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What You Need to Know About Foot Injuries from an Expert Podiatrist

With the summer in full swing, most people are spending more time outside being active.  John Giurini, DPM, chief of Podiatric Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), says that increased activity means people should pay special attention to their feet.

“Foot health contributes to your overall health,” he says. “From beginners to advanced athletes, proper foot care is important for keeping your body healthy.”

Whether you’re training for a big race or taking a short walk, here are a few common injuries to be aware of so you can keep your feet happy and healthy.

Plantar Fasciitis

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 the pavement,” Dr. Giurini says. “But repetitive stretching can lead to inflammation and irritation, and even small tears.”

Plantar fasciitis can arise from overuse, but also occur 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,” Dr. 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.”

Blisters

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,” Dr. 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, Dr. Giurini recommends applying a bandage or piece of tape to the skin to inhibit further irritation. He says 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.

Toenail Injuries

Speaking of shoes, when yours don’t fit well, your feet may slide forward with every step. This constant tapping can injure your toenail and make 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,” Dr. 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. 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, and elevation – is a good first-line of treatment.

Stress Fractures

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,” Dr. 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,” Dr. 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 more about our services and meet our team of experts.