Feet are a common target for injuries since they bear the brunt of all the weight that our bodies carry. Moreover, any environmental hazard associated with traveling is more likely to be encountered by our feet first. Our feet are complex marvels of nature and have integrated parts to work efficiently. These include bones, ligaments, tendons, fascia, and soft tissue. Foot and ankle injuries are caused by injury to any one of these parts. The five common injuries of the foot are listed below:
The plantar fascia is a sheet of connective tissues that lie underneath our soles. Injury to the plantar fascia is one of the most common injuries to the foot. Excessive load-bearing, running, or jumping may lead to inflammation of the fascia and cause plantar fasciitis. People who have this condition usually complain about pain in the sole of the feet, especially when they wake up in the morning. They may report that the pain gets better as the day progresses. Stretching exercises of the feet may help relieve the pain.
Tendons are bands of connective tissue that join a muscle to the bone. One of the important tendons in the foot is the Achilles tendon (aka calcaneal tendon). Inflammation of the tendon due to trauma or running “too fast too soon” may lead to Achilles tendonitis. That is why it is recommended that you do not exert yourself too much on your first run since an injury to the top of the foot tendon due to strenuous muscle contraction can lead to tendonitis. An ideal regimen should include making small goals and pacing yourself while running. However, if you do end up with Achilles tendonitis, rest and stretching exercises are recommended. If the condition fails to resolve with these measures, you should visit your doctor who might prescribe you an anti-inflammatory drug and assess your tendon for a possible tear.
Who hasn’t heard of someone who got an ankle sprain during sports? It’s probably the most common foot injury encountered by many in the adolescent population. A sprain is an injury to the ligament. A ligament is a band of strong connective tissue that binds one bone to the other. A foot contains a total of 26 bones and all of them are kept in place with the help of ligaments wrapped around them. More often than not, an athlete would twist his ankle that would injure or tear the ligament. The most common ligament injured in the foot is the anterior talofibular ligament located on the outer side of your foot. You can manage mild ankle sprains with RICE protocol – rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If swelling persists and you are unable to bear weight, visit a doctor to rule out a possible fracture of the bone.
Due to constant stress on the feet, they are prone to small hairline fractures called stress fractures. With normal daily activity, our feet adapt to make the muscles and bones strong enough to prevent any fracture. When a person suddenly starts strenuous exercise or exerts themselves beyond the regular amount of stress, the foot may fail to adapt and are at risk of stress fracture. Stress fractures mostly occur in the second and third metatarsal bones of the feet. These injuries are common in military recruits or long-distance runners . Rest is usually enough to allow the bone to heal. If the pain and inability to bear weight persist for months, it is advisable to visit your doctor. In a few cases, there might be severe trauma (roadside accident, for instance) and a complicated fracture of the foot might occur. Such patients are referred to orthopedic surgeons for the proper repair of the broken foot. A physician might recommend surgery canes, a wheelchair, or a knee scooter for broken foot until the bones have repaired completely.
Puncture wounds are common in people who tend to walk barefoot. If the puncturing object is long, one can experience a puncture wound even while wearing shoes. Due to increased moisture and closed confines within the shoes, puncture wounds of the soles tend to get infected and may lead to gangrene. Normally, the patient recognizes puncture wounds due to pain and would take precautionary measures to prevent any complications. Unfortunately, diabetic patients tend to develop a condition, called diabetic neuropathy, that makes them lose any pain sensation in the feet. In this case, the puncture wounds may go unnoticed and eventually getting complicated infections. The infection may spread to the bones near the puncture wound and cause the infection of the bones or osteomyelitis . That is why diabetic patients are advised to check the soles and webs of their feet daily to identify any wound.
- Nichols AW. Achilles tendinitis in running athletes. J Am Board Fam Pract. 1989;2(3):196-203.
- Melanson SW, Shuman VL. Acute Ankle Sprain. [Updated 2020 Nov 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459212/
- Chuckpaiwong B, Cook C, Pietrobon R, Nunley JA. Second metatarsal stress fracture in sport: comparative risk factors between proximal and non-proximal locations. Br J Sports Med. 2007;41(8):510-514. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2006.033571
- Lavery LA, Harkless LB, Ashry HR, Felder-Johnson K. Infected puncture wounds in adults with diabetes: risk factors for osteomyelitis. J Foot Ankle Surg. 1994;33(6):561-566.