Signs You Might Have a Foot Injury

In this article, we look at symptoms from the key parts of the foot that may be signs of another injury.

By Brianna David, DPM

Table of Contents

Below are symptoms from the key parts of the foot that may be signs of another injury. It is important that you do not attempt to diagnose and treat ailments by yourself. Seeing a professional foot specialist can help you avoid turning a small problem into a big one.

Common Foot Injuries

Plantar fasciitis

With plantar fasciitis, the bottom of your foot may hurt when you stand, especially first thing in the morning. Pain usually occurs on the inside of the foot, near the spot where your heel and arch meet. Pain may lessen after a few steps, but can come back after rest or with prolonged movement. Poor foot mechanics often causes plantar fasciitis.

Sinus tarsi syndrome

Sinus tarsi syndrome is characterized by pain and a feeling of instability in the area on the outside of the foot between the heel and the ankle bone and is often caused by an ankle sprain. With sinus tarsi syndrome, uneven surfaces may be difficult to walk on.

Stress fractures

Stress fractures, or hairline cracks in the bone, are more common in women than in men. They most frequently occur in the lesser metatarsal bones, which are located on top of the feet. The main symptoms are swelling and pain. Probably the most common injury for aerobics instructors, and can be caused by poor shoe selection, hard surfaces, and overuse.


Tendonitis is another injury that has pain and inflammation of the tendons of the foot or ankle. Any tendon can be involved, but would result in pain with motion and activity.


Another overuse injury that can occur in the feet is metatarsalgia or pain in the front (ball) of the foot. This often results in pain and swelling. Sometimes there is associated numbness and burning.


Sudden, intense pain in the joint at the base of the big toe is a symptom that’s indicative of gout.

Peripheral neuropathy

If you experience pain, prickling, tingling, or numbness that starts in the feet, perhaps spreading into the legs, you could have peripheral neuropathy, a disorder that occurs when nerves malfunction because they’re damaged or destroyed. Peripheral neuropathy can come with many other symptoms and could be a sign of a more significant underlying disorder, so appropriate diagnosis is important.

Causes of Heel Pain

Ligament and tendon problems

Heel pain may be due to ligament, tendon, and/or bone injuries from a direct blow or sudden twist. Ligament and tendon problems that cause heel pain can also arise due to stress from poor foot function or daily use. Being overweight may aggravate such problems. Treatment goals for tissue problems include reducing abnormal pull on the ligaments and tendons and/or reducing abnormal stress on bones. Note that heel pain could also be due to arthritis.

Achilles tendonitis

One specific type of injury that could cause heel pain is Achilles tendonitis. The main symptom of this injury is pain and swelling on the backside of your heel when you walk or run. Secondary symptoms are tight calf muscles, a limited range of motion when flexing your foot, and skin on the heel that is overly warm to the touch.

Nerve problems

Heel pain, numbness, or tingling may also arise from nerve problems – even in different areas of your body. For example, a nerve pinched in your back may cause a sensation in your heel.

Issues with Your Toes


Severe pain or numbness in the inner toes – most commonly in the area between the third and fourth toes, and between the second and third toes – can be a sign of neuromas. The pain from neuromas may start gradually, causing burning, tingling, cramping, or numbness. Symptoms often occur after you’ve been walking or standing for an extended period of time. It might feel like you’re stepping on a lamp cord. You may need to take your shoe off and rub your foot. In some cases, the pain radiates from the tip of the toes to the ankle. Commonly called Morton’s neuroma, this problem begins when the outer coating of a nerve in your foot thickens. This thickening is usually caused by irritation that results when two bones repeatedly rub together (often due to ill-fitting shoes or abnormal bone movement). Nerve problems due to diabetes or alcoholism may also cause neuroma-like symptoms.

Turf Toe

Turf toe is a hyperextension of the great toe at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. This injury occurs most often with football athletes, though it can also happen with other field sports that are played on artificial turf. Depending on the force and direction of impact, a variety of injuries can occur ranging from strain or sprain of the plantar capsule to outright dislocation of the toe. This injury is often misdiagnosed by athletic staff, which is why it’s critical to visit us for a proper diagnosis by one of our foot and ankle specialists.

What Your Nails Are Telling You

Thickened or crumbling nails may be caused by injuries. Along with thickening, the nail may appear rigid, brittle, or yellowish. The nail may also feel pain when pressure is put on it. Eventually, the nail may loosen and fall off. This condition could be caused by injury or pressure from shoes, fungal infections, or conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, or vascular disease. Because thickened nails may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, it’s important for your podiatrist to assess this condition and to look at your medical history for possible related problems.

A black-and-blue nail is usually caused by sudden or repetitive injury to a toe. This might occur during sports that involve running or stopping quickly. The injury may also result from a heavy object falling on a toe. If your toe is black and blue but not injured, see your doctor immediately.

While this list of symptoms and injuries is extensive, it’s not exhaustive – and self-diagnosis is never recommended. If you notice any unusual pain, swelling, or other sensation in your feet and ankles that don’t go away with a day or two of rest and ice, please contact us promptly to set up an appointment.