walk. Fortunately, treatments like ice, over-the-counter foot pads, and wearing shoes with wider toe boxes often bring relief.

  • doctor holding foot with wrap
    6. Sesamoiditis
    Your sesamoids—two pea-shaped bones lodged in the tendon beneath the ball of your foot—help the big toe move normally. Activities that place strain on the ball of the foot, including running and golf, can injure the bones, tendons, or surrounding tissue. Padding, strapping, or taping the foot can relieve pressure on the sesamoids, while anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain and swelling.

  • man touching Achilles heel
    7. Achilles Tendinitis
    The lengthy Achilles tendon can grow thick, inflamed, swollen or painful when asked to do too much, too soon (for example, after beginning an ambitious exercise program). Tight calf muscles may also play a role. Often, pain decreases after switching from a high-impact exercise to a cross-training program, such as biking, elliptical or swimming, paired with moves to stretch and strengthen the calves.

  • ankle-wrap
    8. Ankle Sprains
    About 25,000 people fall, step or twist their way into an ankle sprain each day. This common injury occurs when the ligaments on the outer side of your ankle stretch or tear, causing pain, swelling, and sometimes an inability to bear weight. Talk with a doctor if that’s the case, or if you have severe swelling or deformity. For mild sprains, rest, ice, compression and elevation—the RICE protocol—usually does the trick.

8 Common Foot Injuries

About The Author

  1. Achilles tendinitis. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/PDFs/A00147.pdf
  2. Adult foot health. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/overview/Pages/Adult-Foot-Health.aspx?PF=1.
  3. Bunions. American Podiatric Medical Association. http://www.apma.org/Learn/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=979
  4. Bunions. American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-big-toe/Pages/Bunions.aspx?PF=1
  5. Bunion surgery. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00140
  6. Foot injuries and disorders. U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/footinjuriesanddisorders.html.
  7. How to care for a sprained ankle. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/foot-injury/Pages/How to Care for a Sprained Ankle.aspx?PF=1.
  8. Morton's neuroma (intermetatarsal neuroma). American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/mortons-neuroma.htm.
  9. Plantar fasciitis. American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-heel/Pages/Plantar-Fasciitis.aspx?PF=1
  10. Plantar fasciitis and bone spurs. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00149
  11. Running and your feet. American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine. http://www.aapsm.org/running.html
  12. Sesamoid injuries in the foot. American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. http://www.foothealthfacts.org/footankleinfo/Sesamoid_Injuries.htm?terms=sesamoid.
  13. Stress fractures of the foot and ankle. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00379.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Mar 30
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