Common foot and ankle injuries and conditions



Overview of common foot and ankle injuries and conditions

Your foot has 26 bones and 33 joints, and your ankle joint has three bones. These bones are held together throughout both your foot and ankle by numerous ligaments, tendons, nerves, and muscles.

All of these structures together support your body and make movements such as running and jumping possible. That flexibility and strength also means that there are many opportunities for something to go wrong and cause problems.

Orthopedic specialists at Dignity Health treat a wide range of foot and ankle conditions. We offer care for acute injuries like falls or sports injuries, as well as more chronic issues resulting from cancer, infections, and arthritis. Find a Doctor to learn more or schedule a consultation.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of foot and ankle conditions depend on the specific problem. Pain is a common symptom. It can be sudden (acute) or long-lasting (chronic), dull or sharp, and may worsen with activity or when wearing shoes. Sometimes, pain can even occur with the slightest touch. Other symptoms may include swelling, numbness, redness, bruising, and changes in the appearance of a toe or other part of the foot.

Causes

Car accidents and sports injuries are responsible for many traumatic foot and ankle problems, such as fractures and sprains. Ordinary slips and falls also lead to foot and ankle injuries.

Age-related wear and tear of joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles can make them prone to arthritis and injury.

Sports such as running, football, skiing, and other high-intensity exercises commonly lead to accidental injuries and overuse of the feet and ankles.

Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly is another common cause of bunions, corns, calluses, and other foot and ankle conditions.

Types

Some of the most common foot and ankle conditions that we treat at Dignity Health are:

  • Achilles tendon problems
  • Ankle fractures
  • Ankle sprains
  • Arthritis
  • Bunions
  • Corns, calluses, and blisters
  • Foot fractures
  • Hammertoes
  • Heel pain and spurs
  • Nerve problems, including Morton’s neuroma

Risk factors

  • Age: degenerative conditions become more common with age, as do falls
  • Arthritis
  • Inherited and congenital (present at birth) deformities
  • Pregnancy: this can increase swelling in the ankles and feet, leading to pain
  • Occupations that require repetitive motion of the feet
  • Diabetes: can decrease circulation in the lower extremities, leading to wounds and other issues in the ankles and feet
  • Obesity or being overweight
  • Smoking: while smoking itself isn’t directly linked to foot and ankle health, smokers tend to be at higher risk for injuries in general and tend to experience slower wound healing due to reduced circulation

Prevention

It is not always possible to avoid ankle and foot injuries. However, it is possible to reduce the risk of an injury by taking one or more of the following steps:

  • Wearing proper footwear and other safety gear during higher-risk activities
  • Making sure you have the right training and experience for an activity
  • Not working or pushing through an injury; stopping and resting or changing your habits if you feel pain
  • Seeking prompt treatment for conditions such as diabetes
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking or quitting smoking

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.


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