Foot Injuries


"Oh, my aching feet!"

How many times have you made that exclamation -- but then shrugged, figuring that aching feet are just a part of life. They don't have to be! If you follow the tips in this article, you can ward off, or at least ease, the most common types of foot injuries and distress.

First, though, it's important to understand why foot pain is so common. For relatively small body parts, the feet are amazingly complex structures: Each one contains 26 bones, 56 ligaments, 38 muscles, and an even greater number of nerves and blood vessels. All of those elements are targets for injury, mistreatment, and disease. In fact, your feet are more vulnerable to injury than any other part of the body, according to the American Podiatric Medicine Association. It's amazing they are not injured more often, considering how much we ask of them.

The average pair of feet takes an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 steps each day and travels up to 80,000 miles in a lifetime, according to the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine. Walking puts the pressure of about one-and-a half times your body weight on your foot; running increases this pressure to about three or four times your weight. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), your feet absorb up to one million pounds of pressure during a strenuous, hour-long workout!

A doctor examines a patient's foot.
Feet were the cause of
11 million
 trips to the doctor's office in 2003.
See more pictures of foot problems.

So, it's not surprising that so many Americans suffer from foot ailments at one time or another. It's been estimated that anywhere from about 50 percent to more than 75 percent of Americans will experience foot problems at some point in their lives. Foot, toe, and ankle problems prompted more than 11 million visits to physicians' offices in 2003, according to the AAOS.

Some foot troubles are hereditary, while others are accidental. Other foot distress occurs because you've done something unusual: You've started wearing new shoes, you've overdone some activity, or you've ventured into territory where your feet were exposed to infection or other danger. Finally, some foot pain happens only at certain times in life or under certain medical conditions; children's feet and elderly feet in particular need special attention.

And, while foot trouble affects both men and women, women suffer more pain. Part of the reason is physical: Because women's bodies have a lighter bone structure than men's bodies, the bones in their feet are not as strong and are therefore more susceptible to certain bone problems, including bunions and fractures. Female hormones also affect a woman's foot bones and ligaments. But the main reason women suffer so much foot pain is that they're more likely than men to be slaves to fashion -- including wearing painful, unsupportive shoes.

Within this article you will find treatment tips for injuries and other foot dangers. However, individuals who have special concerns, especially those who have diabetes or circulation problems, should consult a physician when they experience foot pain or discomfort.

Continue to the next page for suggestions on how to handle one of the most common foot injuries of all: a blister.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes of some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat Blisters

There's nothing worse than a blister -- those red, burning sores, puffed up and filled with fluid, that appear when shoes rub sensitive skin the wrong way. New or ill-fitting shoes are most often the cause of blisters on the feet, but blisters can also crop up as the side effect of another problem, such as an itchy infection that you've scratched.

The majority of blisters are preventable if you follow the dictates of common sense: Choose shoes that fit properly and wear cushioning socks. If you seem to get blisters whenever you're "breaking in" new shoes, even when you are wearing socks, you might try going a step or two further. To reduce friction, put petroleum jelly or foot powder directly on the most sensitive spots on your feet, including the backs of your heels, balls of your feet, and tops and sides of your toes. Then cushion these spots by inserting moleskin pads in your shoes.

Not all feet are structurally alike, and the way your particular feet are made may place extra pressure on weight-bearing areas. Sometimes this pressure will produce blisters, but only during certain activities; for instance, during running but not walking. If you find that you develop blisters in specific areas during certain activities, custom-made insoles may prevent a recurrence (see your podiatrist).

If you have a red, sore area where you think a blister might be developing, cover it with a bandage immediately and keep the bandage on as you wear shoes over the next several days. If you have developed an actual blister, treat it as soon as you can (if you have circulation problems or diabetes, consult a physician), preferably before a lot of fluid has time to build up inside it. Here's what to do:

  1. Thoroughly wash your hands.
  2. Clean the blister area with alcohol or an iodine solution.
  3. Puncture the blister with a needle you've sterilized (by soaking it in alcohol).
  4. Leave the top on the blister. DO NOT try to pull it off, because doing so will delay healing and open the raw area to infection.
  5. Apply a topical antiseptic to the blister and the surrounding skin.
  6. Cover the area with a bandage or piece of sterile gauze taped into place, and keep it covered for several days.

If your blister doesn't heal or is extremely painful, see a doctor. To prevent future blisters, you should not only switch (or pad) your shoes, but also keep your feet dry and powdered. Excess foot moisture promotes bacterial problems that can lead to peeling and blistering skin. Be especially sure to take these precautions during warm weather (because heat increases body perspiration and foot wetness) or if you are regularly in a place where your feet sweat and/or are exposed to wetness, such as a health club. Don't wear the same pair of shoes (or sneakers) every day.

Uncomfortable, unsupportive shoes -- if you walk around in them long enough -- will also eventually cause a burning sensation in the soles of your feet. Probably all experienced travelers have at one time or another paid this painful price; many now make their excursions in shoes chosen for comfort and support.

Sometimes, however, your feet feel as if they're on fire because they're just plain hot. They're roasting inside shoes that don't "breathe." In other words, the shoes don't allow heat and moisture to escape through the upper or be absorbed by the shoe lining. To keep your shoes from becoming ovens, choose ones with absorbent linings and with uppers made of canvas or other porous material (some leather-topped athletic shoes have little holes in their uppers for just this purpose). You can also have your current shoes relined with a natural, absorbent material.

If your feet are itchy or burning all over, rather than just in a blistered spot, you may have a rash. Continue to the next page to learn what to do.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat Foot Rashes

Sometimes one person's feet can react badly to something most other feet don't mind at all. This condition is called contact dermatitis, and the result is a rash. This condition can be a little tricky to figure out, but the following information will give you some suggestions on how to treat foot rashes.

The offending allergen could be something you've accidentally brushed up against while barefoot. It could also be something you've put on your feet, such as the material of your socks; a new foot powder you're using; or the leather, fabric, or rubber in your shoes.

If you develop a rash and/or experience itching, think of what's new in your foot's life. Then eliminate it for awhile, and see if the rash disappears. If it doesn't, an over-the-counter antifungal cream may help the reaction -- and the itching -- go away. Follow package directions, and if the symptoms persist and/or become very painful, you may want to consult an allergist or podiatrist. Once the allergy begins to recede, you can help relieve inflammation by soaking your feet in lukewarm water once a day.

There's another possible culprit in the rash category. What you think is an allergy may actually be athlete's foot, a contagious fungal infection that develops between toes or on soles when the foot is exposed to an excessive amount of moisture. Athlete's foot is often acquired by walking around barefoot in wet places, such as swimming pools and health-club showers, where fungal infections spread easily.

Most cases respond to over-the-counter antifungal creams, and there are many new topical drugs available that are very effective, including econazole nitrate (1%). Sometimes, however, special tests are needed to determine what offending organism is causing your particular case of athlete's foot and to prescribe appropriate treatment.

To prevent athlete's foot -- as well as the foot wetness that can worsen a case of it -- dry your feet and toes thoroughly after showering, wear absorbent socks (and change them often), and don't wear the same shoes day after day. This is especially important for athletes, who should buy two pairs of athletic shoes and switch back and forth between them daily.

Gout is a whole-body condition with symptoms that often manifest themselves in the feet. Learn more when you click to the next section.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis, and it can often cause pain in the feet. There are approximately one million Americans who suffer from this condition, and although its source is a systemic problem within the body, there are some suggestions for how to treat gout that may reduce your chances of having a flare-up of gout.

Nearly all people with gout have too much uric acid in their blood. Uric acid is normally formed when the body breaks down waste products called purines; the uric acid is dissolved in the blood, passes through the kidneys, and is excreted in the urine. However, if the body makes too much uric acid or if the kidneys are not able to get rid of it fast enough, high levels can accumulate in the blood.

Gout generally occurs when the uric-acid level in the blood is so high that crystals of uric acid are deposited in the joints, and the lining of the joints (called the synovium) becomes inflamed.

Gout attacks tend to be sudden and painful and can affect joints throughout the body. Gout tends to affect only one joint at a time, however, and appears most often in the first joint of the big toe.

Heredity may play a role in gout. Taking diuretics, or "water pills," often causes high blood levels of uric acid, because these drugs interfere with the kidneys' ability to remove uric acid. Obesity, overindulgence in alcohol, and eating foods that may raise uric-acid levels (such as brains, kidneys, liver, and sweetbreads) have also been linked to high blood levels of uric acid.

If you suffer an attack of gout, a doctor can prescribe medicine to reduce the swelling and pain. Even if untreated, attacks tend to recede in five to ten days. However, repeated attacks can cause lasting joint damage, so if you suspect you have gout, see a doctor.

To help prevent gout attacks:

  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol.

  • Talk to your doctor about avoiding certain foods.

  • Get your weight under control using a sensible weight-loss program. Avoid crash diets, because they can increase uric-acid levels.

  • Drink at least 10 to 12 eight-ounce glasses of water or other nonalcoholic fluid each day to help your body remove uric acid.

Cramps are another painful foot condition that may come about suddenly. Continue to the next page to learn about first aid for foot cramps.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat Foot Cramps

Many of us have done it -- plunged right into an overambitious exercise program that left our muscles yelping. Foot cramps are one common result when your muscles are not ready for sudden activity. They can also be a sign that your muscles are not getting enough oxygen because your body is becoming dehydrated through perspiration. However, if you pay attention to what your body is telling you, it is not difficult to treat foot cramps.

You should drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise. Sometimes a bio-mechanical imbalance in feet will cause cramping of shortened muscles; the best prevention in this situation is stretching exercises. Finally, muscle cramping can sometimes be a result of an electrolyte (sodium/potassium) imbalance caused by overuse of diuretics, some of which deplete the body of potassium. Eating bananas, drinking orange juice or tonic water, or taking potassium supplements can often help in this situation, but be sure to check with your doctor first.

When you do experience cramps, place your feet under running water, starting with cool water and switching to lukewarm. Then give yourself a good foot massage.

Strenuous activity, such as an unusual amount of walking, running, climbing, or even simply standing, can also hurt the muscles in your foot's arch. The arch is the area of tissue and muscle that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the ball. The best remedies for arch pain include rest and a regimen of ice packs followed a few hours later by heat. Massaging the foot will also help.

You can prevent future cramping and muscle pain by wearing well-made shoes, especially when you walk or run. If you want to begin an exercise program but haven't been very active before, start slowly and increase the intensity of your workouts gradually.

Severe or continuing arch pain can be a sign that you have developed plantar fasciitis or tendinitis, which are more serious arch problems. See the pages of this article on treating injured foot arches and tendons for more information.

Sprained ankles are another type of foot injury that can result from too much strenuous exercise. Find out how to handle this situation on the next page.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat an Ankle Sprain

You have sprained your ankle if you've torn tissue -- a muscle, tendon, or ligament. Many people confuse a sprain with a strain, which is an uncomfortable condition caused by overstretching these tissues. Ankle sprains are more serious foot injuries and can make movement very painful.

For Your Information...
The good news with any sprain is that you can get treatment before permanent trouble sets in.

With sophisticated diagnostic techniques, doctors can detect even the smallest tears in soft tissue.

Because small blood vessels in the area rupture as well, the discomfort is often compounded by swelling and tenderness. Sprains are common in athletes, in people who are overweight or double-jointed, and in pregnant women. The following tips will help you treat an ankle sprain.

In some sprains, tissue is only partially torn, while in others the rupture is more severe. Pain is a good indicator of the severity of the injury. Fortunately, most tears will heal on their own if cared for properly.

If you suspect anything more than a mild strain, have the ankle checked by a physician. To care for a sprained ankle, take the following steps, unless your physician directs you otherwise:

  • Rest the foot for a day or two, keeping it elevated.

  • Apply ice packs for 15 minutes once every hour over the first 24-hour period or until swelling subsides.

  • Use an elastic bandage that will compress the ankle. (However, if you are diabetic or have circulation problems, you should not use elastic bandages without a doctor's approval.)

  • When you can do so without great pain, gently exercise the ankle by slowly rotating and flexing your foot.

Even after your sprain heals, the ankle will be more susceptible to additional strains and sprains. To prevent re-injury, wear shoes that provide good support in the ankle area, particularly when you're playing sports. You might also want to tape the ankle during athletic activity. If you do sustain repeated lateral ankle sprains, you may need to wear custom-made orthotics or even have surgery.

Injured tendons are another source of foot pain that is similar to a strain or sprain. Learn more on the next page.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat Injured Tendons

Tendons are the "bridges" that connect muscles to bones all over your body, including in your feet and ankles. When they are injured, you definitely know, as this foot injury can be particularly painful. Below you'll find additional information about this condition and some suggestions for how to treat injured tendons.

Tendinitis is the inflammation, stiffness, and swelling that result when a tendon is strained or torn. You can experience this problem in tendons anywhere in the foot, including those within the arch along the bottom of the foot. Tendinitis is, in fact, often related to arch problems. But one of the most common -- and painful -- spots for tendinitis is in the Achilles tendon (actually a group of tendons), which connects the muscles and bones of your lower leg to those of your foot. (It is named for the Greek hero whose only vulnerable spot was the back of his heel.)

Achilles tendinitis is an injury often associated with dancers, runners, and high-impact aerobic devotees -- all people who place repeated and great stress on the Achilles tendon, pulling it taut every time they land flat and hard on their feet. Other sufferers include women who are accustomed to wearing high heels and then suddenly switch to flats. In this case, the tendon is simply not used to being stretched in this new way and becomes sore and swollen.

As with sprain injuries, tendinitis can range from mild to serious. If the tendon is only overstretched, it should heal within a day or two with a treatment of ice packs, elevation, and rest -- similar to the healing routine for ankle sprains. After the first 24 hours, alternate ice packs with heat to help reduce the inflammation that often accompanies tendinitis.

When you must be on your feet, put inserts inside your shoes or in some other way cushion the affected area -- under the arch if the inflamed tendons are in that area or under the heel for Achilles tendinitis. Wear shoes with a moderate heel rather than flats, to lessen the pull on sore tendons. Aspirin or another anti-inflammatory drug can relieve some of the discomfort of mild tendinitis during the few days it will take you to recover.

Cases of tendinitis in which the tendon is torn partially or completely away from the bone can be quite serious and require a doctor's care, physical therapy, and sometimes even surgery. If surgery is not required, your doctor may still want to give you medication that will reduce the swelling (which is inevitable with an injury to the Achilles tendon) and put your foot in a cast to immobilize the area surrounding the injured tendon. Whatever treatment is recommended for serious Achilles tendinitis, you're likely to spend several months recovering from the problem, during which time your ability to get around will be limited.

The best course of "treatment" for this disabling and all-too-common injury is prevention. And it's simple: Stretch.

You must prepare your Achilles tendon and other foot tendons for any new activity in which they will be pulled to their full length. If you're a runner or a dancer, definitely do leg and foot stretches before and after your exercise routine. Also wear athletic shoes with a raised heel and with plenty of cushioning and support in the heel, arch, and toe areas. Walkers should take the same precautions; mild tendinitis can develop in the feet of walkers who don't warm up and/or those who wear very flat walking shoes without heel and arch cushioning.

But even if you don't follow any "official" fitness program, stretching exercises are a good idea and are very easy to do. They make your muscles stronger and more limber -- and, most importantly, less prone to everyday injury.

The arch is an area of the foot that can be injured through overuse or strain as well. Continue to the next section to learn how to care for an injured arch.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover causes of some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat Injured Foot Arches

The "plantar fascia" is medical term for the tissue along the arch of your foot, starting behind your toes and extending back to the heel. You have plantar fasciitis -- or an injured foot arch -- if that tissue is badly overstretched or partially or fully ruptured.

The cause of this condition is too much pressure exerted on the arches, and although common in athletes, the condition can happen because you went hiking or climbing, you were lifting heavy objects, or you simply walked too far too vigorously. Pregnancy places extra strain on the arches because of both the additional body weight and the effect of hormones on muscles and ligaments.

If the strain is severe enough, it can not only stretch but tear the plantar fascia. No matter what the cause of your problem, however, the end result is the same: foot pronation -- a temporary case of "flat feet" -- and pain.

The best treatment? Apply ice packs, followed by heat (to reduce inflammation), to the area for 20 minutes once a day. Rest is also essential. You will have to avoid any activity -- in some cases, even standing or walking -- that would increase the tear, until the tissue heals on its own (this can sometimes take up to six weeks).

With strains and less severe tears, you may be able to walk on the foot with arch-support shoe inserts. You'll need to see your doctor for more permanent arch support. A doctor can also provide immediate relief from the pain of plantar fasciitis by giving you a local cortisone injection or prescribing anti-inflammatory medication.

Once the plantar fascia is healed, prevent a repeat injury by:

  • choosing shoes, especially athletic shoes, that provide good arch and heel support.

  • avoiding activities you're not accustomed to that place a lot of stress on the foot.

  • doing stretching exercises to strengthen the muscles and ligaments in your feet.

Whatever the injury, the best treatment is preventing the condition altogether. Continue to the next page for tips on how to avoid foot injuries in the first place.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover causes of some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Avoid Foot Injuries

Better than any treatment for an injured foot would be the opportunity to avoid the injury in the first place. And, easily enough, the best ways to prevent foot injuries often involve being aware of the ground.

Few of us made it through childhood without a painfully itchy, exasperating case of poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Although this is at danger you should caution your own children about, you can still succumb in adulthood. To avoid getting a rash, learn to recognize and avoid the plants.

Poison plants are one good argument for wearing socks and closed shoes outdoors. However, because many people won't do that in the summertime, knowledge and caution are your best defenses. If you do have a rash reaction -- red, itchy patches on the skin -- wash the area as soon as possible with soap and water and apply calamine lotion to relieve the itching. Try not to scratch. Time is the only real "cure" for this condition.

While most of us know to protect ourselves from dangers like poison ivy, few of us give much thought to the ground beneath our feet. Yet it's an important factor in the experiences our feet have outdoors. If you do any kind of activity that involves movement -- walking, running, jumping, or playing a sport -- try to do it on a surface that's least likely to jolt feet and ankles or to cause burning soles.

Concrete is the worst surface for any such activity because it's inflexible, and every time your foot lands on it, your foot (and leg) gets quite a jolt. If you walk or run regularly, do so on a path of packed dirt, if possible; this type of surface is softer than concrete but not as unstable as gravel or grass (uneven surfaces that can cause you to turn your ankle).

Another great choice is packed-down sand, the kind you find on a beach just at the water's edge. Soft, loose sand is the best surface for jumping sports like volleyball. Clay is a better surface for tennis than cement, and be especially careful about tripping if you're playing on grass.

No matter what surface you're walking or playing on, you may eventually encounter something unexpected and sharp. If you do get a cut on your foot, it's important to know what to do. Continue to the next page for details.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover causes of some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat Foot Lacerations

Cuts are among the most common foot injuries, because our feet meet with so many surfaces that can contain sharp objects. Therefore, it's important to know how to treat foot lacerations.

If you sustain a minor cut, wash the area with tap or other clean water and apply hydrogen peroxide or a topical antiseptic. Then cover the cut with a bandage or sterile gauze or cloth. Minor cuts can take up to ten minutes to stop bleeding; applying pressure to the cut can help stop the bleeding. Most minor cuts will heal on their own if kept clean and covered.

If the cut is deep and blood is spurting out, don't worry about cleaning the area -- just cover it as best you can and apply pressure. (If it is a puncture wound, however, see special instructions at the bottom of this page.) If you have clean bandaging material handy, use that, but if you don't, wrap an article of clothing around the foot, or even use your hand until someone can bring you a substitute covering. If blood soaks through the first layer of bandage, don't remove it (pulling it up will undo whatever clotting has occurred); just add a second layer.

Even after covering a wound, continue to apply pressure with your hand. If someone is with you, ask them to do this while you lie down, with your foot propped up above the level of your heart; if you're alone, try to elevate the foot while applying pressure. By elevating a wound, you slow the flow of blood to that part of the body. This is especially important to do with the feet, because they are the lowest part of your body.

If you suffer anything other than a superficial cut, see a doctor. A culture and sensitivity test may be required, or you may need antibiotics. Sometimes a tetanus injection is necessary if the wound is particularly deep; if there is inflammation, the wound may need to be drained. If the layer of fat below the skin is visible, sutures may be required.

If the injury is a puncture wound, seek medical attention, even if the wound stops bleeding or seems minor. You may need a tetanus shot. Many people think you need a tetanus shot only if you step on a rusty nail: Not so! You can develop tetanus or other infection from all sorts of contaminated items.

If a foreign body remains embedded in your foot, do not try to pull it out; you may widen the wound or, even worse, cause the object to injure a nerve or blood vessel. Avoid applying antiseptics or any bandage that will press the object farther into the flesh. Instead, cover the wound area loosely with a sterile cloth or gauze that will help blood begin to clot. Then get to a doctor or hospital emergency room.

A broken bone in your foot is another common injury that it's important to know how to handle. Learn more on the next page.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat a Broken Foot Bone

When you break a bone in your foot or ankle, sometimes you know it right away: You feel the sudden and tremendous pain, and you may even hear the bone snap.

In other cases, you know you've hurt yourself, but you're not sure if you have a broken foot bone. Look for these signs:

  • You can't move the ankle or foot (or a particular toe) or you can do so only with great pain.

  • The area is painful when you touch it with a finger.

  • The area is swollen and/or bluish.

If you're still not sure, play it safe and treat the injury as if it were a broken bone: Immobilize the foot (and/or ankle) and go to the emergency room.

If you know or suspect you have a broken bone, you can treat it as follows. Carefully remove the shoe and sock, and then immobilize the foot, ankle, and lower leg. One way to do this is to splint the entire lower leg, using a board, straight sticks, or even a thick magazine. Place padding (towels or clothes) between the leg and the splint, then tie the splint in place with rope, cloth, or a belt. Tie the splint tightly enough to hold it in place but not so tightly that circulation is restricted; do not tie directly over the break.

Another way to splint a broken foot or ankle is to gently slip a pillow or folded blanket underneath it, curve it up around the foot and ankle, and tie it in place, creating a circular "cast."

Warning!
If you suspect that you have broken a bone, carefully immobilize the foot, ankle, and lower leg. And, if possible, lie on your back to "raise" your foot's position relative to your heart.

Do not move the foot any more than is absolutely necessary to immobilize it. Seek medical assistance immediately.

Elevation of the foot helps stop swelling and bleeding, but don't move the foot to elevate it. Instead, if you are being assisted by someone else, lie down on your back, thus "raising" your foot's position in relation to your heart. Unless there is no other way for you to get help, don't hop around on the opposite foot.

If the injury that broke the bone also caused cuts on the foot, stop the bleeding in the ways described on the page of this article about foot lacerations. If a bone is protruding from the foot, treat it the same way you would a foreign body in the foot (also discussed on the treating foot lacerations page).

Once you've immobilized the foot and stopped the bleeding, get to a hospital emergency room. It's likely that your broken bone will need to be set and placed in a cast. If it's a toe that's broken, it may heal with the help of shoe cutouts or special padding inside your shoes. Wherever the fracture site, however, it's important that you get X rays so a doctor can determine if the broken bones are in proper alignment to heal.

Sometimes damage to a bone in your foot may occur over time, rather than all at once. Learn how to deal with this situation in the next section.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat a Foot Stress Fracture

A sudden, sharp injury can certainly cause a broken bone in your foot, but did you know that repeated force on a bone or group of bones can cause them to sustain hairline cracks called stress fractures? Once this condition is discovered you'll want to take steps to treat it as soon as possible.

Most stress fractures occur in the metatarsal bones, which are the bones in the front of the foot that attach to your toes. Weakened muscles can exert enough pressure on foot bones to cause a stress fracture, and so can gaining a lot of weight over a short period of time.

If you sustain a stress fracture, you'll feel a nagging pain as you walk or run, and the area will also hurt if you press on it from above or below with your finger. Because stress fractures are so slight, they heal on their own. But while that process is occurring -- and it can take weeks -- you may have to put a halt to sports or exercise routines. To keep up your fitness level, temporarily substitute another fitness activity that doesn't put pressure on the feet, such as swimming. For relief from pain, apply ice packs to the area and take aspirin or ibuprofen.

To prevent stress fractures, wear shoes that provide sufficient padding and support when you walk, run, dance, or perform any other activities that stress the bones of the foot. Another precaution is to do such activities on surfaces that "give" (in other words, surfaces that are not inflexible like concrete), such as packed dirt, sand, or rubber matting, as this lessens the sharpness of the impact on foot bones every time you step, stride, or bounce.

The stronger your bones are, the less likely you are to suffer from stress fractures. So make sure you get plenty of calcium and vitamin D (which helps the body assimilate the calcium) in your diet. Vitamin D can be obtained from fortified milk or by getting 20 minutes of sunshine three times a week. If you're a woman past menopause, talk to your doctor about taking calcium supplements and beginning estrogen-replacement therapy. Orthotic therapy may also be indicated.

Although the bones, tendons and internal structures of your feet are important to protect, there's another component that also needs some attention: the skin. Get tips on what to do with feet that are sunburned or frostbitten in the next section.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

How to Treat Sunburned or Frostbitten Feet

Whether it's sunshine or time outdoors on a crisp winter day, too much of even a good thing can be damaging to the skin of your feet. Below you'll find suggestions on how to treat sunburned or frostbitten feet.

Sunburn can be especially painful on the tops of feet and toes because skin is so tender there. You experience the same symptoms you do with any burn: pain, redness, swelling, and eventual peeling or blisters.

To treat the pain, run cold water over your feet (or soak in it) and apply a cream or lotion that contains aloe, a plant substance that helps heal burns. To prevent future sunburn, wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.

In contrast, when extremities are exposed to subfreezing temperatures for too long, ice crystals can actually form in the fluids inside skin and tissue. Frostbite warning signs include numbness (or tingling) followed by pain, and skin that turns first red and tender, then white and hard.

If you do experience these warning signs, get indoors as soon as possible, carefully remove your shoes and socks, and slowly place your feet in lukewarm -- not hot -- water. If you can't get to water, place sterile padding between frostbitten toes and wrap your feet in blankets. Don't put your feet on top of a stove or radiator: If they're numb, you might not realize you're being burned. Also, do not rub frostbitten skin. As feeling gradually returns, slowly wiggle your toes. If pain continues, go to a hospital emergency room.

Being prepared and knowing how to avoid common injuries goes a long way toward making sure your feet stay healthy. With the tips from this article in mind, you and your feet should be ready to enjoy whatever lies ahead.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
Suzanne M. Levine, DPM, was a contributing writer to this article.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.