Foot Bruises: Types, Causes, Complications

Medically Reviewed By Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP

A foot bruise occurs when blood leaks from vessels in the foot into the tissues of the skin, muscles, or bones. Types include contusions, hematomas, and purpura. Possible causes are injury and an underlying medical condition. The foot’s major structures are the toes, arch, and heel. It’s composed of bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Foot bruising can affect any part of the foot, from the toenail to the arch 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.

This article examines the types of foot bruises and what can cause a bruised foot. It also discusses related symptoms, when to contact a doctor, how to treat a bruised foot, and more.

What are the types of foot bruises?

There are many types of bruises that can affect the foot.

Contusions

Contusions are common types of bruises caused by injury to the foot. According to OrthoInfo from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a contusion is the second most common cause of sports injury. Sprains are the most common cause.

A foot contusion can occur when a blunt object hits part of the foot. This causes the muscle fibers and connective tissues to become crushed, but it does not break the skin.

Symptoms of a foot contusion can include:

  • swelling
  • pain
  • limited range of motion
  • weakness
  • stiffness
  • bluish discoloration due to torn blood vessels

Learn more about contusions.

Hematomas

Foot hematomas are bruising in which significant bleeding results in blood pooling under the skin at the site of injury.

Hematomas affecting the foot include subcutaneous hematomas (collection of blood beneath the skin) and subungual hematomas (collection of blood under a toenail).

Symptoms of a hematoma, such as swelling and bleeding, may develop slowly following an injury. You can typically treat symptoms of a mild hematoma at home.

Severe pain with a hematoma may indicate damage to the deeper tissues and blood vessels. If this occurs, seek medical advice.

Learn more about hematomas.

Purpura

Purpura is caused by spontaneous leaking of blood from tiny blood vessels. It results in purple or discolored flat patches on the skin or mucous membranes.

Purpura that results in tiny spots on the skin is called petechiae. A large area of purpura is called ecchymosis, although any bruising is often called ecchymosis.

Unlike contusions and hematomas, purpura does not occur due to an injury. It happens due to an underlying medical condition, an infection, or due to medications.

What can cause a bruised foot?

A contusion or injury, such as minor bumps, scrapes, trips, or falls, cause most foot bruising. However, frequent or unexplained bruising on your feet can indicate an underlying condition.

Injury

Foot bruises can be caused by everyday injuries or more serious trauma, including:

Ill-fitting footwear might cause a foot bruise if it puts a lot of pressure on your feet. Your feet may bruise more easily as you age, as the skin becomes more fragile.

Learn more about foot injuries.

Medical conditions

An underlying medical condition may cause a bruised foot or purpura. Examples of conditions that may result in foot bruising include:

Learn more about medical conditions that can cause bruising.

Medications

The following medications may cause drug-induced thrombocytopenia, which can cause bruising on the feet.

  • some antibiotics such as trimethoprim, cephalosporins, and linezolid
  • the antimalarial drug quinine
  • some antiepileptic medication such as carbamazepine
  • some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
  • some glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors such as abciximab, eptifibatide, and tirofiban
  • some antiarrhythmic medications such as quinidine
  • some diuretics such as thiazides
  • the chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin
  • the antidepressant medication mirtazapine
  • some vaccines such as Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source the influenza vaccine

Always tell your doctor about your medications or treatments, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, dietary supplements, and herbal or alternative treatments.

Did you know?

  • Each year, about 6% of people in the United States experience a foot injury, fallen arches, flat feet, or bunions.
  • About 87% of people will experience foot pain in their lives.
  • According to a 2020 report Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source , common sports-related foot injuries include contusions, midfoot or plantar fascia injury, turf toe, and metatarsal fractures.
  • Immune thrombocytopenia is a rare condition in which a low blood platelet count may cause easy bruising, affecting about 3.3 per 100,000 people each year in the U.S.
  • IgA vasculitis causes immunoglobulin A to collect in the small blood vessels, which can cause a rash that looks like bruising. It affects about 3–27 per 100,000 children and fewer than 2 per 100,000 adults yearly.

When should I see a doctor?

Contact your doctor if you have an unexplained or persistent bruise on your foot. They can determine the cause of the bruise and advise on treatments.

Seek medical advice if you have a severe foot injury. Your doctor may conduct tests to evaluate the damage and check for fractures.

What symptoms can occur alongside a bruised foot?

A foot bruise may be accompanied by other symptoms. Depending on the cause, you may also experience:

Tell your doctor about the symptoms so that they can determine the cause and advise on treatments.

Can home remedies help heal a bruised foot?

Following a foot injury, the RICE method may help you manage pain, bleeding, and inflammation. RICE stands for:

  • Rest: Rest your foot at regular intervals to reduce the risk of further injury as it heals.
  • Ice: Apply a cool pack or ice wrapped in a cloth to the bruised area. Aim to do this for about 20 minutes several times a day.
  • Compression: Use a soft bandage or wrap to gently compress your foot. This can help reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep your foot elevated above the level of your heart where possible. Sitting with your feet up may help alleviate symptoms.

You may need to perform the RICE method for 24–48 hours after a foot injury. Contact your doctor for advice if symptoms do not improve.

What are the medical treatments for a bruised foot?

Medical treatments for a bruised foot may depend on the underlying cause. Some conditions, such as IgA vasculitis, may go away.

Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat other conditions. For example, your doctor may recommend corticosteroids for thrombocytopenia.

In cases of a large hematoma, your doctor may recommend draining it surgically.

What are the potential complications of a foot bruise?

Complications associated with foot bruises can be progressive and vary depending on the underlying cause.

Possible complications include compartment syndrome and myositis ossificans.

Compartment syndrome is severe swelling that can lead to:

  • permanent muscle damage
  • disability
  • tissue death
  • gangrene

Learn more about compartment syndrome.

Myositis ossificans is a bruised muscle calcified by growing bone cells instead of muscle cells as it heals. This can cause chronic pain and reduce flexibility.

Contact your doctor when you have concerns about a foot bruise to reduce your risk of complications.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some more frequently asked questions about foot bruises.

How long does a bruised foot heal?

The time it takes for a bruised foot to heal can depend on the cause or the severity of the injury. A bruise can take several weeks or months to heal fully.

How do you help a bruised foot?

The RICE method can help alleviate symptoms of a bruised foot and encourage healing. It involves resting your foot, applying a cool pack, gently compressing the area, and keeping your foot elevated.

Should I go to the doctor for a bruised foot?

Contact a doctor if you have a large bruise or hematoma or if you have experienced a severe foot injury. Also contact a doctor for a persistent or recurrent bruise, as an underlying condition may be causing it.

How do I know whether my foot is broken or just bruised?

A doctor can determine whether your foot is broken or fractured. Seek medical advice if you experience a serious foot injury.

How do you know when a bruise is serious?

A bruise may be serious if you experience frequent unexplained bruises or if it is accompanied by severe pain and swelling. If the cause is unknown, or if it does not respond to home treatments, contact a doctor.

Summary

Many types of bruises can affect the foot — contusions, hematomas, and purpuras. An injury to the foot can cause a contusion or hematoma. Purpura is the result of an underlying condition.

Various conditions can cause a bruised foot. Examples include IgA vasculitis, thrombocytopenia, leukemia, and infections. Some medications may also cause foot bruising.

The RICE method may help alleviate swelling and pain following an injury. If the bruise does not improve, if you have experienced a severe injury, or if you do not know the cause of the bruise, contact a doctor.

Was this helpful?
273
  1. 25 facts about foot pain that you probably didn't know. (2018). https://orthopedicassociates.org/facts-about-foot-pain-that-you-probably-didnt-know/
  2. Bakchoul, T., et al. (2018). Drug-associated thrombocytopenia. https://ashpublications.org/hematology/article/2018/1/576/277620/Drug-associated-thrombocytopenia
  3. Bruising questions. (2022). https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2022/01/bruising-questions
  4. Foot problems. (2023). https://www.healthinaging.org/a-z-topic/foot-problems/basic-facts
  5. Hematomas. (2022). https://bloodclot.org/hematomas/
  6. How to recognize common foot injuries. (n.d.). https://blog.logansportmemorial.org/how-to-recognize-common-foot-injuries
  7. IgA vasculitis. (2020). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/iga-vasculitis
  8. Immune thrombocytopenia. (2022). https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/immune-thrombocytopenia/
  9. Kuter, D. J. (2021). Senile purpura. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/bleeding-due-to-abnormal-blood-vessels/senile-purpura?query=Purpura
  10. Leukemia symptoms. (n.d.). https://moffitt.org/cancers/leukemia/signs-symptoms/
  11. Lievers, W. B., et al. (2020). Epidemiology of foot injuries using National Collegiate Athletic Association data from the 2009–2010 through 2014–2015 seasons. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7017902/
  12. Mazumder, S., et al. (2020). A case of adult-onset Henoch-Schönlein purpura triggered by fire ants. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7164697/
  13. Mulcahey, M. K., et al. (2019). Muscle contusion (bruise). https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/muscle-contusion-bruise/
  14. Nusrat, S., et al. (2022). Drug (vaccine)‐induced thrombocytopenia 2021: Diversity of pathogenesis and clinical features. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9011425/
  15. Thrombocytopenia. (2022). https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/thrombocytopenia
  16. Timeline of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) signs and symptoms. (n.d.). https://www.cdc.gov/rmsf/pdf/clinical_timeline_rocky_mountain_spotted_fever_08_english_7-2-2018-3-p.pdf

Medical Reviewer: Angela M. Bell, MD, FACP
Last Review Date: 2023 Mar 20
View All Foot and Ankle Injury Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.