Foot Injuries and Advice from a Podiatrist
As the summer is in full swing, you may be spending more time outside being active. John Giurini, DPM, Chief of Podiatric Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), encourages you to pay special attention to your feet.
“Foot health contributes to your overall health,” he says. “From beginners to advanced athletes, proper foot care is important to keep your body healthy.”
Whether you’re training for a big race or taking a short walk, here are a few common injuries that everyone should be aware of to keep your feet happy and healthy.
Inflammation of your plantar fascia—a thick band of tissue in the arch of your foot—is one of the most common foot injuries for active individuals.
“Under normal circumstances, your plantar fascia helps absorb the shock of pounding on pavement,” Giurini says. “But repetitive stretching can lead to inflammation and irritation, and even small tears.”
Plantar fasciitis can arise from overuse but also without an obvious cause. Foot mechanics (being “flat-footed” or having a high arch) can contribute to this condition. Other risk factors include being overweight, which puts additional pressure on your feet, or doing activities in worn out or inappropriate footwear.
“When caught early mild cases can be treated conservatively with rest, ice and stretching to give the inflammation time to heal,” Giurini says. “In some cases, physical therapy and orthotic devices can be helpful. In more severe or resistant cases, steroid injections and surgical procedures may be necessary to alleviate this pain.”
When exposed to constant friction and moisture, fluid collects between the top and deeper layers of skin. The fluid—sometimes blood—in a blister may initially act as a cushion, but as it grows, it can be very painful. If it breaks open, it is also susceptible to infection.
“This is where proper shoe fit is important—as are socks,” Giurini says. “Breaking in new shoes gradually can help prevent a blister. Wicking-type of socks that absorb sweat can also help.”
If you notice a blister starting to form, Giurini recommends applying a bandage or piece of tape to the skin to inhibit further irritation. If you notice the blister getting bigger or more painful, or redness develops around the blister, you should have it evaluated for infection by a podiatrist.
Speaking of shoes, when yours don’t fit well, your feet may slide forward with every step. This constant tapping can injure your toenail, making it bleed underneath.
Shoes aren’t just for fashion—because your feet absorb more force than any other part of the body when running, your shoes are the best protection. “Some of my patients who run long road races joke that black toenails are just part of the game,” Giurini says. “But the black coloration is actually bruising and blood buildup, and can become really painful.”
Ensure your shoes fit properly. Remember: shoes that are too big can be as much of a problem as shoes that are too small. And keep your toenails trimmed to prevent these injuries.
Sprains, Strains and Tendinitis
A sprain is a soft tissue injury, most often occurring by overstretching ligaments that connect bone to bone. Strains and tendinitis, or swelling, often occur from overuse and can be related to abnormal foot mechanics or structure.
Patients with a sprain or strain may experience swelling and localized pain with activity. RICE – rest, ice, compression, elevation – is a good first-line of treatment.
A fracture is a break in the bone—and as the name suggests, occurs because of repetitive stress on your bone. “Swelling, bruising and difficulty walking are all signs that you may have a stress fracture,” Giurini says.
The RICE method is also helpful for these injuries. “However, if pain, swelling or bruising persists, make an appointment with a podiatrist to ensure your activity isn’t causing further damage,” Giurini says.
The Division of Podiatric Surgery at BIDMC sees nearly 12,000 patients per year for a variety of injuries and more complex foot issues. Learn about our services and meet our team of experts.