The Ultimate Guide to Avoiding Foot and Ankle Sports Injuries

Aug 4, 2023 | Foot & Ankle, Sports Medicine

Participating in sports and physical activities can take a toll on your feet and ankles. From sprained ankles to stress fractures, foot and ankle injuries are common among athletes and sports enthusiasts. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent these injuries and keep yourself in top form. Whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, Lowcountry Orthopaedics’ foot and ankle health guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to stay injury-free and perform at your best.


“When it comes to sports, foot and ankle health plays a crucial role in overall performance and injury prevention,” explains Dr. William Corey, Lowcountry Orthopaedics orthopedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle. “The feet and ankles provide the foundation and support necessary for various athletic movements such as running, jumping, pivoting, and changing directions.”


Stability and Balance: Strong and stable feet and ankles help athletes maintain proper body alignment, reducing the risk of falls or improper landing, which can lead to sprains or fractures.


Shock Absorption: Proper foot and ankle health enables the absorption of shock effectively, minimizing the stress placed on the bones and joints. This ability to absorb shock can prevent overuse injuries such as stress fractures and tendonitis.


Agility and Quick Movements: Sports often require quick and agile movements, such as lateral movements and sudden changes in direction. Healthy and flexible ankles allow athletes to move swiftly and smoothly while minimizing the risk of ankle twists or sprains.


Injury Prevention: Regular stretching, strengthening exercises, and wearing appropriate footwear can help athletes develop strong and flexible feet and ankles, enhancing their ability to withstand the demands of their sport.


Performance Enhancement: When athletes have healthy and well-functioning feet and ankles, they can generate more power, exhibit better control and stability, and achieve greater speed and agility.


Identifying Common Foot and Ankle Sports Injuries


1. Ankle Sprains: Ankle sprains occur when the ligaments that support the ankle joint are stretched or torn. They often happen when the foot rolls inward or outward forcefully, causing the ligaments to overstretch. Symptoms of an ankle sprain include swelling, bruising, pain, and difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected ankle.


2. Achilles Tendonitis: The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone and is responsible for propelling the body forward during activities such as running or jumping. Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of this tendon, often caused by overuse or repetitive stress. Athletes with Achilles tendonitis may experience pain, swelling, stiffness, and tenderness in the back of the ankle or lower calf.


3. Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is a common condition characterized by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. It is often caused by overuse, improper footwear, or biomechanical issues. Athletes with plantar fasciitis may experience sharp heel pain, especially in the morning or after prolonged periods of rest.


4. Stress Fractures: Stress fractures are small cracks in the bone, usually caused by repetitive stress or overuse. They commonly occur in the bones of the foot and can be quite painful. Athletes experiencing a stress fracture may have localized pain, swelling, tenderness, and difficulty bearing weight on the affected foot.


5. Turf Toe: Turf toe is an injury to the joint at the base of the big toe. It typically occurs when the toe is forcefully bent or hyperextended. Athletes participating in sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, such as football or soccer, are particularly susceptible to this injury. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and limited range of motion in the big toe joint.


6. Shin Splints: Shin splints refer to pain along the shinbone (tibia), usually caused by inflammation of the muscles, tendons, or bone tissue in the lower leg. Athletes who engage in activities that involve repetitive running or jumping, such as track and field or basketball, are at higher risk. Symptoms of shin splints include tenderness, swelling, and pain along the inner edge of the shinbone.


If you suspect you have any of these injuries, call 843-797-5050 or request an appointment online at to consult with an orthopedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Treatment options may include rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE), physical therapy, medication, or, in severe cases, surgery.


“Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding foot and ankle sports injuries. Athletes should incorporate proper warm-up and cool-down routines, wear appropriate footwear, gradually increase training intensity, and pay attention to signs of pain or discomfort,” advises Dr. Corey. “Additionally, maintaining overall foot and ankle health through stretching, strengthening exercises, and regular consults with a foot and ankle orthopedic specialist can help prevent injuries and ensure long-term athletic success.”


Preventing Foot and Ankle Sports Injuries Through Proper Warm-Up and Conditioning


One of the most effective ways to prevent foot and ankle sports injuries is through proper warm-up and conditioning. Here are some key tips for implementing a thorough warm-up routine and maintaining conditioning:


1. Start with Dynamic Stretching: Dynamic stretching involves active movements that mimic the actions of the sport or activity you are about to engage in. It helps to increase blood flow to the muscles, improve flexibility, and enhance overall performance. Some dynamic stretches that can be beneficial for the feet and ankles include ankle circles, heel-to-toe walks, and calf raises.


2. Gradually Increase Intensity: It is important to gradually increase the intensity of your warm-up routine to avoid straining the muscles and ligaments. Begin with low-intensity exercises and gradually build up to higher-intensity activities. This allows the body to gradually adjust to the demands of the sport or activity without placing excessive stress on the feet and ankles.


3. Include Balance and Stability Exercises: Incorporate exercises that target these areas into your warm-up routine. Examples include single-leg stands, heel-to-toe walks on uneven surfaces, and balance board exercises. These exercises help to improve proprioception, which is your body’s ability to sense its position in space and respond accordingly.


4. Perform Strength Training Exercises: Include exercises that target the calves, ankles, and arches of the feet in your conditioning routine. Lunges, calf raises, and toe curls using resistance bands are examples of exercises that can help improve strength and stability in these areas.


5. Implement Plyometric Exercises: Plyometric exercises are explosive movements that help to improve power and agility. These exercises can be beneficial for sports that involve quick changes in direction and jumping, such as basketball or soccer. Examples of plyometric exercises for the feet and ankles include box jumps, lateral bounds, and ankle hops.


6. Don’t Forget Cool-Down and Stretching: Cooling down with low-intensity exercises, such as walking or gentle cycling, helps to gradually lower your heart rate and ease your body back to a resting state. Stretching exercises, such as calf stretches and ankle rotations, can help to improve flexibility and prevent muscle tightness.


7. Listen to Your Body: If you experience any unusual sensations or pain in your feet or ankles, it is important to stop the activity and seek medical attention if necessary. Ignoring these warning signs can lead to further injury and long-term damage.


8.Techniques for Maintaining Foot and Ankle Strength and Flexibility:

– Toe stretches: Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Extend your toes forward as far as possible, then flex them back towards your shin. Repeat this movement several times.

– Calf stretches: Stand facing a wall, and place your hands on the wall for support. Step back with one foot, keeping the heel on the ground. Bend the front knee while keeping the back leg straight. You should feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

– Ankle circles: Sit on a chair and lift one foot off the ground. Rotate your ankle in a circular motion, making sure to go in both directions. Repeat for the other foot.

– Heel raises: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and slowly rise up onto your toes. Lower your heels back down to the ground. Repeat 10-15 times.

– Resistance band exercises: Wrap a resistance band around the ball of your foot and hold the ends with your hands. Flex and extend your foot against the resistance of the band. Repeat 10-15 times on each foot.

– Towel scrunches: Place a small towel on the ground and use your toes to scrunch it up towards you. Repeat 10-15 times.

– Single-leg balance: Stand on one leg and try to maintain your balance for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.

– Balance board exercises: Use a balance board or wobble board to challenge your balance. Try standing on the board with both feet, then progress to standing on one foot.


In the event that you do experience a foot or ankle sports injury, Lowcountry Orthopaedics is here for you with rapid appointments. Here are some reasons why seeing an orthopedic specialist for foot and ankle injuries quickly is essential:


1. Accurate diagnosis: A healthcare professional can accurately diagnose your injury, determine its extent, and identify any underlying issues that may have contributed to the injury. This will help ensure that you receive the appropriate treatment and rehabilitation plan.

2. Customized treatment plan: Each injury is unique, and a professional will create a customized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. This may involve a combination of treatments such as physical therapy, medication, immobilization devices (such as splints or braces), or even surgery in severe cases. Following a personalized treatment plan increases the chances of a successful recovery and minimizes the risk of reinjury.

3. Monitoring progress: Seeking an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist allows for regular monitoring of your progress to assess how well your injury is healing and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.


Call 843-797-5050 or request an appointment online at to consult with an orthopedic specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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