Foot Injuries

Because the feet bear the weight of the entire body and are used in nearly everything we do, foot injuries are among the most frequent in all sports. Whether you participate in sports regularly or simply for recreation, be on the lookout for injuries to the following parts of the foot.

Toes, Tendons and Metatarsals

By Laura Childers

Toes

Injuries to the toes include breaks and “turf toe,” which is when a toe is overextended or bent upward suddenly, causing the underlying ligaments to stretch or tear. Risk of turf toe increases in sports played on artificial surfaces.

The pinky toe and the big toe are most susceptible to breaks, normally caused by a direct impact. Tape may be used to attach a broken toe to the undamaged adjacent toe, and both toe injuries can be treated by the P.R.I.C.E. method (see “Top Sports Injuries”).

Tendons

Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis are two common sports injuries that involve tendons in the foot, and both can cause pain in the heel.

Plantar fasciitis is when the tendon that extends beneath the sole of the foot from the heel to the toes becomes irritated, causing pain when the athlete places pressure on it. It may be the result of overpronation (inward turning of the foot), wearing shoes without proper arch support, or overuse, and is frequently seen in running, tennis and golf. Over 95 percent of patients can be treated without surgery. Initial treatment includes use of a heel pad and stretching the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia several times a day.

Achilles tendonitis is when the tendon that runs from the calf muscle to the heel bone becomes irritated, often progressing to a degeneration of the tendon (Achilles tendonosis). It is often a running injury—in fact, it is estimated that Achilles tendonitis accounts for around 11 percent of all running injuries. Most cases of Achilles tendonitis can be treated with the P.R.I.C.E. method, orthotic devices, and stretching.

Metatarsals

Foot bone fractures, or metatarsal fractures, fall into two categories: acute fractures, occurring suddenly, and stress fractures, occurring over time. A direct blow usually causes acute fractures, whereas a sudden increase in activity or repetitive stress causes stress fractures.

The most important treatment for stress fractures is rest, while acute fractures sometimes require the assistance of a cast or brace for healing. Fractures of the metatarsal bones in the foot usually heal without the need for surgical intervention.