What is a foot bruise?
The foot’s major structures are the toes, arch and heel, which are made up of bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. A foot bruise occurs when blood leaks out of the blood vessels in the foot into the tissues of the skin, muscles or bones. Foot bruising can affect any part of the foot, from the toenail to the very back of the heel. A foot bruise may appear on a small part of one foot or large areas of both feet, depending on the cause.
The foot helps provide stability, balance and movement for the entire body. Because feet are so involved in movement, bear impact from the weight of your body, and are at the extreme end of the body, they are more prone than many other body parts to contact injuries that may cause bruising. Different types of foot bruising include contusions, hematomas and purpura.
Contusions are common types of bruises that are caused by trauma. The trauma can range from mild impact, such as from improperly-fitting shoes, to a more moderate or serious blunt-force injury that damages and breaks open the blood vessels in the tissues of the skin, muscles or bones. Contusions are often accompanied by pain and swelling due to the body’s inflammatory response to injury.
When a contusion develops on your skin, it turns red, then black and blue or purple, and finally a greenish-yellow shade as the blood is broken down and absorbed by the body. Foot bone contusions and deep muscle contusions can be very painful and take longer to heal than contusions that only affect the skin tissues.
Foot hematomas are a type of bruising in which significant bleeding results in blood pooling under the skin at the site of injury. Hematomas can be caused by the same forces that cause contusions, but they generally cause more pain, swelling and complications than contusions. Hematomas can also be caused by surgical procedures or the spontaneous rupture of a blood vessel.
Common hematomas affecting the foot include subcutaneous hematomas (collection of blood beneath the skin) and subungal hematomas (collection of blood under a toenail).
Purpura is caused by spontaneous leaking of blood from tiny blood vessels (capillaries). It results in red, flat spots or patches on the skin and mucus membranes. Purpura that results in tiny spots on the skin is called petechiae. A large area of purpura is called ecchymosis, although any type of bruising of the skin is often referred to as ecchymosis.
Purpura is not caused by trauma, as are contusions and hematomas, but by a variety of diseases, disorders and conditions including:
Certain infectious diseases, such as meningitis, mononucleosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and measles
Certain medications, such as aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, antihistamines, and anticoagulants (blood thinners)
Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count that can cause problems with clotting)
Vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation)
Seek prompt medical care if you have easy or frequent bruising on the feet or elsewhere on your body, especially if it is associated with nosebleeds or bleeding gums. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you know, develop petechiae (small, flat purple-colored spots), high fever, severe headache, change in alertness, or a stiff neck, which can be symptoms of meningitis or other serious conditions.
What other symptoms might occur with a foot bruise?
A foot bruise may be accompanied by other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Foot bruises are often associated with foot pain, swelling, and skin discoloration. Easy bruising or unexplained bruising of the feet or any body part may also be accompanied by other bleeding symptoms.
Foot symptoms that may occur along with a foot bruise
Foot bruising may occur with other symptoms related to the foot including:
Broken or lacerated skin on the foot
Difficulty walking or running
Foot or toe pain
Other symptoms that may occur along with a foot bruise
A foot bruise may occur with symptoms outside the foot. Symptoms may include:
Ankle pain, swelling or inflammation
Bruises on the legs, hands, or other areas of the body
Heavy menstrual flow
Painful or tender areas
Poor wound healing
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
In some cases, such as in major trauma or complications of an underlying disease, a foot bruise may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms:
Confusion or change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
Deformity or sudden loss of function or sensation in the foot
Extreme pain, swelling, or feeling of pressure in the bruised area
Petechiae (tiny pinpoint red or purple dots from bleeding under the skin)
Sudden, severe dizziness or light-headedness
What causes foot bruises?
Most foot bruising is caused by a minor contusion or injury, such as from minor bumps, scrapes, trips or falls. You may find that you bruise more easily on your feet and legs than on other body parts. This is because those areas are generally more prone to injury and to the effect of gravity on blood flow. Easy bruising may simply be a familial, or inherited, tendency and not necessarily a cause for concern. Easy bruising is referred to as purpura simplex. However, frequent and unexplained bruising on your feet or any part of your body can be a sign of something more serious, such as a blood clotting disorder or a blood disease. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms.
Injuries and trauma that can cause a foot bruise
Foot bruises can be caused by everyday injuries or more serious trauma including:
Blunt force or crush injury, such as a direct blow to the foot, dropping something on your foot, or crushing your foot under a very heavy object
Falling or tripping
Foot or ankle fracture
Sports injury, such as from running, skiing, snowboarding, or sports that involve person-to-person contact, including football and ice hockey
Walking, running or jumping on hard surfaces
Age, gender and lifestyle causes of a foot bruise
Easy or unexplained bruising on the feet can be caused by age, gender and lifestyle factors, such as:
Alcohol abuse (decreases blood clotting)
Female gender (women tend to bruise more easily than men)
Wearing the wrong size or fit of shoe
Serious underlying diseases and other conditions that can cause a foot bruise
A variety of diseases, disorders and conditions can cause bruising symptoms on many areas of the body. Some serious underlying causes of unexplained bruising or purpura include:
Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
Thrombocytopenic purpura diseases (potentially life-threatening platelet disorders that cause problems with blood clotting)
Vitamin C deficiency (scurvy)
Medications that can cause bruising
The following medications may cause easy bruising or purpura on the feet and elsewhere on the body:
Anticoagulants (blood thinners), such as warfarin (Coumadin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), and heparin
Antiplatelet medications such as clopidogrel (Plavix)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
Radiation or certain cancer chemotherapies
Always tell your doctor about any medications or treatments you are using, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and herbal or alternative treatments.
What are the potential complications of a foot bruise?
Complications associated with foot bruises can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because easy or unexplained bruising of the feet or any part of the body can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage. It is important to contact your healthcare provider when you have any kind of persistent or recurrent foot bruising. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor can lower your risk of potential complications including: