Athletes are often plagued by foot injuries.
For those who are serious about their training, aches, pains, sprains, fractures and blisters can be a part of everyday life.
In this post, we’ll tell you all about the most common sports injuries of the feet. Read on to find out what they are, how they occur and how to fix them.
Foot Injuries Often Suffered by Athletes
Most athletes are bound to experience at least some of these injuries.
1. Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are small fractures or severe bruising in the bones, which happen after repetitive movements or activities.
They commonly occur as in sports that involve a lot of running. They can be caused by poor technique, a sudden change in workout intensity, or a lack of conditioning.
In order to heal these fractures, athletes need to avoid high-impact activities until the pain subsides.
2. Morton’s Neuroma
Morton’s neuroma is a nerve condition which causes a sharp pain in the ball of the foot, toe cramps, and numbness.
This nerve irritation can be caused by shoes that are too tight, or swelling of the foot. When the toes don’t have enough space, thick tissue begins to grow around the nerve.
3. Turf Toe
Turf toe is a sprain of the ligaments around the joint of the big toe or the ball of the foot.
Its name comes from the fact that it’s commonly associated with sports that are played on artificial turf, like soccer and American football. However, it can occur in any sport or activity that requires repeated hyperextension of the big toe.
CrossFit athletes are also susceptible to this injury, as they frequently repeat this movement in exercises like double-unders, box jumps and Olympic lifts.
This injury isn’t serious, and usually involves little more than pain and tenderness around the joint. To prevent or reduce this pain, it’s recommended to ditch flexible shoes for ones with stiff, sturdy soles.
4. Heel Spur
Heel spurs are a common cause of heel pain in athletes.
As well as pain, they cause inflammation on the underside of the heel bone. This is caused by calcium deposits, which can cause bony protrusions in the area.
They’re usually treated with physical therapy and cortisone injections. However, in some cases surgery may be necessary.
5. Plantar Fasciitis
If you’re experiencing persistent pain in the bottom of your heel or in the middle of the soles of your feet, you could have plantar fasciitis.
This refers to a strain of the plantar fascia ligament, which runs from the heel to the joint of the big toe. It often occurs as a result of inappropriate footwear, possibly with soft soles or poor arch support.
Athletes who practice barefoot, such as martial artists and gymnasts, are also susceptible.
You can treat it yourself with ice, frequent stretching and anti-inflammatory medications. However, if the pain is severe, a doctor can administer steroid injections or provide physical therapy.
Bunions cause the joint of the big toe to become swollen, painful and even deformed. Over time, the toe starts to angle inwards, even causing toes to overlap.
Athletes may also feel numbness in the area as a result of nerve damage.
This can occur in any sport, and makes it difficult to walk, wear shoes, or push off the foot. As well as being on of the most common foot injuries for athletes, it also affects women who wear high heels.
7. Lisfranc Injury
A lisfranc injury occurs when either the bones in the middle of the foot are broken, or the ligaments in the area are damaged.
These types of injuries can take many months to heal, sometimes requiring surgery.
8. Achilles Tendonitis
The Achilles tendon runs down the back of the heel, attaching the calf muscle to the heel bone. Continuous overuse can cause it to become inflamed and sore.
This makes it difficult to run, walk or jump, and sometimes, painful lumps form in the area. In order to let it heal, it’s best to stop training and instead focus on performing rehabilitation exercises for the Achilles tendon.
9. Talus Fracture
The talus is a small bone that sits at the base of the lower leg, underneath the tibia and fibula bones.
The role of the bone is to transfer weight evenly across the ankle. In high-impact sports that involve jumping or drops from a height, it’s in danger of becoming fractured.
This is most likely to occur in sports like snowboarding, long-jump, basketball, cheerleading and skateboarding. In any case, it occurs when an athlete lands with great force.
When this bone is fractured, the foot and ankle become swollen and painful. It can be extremely difficult or even impossible to bear weight on the affected foot.
This type of fracture is usually treated by surgery. Some athletes may have to wear a cast for up to six weeks, after which full recovery is usually expected. However, it can put people out of action for several months.
10. Subungual Hematoma
This is one of the less serious foot sports injuries, but it’s also one of the most common.
It most commonly affects long-distance runners like marathon and triathlon competitors. The constant and prolonged downward pressure on the big toe can cause blood to pool, turning the toenail black. This is called a subungual hematoma.
In severe cases, it can cause the nail to separate from the bed completely and fall off. When this occurs, it’s likely to grow back, but not guaranteed.
This isn’t the only toe problem runner’s commonly get. They also tend to suffer from ingrown toenails.
When this occurs, the nail curls into the side of the nail bed as it grows, digging into the skin and causing soreness and swelling. This is easily treated or surgically removed by a doctor. However, if left for too long, it can lead to infection.
Prevention is Better than Cure
These foot injuries are incredibly common for athletes. However, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to experience them.
You can increase your chances of avoiding them by taking care of yourself. This means monitoring your training program to avoid overtraining, as well as fuelling yourself with the right diet.
Most importantly, it means wearing appropriate footwear. To find the best choice for you, find out what to look for in a pair of running shoes.