Signs your foot or ankle injury is serious

Foot and ankle injuries are among the most common injuries active people suffer playing sports and exercising regularly. Fortunately, most of these injuries don’t require surgery.

If you suffer an injury to one of your feet or an ankle, how can you know if it is serious? How can you tell if it’s worth seeing your doctor or an orthopaedic surgeon?

This list is far from comprehensive, but here are three signs you have a foot or ankle injury that might require surgery or an extended absence from physical activity.

Your pain is getting worse as you proceed through the workout.

It might not be a big problem if you have soreness in your foot, or maybe your ankle, that stays at the same intensity through your exercise. If your pain keeps getting worse and worse as you keep going, it could be a sign that you have a more serious problem.

You can’t walk without limping.

Whether you suffer a traumatic event that started your foot or ankle pain, or if it developed over time with no specific injury, limping can be a Footbad sign. If you cannot walk with a normal gait and have to limp, it could be a sign that you should get it checked out.

You really hurt the next day.

If you exercise or play sports one day and find yourself to be miserable the next day, you might have a serious ankle or foot injury. It could just be pain, or you might have difficulty standing or putting weight on your foot. If you are that uncomfortable, you might consider seeing your doctor or an orthopaedic surgeon.

Also read:
5 serious stress fractures of the foot and ankle
Understand that not all pain is good pain

Again, this list is not comprehensive, so it should not replace the advice of your doctor. If anything, I hope you would consider seeing your doctor or an orthopaedic surgeon soon after an injury if you have any of these complaints.

17 Responses to Signs your foot or ankle injury is serious

  1. Hi,
    I have been recurrent ankle sprains throughout my 4 years in university. However, with every inversion sprain now it tends to hurt on my medial side a lot more than my lateral side. I was wondering if you had any cases of that in your practice and what you would recommend.

    • I have seen patients develop cartilage injuries within the joint after inversion sprains. An orthopedic surgeon can find those with x-rays or occasionally MRIs.

  2. These are all really good indications. I have had my fair share of ankle injuries as a former basketball player. I would give it a few days before you go to the doctor to see if the injury improves on it’s own first while using the RICE. However, if the pain is horrible, like the worst you have ever felt, then I would see a doctor immediately.

  3. There has been a few times I’ve injured my ankle while playing basketball and I couldn’t walk without limping. Now this was within ten minutes of sustaining the injury and it didn’t hurt that much the next day. If I do manage to do it again and it hurts worse, what would you suggest?

  4. My ankle hurts when i go up and down stairs on my left side it begins to hurt when I start my run and goes away during my jog it does not hurt consistently the next day but it has been continuing for approximately two weeks.

  5. I appreciate all of these helpful tips. A friend of mine is a ballet dancer, and she has rolled her ankle a few times. She keeps re-spraining it after it heals, and it is a little concerning to me. Do you think that this is serious? I will have to ask her if she experiences the things that you talked about after it happens, but thank you for the helpful information!

  6. Ignoring the signs that it’s time to go to the doctor for your foot pain is a bad move, because it can lead to more serious injury and longer recovery time. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I sprained my ankle during a run with my dog. I didn’t feel any pain for a whole day, and then around 24 hours later it hurts to walk. Limping hurts worse. When I limp, the part above my ankle hurts and feels like a bruise. Any clue what’s going on?

  8. While I was on my morning run I noticed a very annoying pain in the bridge of my foot. You mentioned that if you pain keeps getting worse and worse as you keep going it could be a sign that you have a more serious problem. Do most podiatrists require a referral from your regular physician? Going to see a specialist might be a good idea.

    • I honestly don’t know. It is probably like orthopaedic surgeons, where it usually depends on the patient’s insurance and whether the insurance company requires a referral.

  9. After playing rugby I started to feel a weird tenderness whenever I ran. It’s not like I twisted it or anything. I’m thinking of seeing a specialist to see if I have a type of arthritis or if it’s a nerve problem.

  10. I stepped off the bleachers wrong last December. As soon as it happened my ankle swelled up really big, got hard as a rock and started bruising right away. I felt like I was going to throw up and pass out. My mom took me to the ER and they said it would have healed faster if I had broken it. They told me to use crutches for a couple of weeks. I did physical therapy for a few months and my ankle still swells when I walk on it especially if I workout or go to the store that day. it still hurts to walks and is sore to touch, it also feels weak. should I go back to the doctor or going to an orthopedic specialist?

  11. I have been playing sports all my life, with little injury. Recently, though, the arch of my foot has been hurting any time I do something active. It is getting worse and worse. I thought it would take care of itself, but I never realized it could be serious enough to need to see a foot doctor. I will have to find one so that I can get it taken care of.

  12. The article mentions that if you play sports one day and find yourself in pain the next day, you might have a serious ankle or foot injury. I suspect I might have injured myself, but I want to do proper research to find a good foot and ankle doctor. What home remedies would you suggest to employ in the meantime?

  13. This is some really good information about how you can tell if you have any problems with your feet. I liked that you pointed out that you pointed out that if the pain gets worse then you could have a problem. It does seem like a good idea to know that is a time when you need to talk to professional podiatrists.

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