What foot injuries can sports cause?

Running, jumping, hitting or kicking a ball are actions that we commonly perform when playing sports.

Although practicing them is necessary for a healthy lifestyle, experts warn that, by increasing the risk of impact, demanding unexpected movements or involuntarily subjecting joints, bones, and ligaments to excessive loads, they can cause various injuries, especially in the feet. Find out here which are the most common, their characteristics and what to do to treat them.

Ankle sprain

Ankle sprain is one of the most common sports injuries.

The ankle joint connects the foot to the leg and allows the leg to move up, down, in, and out. There are muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the ankle providing the stability the joint needs for walking and running.

Ankle sprain occurs when these ligaments are overstretched or torn, usually by forcing the joint to move into an unnatural position.

The most common symptoms of ankle sprains are:

  • Joint or muscle pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Joint stiffness.
  • Changes in skin color.

To treat this condition, the health professional may recommend:

  • Apply ice immediately to reduce inflammation (not directly on the affected area, but wrapped in a cloth).
  • Wrap a bandage around the affected area firmly, but not tightly, to limit movement. The use of a splint (splint) may also be recommended.
  • Keep the swollen joint elevated (above the level of the heart) even when sleeping.
  • Avoid putting weight on the joint.


Fracture occurs when more pressure is applied to a bone than it can withstand, causing the bone to split or break. In case the fractured bone breaks the skin, it is called an open fracture.

A stress or overload fracture occurs from the prolonged or repetitive application of force on the bone, which ends up weakening it until it breaks.

  • What can be done after an ankle fracture

The three main options for treating bone fractures are:

  • Splint immobilization.
  • Open reduction and internal fixation: requires surgery, rods, plates or screws are used to repair the bone, which are held in place under the skin.
  • Open reduction and external fixation: requires surgery, a device is placed outside the skin to support the bone and keep it in the correct position while it heals.
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plantar fasciitis

Another common sports injury is plantar fasciitis, a condition that occurs when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed or swollen. This is the thick tissue found on the bottom of the foot, it connects the calcaneus (heel bone) to the toes and creates the arch of the foot.

The symptoms of plantar fasciitis are usually pain and stiffness in the lower part of the heel, usually during the first steps of the day, after standing up from sitting for a long time, or when walking, running or being physically active.

To treat this condition, the health professional may recommend:

  • Rest for at least a week.
  • Perform heel and foot stretching exercises.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Wear night splints while sleeping.
  • Wear shoes with good support and cushioning.

Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma or neuralgia is an injury to the nerve between the toes (usually affects the nerve that passes between the third and fourth toes). Among the most common symptoms are:

  • Tingling in the space between the third and fourth toes.
  • Cramps in the toes.
  • Sharp or stabbing pains in or around the toes, which usually get worse with time or when wearing tight shoes.

To treat this condition, the health professional may recommend:

  • Tape the affected toe area.
  • Modify the footwear that is worn, opting for wider toe boxes or lower heels.
  • Go to physical therapy.
  • Taking anti-inflammatory or nerve-blocking medications.
  • Use shoe insoles.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the thickened tissue and the inflamed nerve. This helps relieve pain and improves foot function.

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Onychocryptosis, better known as ingrown or embedded nail, is a condition that causes the toenails (especially the big toe) to ingrow into the tissue. Among the most common symptoms are:

  • Pain, which in many cases can prevent daily activities.
  • Swelling.
  • redness

To treat this condition, the health professional may recommend:

  • Soak the affected foot in warm water to reduce swelling and tenderness.
  • Use antibiotic creams.
  • Use pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), and naproxen sodium (Aleve), to relieve pain.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, so as not to worsen the condition of the toe.

If these measures are insufficient, professional procedures may be used, such as lifting the nail, partially removing the nail, or partially removing the nail and tissue.

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot or foot fungus (Tinea pedis) is a fungal infection that usually originates and develops between the toes. This condition should not be confused with onychomycosis, which occurs when the fungus infects but is limited to the toenails.

Athlete’s foot is characterized by a red, scaly rash that usually begins between the toes. In some cases, blisters or ulcers can even be seen.

It can affect just one foot, both, and also spread to the hand, especially if you scratch it, as it is contagious. It is usually transmitted by floors, clothing, towels or contaminated surfaces.

It usually occurs from wearing tight or wet shoes or socks for a long time (something very common when doing sports).

To treat this condition, the health professional may recommend:

  • Over-the-counter antifungal creams or powders, which contain miconazole, clotrimazole, terbinafine, or tolnaftate.
  • Wash your feet well with soap and water, and carefully dry the area completely.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes.
  • Wear clean cotton socks, and change them regularly if necessary.
  • Wear sandals or flip flops in public showers.
  • Wear shoes that are well ventilated and made of a natural material, such as leather.
  • Achilles tendonitis

    Achilles tendonitis is a condition that occurs when the tendon that connects the back of the leg to the heel becomes inflamed. We use this tendon, called the Achilles tendon, to walk, run or jump.

    Achilles tendonitis can cause pain in the heel and along the tendon when walking or running. It may also be swollen, hot, and feel particularly painful or stiff in the morning.

    To treat this condition, the health professional may recommend:

    • Reduce or stop activities that cause pain.
    • See a physical therapist for exercises to relieve discomfort.
    • Wear orthopedic devices, such as a boot or splint, to keep the tendon and heel immobile.
    • Wear comfortable shoes.
    • Take anti-inflammatories.
    • If these treatments do not improve symptoms, surgery may be needed to remove inflamed tissue and abnormal areas of the tendon.

      latest tips

      While playing sports or physical activity regularly can increase the risk of developing problems before, this does not mean that you should eliminate them from your routine.

      Experts recommend exercising as part of a healthy lifestyle, as it helps combat sedentary lifestyle, and with it, hundreds of conditions. Just remember to take a few precautions to lower your risk of injury:

      • Stretch correctly before and after physical activity.
      • Work a good technique when doing sports.
      • Do not neglect any injury or that has occurred during the exercise.
      • To remind:

        Until there is meaningful scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should be very careful.

        Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, talk to your doctor first about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.

        Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.

        Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

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