How to Recover From a Foot Injury

Three Parts:Treating the FootRehabilitating the FootFollowing Up

Feet support us. They bear our weight everyday and take a great amount of stress. Because of this, they are highly susceptible to injury. Lost balance, uneven ground, a trip or ankle roll—a foot injury can happen in an instant. Even if minor, an injured foot affects everything from your work and exercise routine to your basic mobility. Recovery can take weeks or months. To ensure the quickest and safest recovery, be sure that you communicate with your doctor and treat and rehab the foot properly.

Part 1
Treating the Foot

  1. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 1
    Assess the injury. Are you unable to put weight on the foot? Is it becoming very swollen? If so, this may mean that your injury is more serious than a minor sprain or strain – meaning damage to a ligament or muscle, respectively. If the foot cannot bear weight, you should see a doctor for tests and X-rays. This will help determine the extent of your injury, particularly whether or not you have fractured a bone. Strains and most sprains do not require surgery; fractures sometimes do. Consult your doctor.[1]
  2. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 2
    Rest the foot. You should rest your foot for 48 to 72 hours and limit the activity that caused the injury. Avoiding putting weight on the foot. Likewise, use crutches if necessary. Some minor use should be fine if the foot is not broken, but in general you should stay put.[2]
  3. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 3
    Ice the foot. Your body's immediate response to a physical trauma is to flood the area with blood. This causes swelling or inflammation. To reduce swelling and pain, apply ice wrapped a towel to the foot for about 30 minutes every two to three hours for the first 48 to 72 hours. At the same time, be careful not to over-ice your foot. Do not sleep with the icepack on or let it touch the skin directly, as this could lead to a cold burn or frostbite.[3]
    • A bag of frozen peas will work in a pinch if you don't have ready access to ice.
  4. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 4
    Elevate the injured foot. Another way to reduce swelling is to let gravity work in your favor. Elevate the injury. Lay down and place your foot on a pillow, keeping it slightly above the level of your heart to prevent fluid from pooling.[4]
  5. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 5
    Apply a compression bandage. Still another way to reduce swelling is by compressing the foot. Wraps, bandages, and braces will also limit the motion of the foot and prevent you from injuring it further. You can buy compression devices at any pharmacy. They should be applied snugly around the affected area, but not so tightly that they limit blood flow. Remove the bandage when you sleep.[5]
  6. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 6
    Take medication, if necessary. If the pain bothers you, take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain reliever like aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). These can be bought at any pharmacy and will reduce pain as well as swelling. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not an anti-inflammatory, meaning that it will reduce pain but not swelling. Follow the proper dosages.
    • Keep in mind that drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen can cause medical problems in high dosages or with chronic use, like internal bleeding. You should not take them for a long period without talking to your doctor.[6]
    • Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers under 19 because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a serious and potentially fatal condition.[7]
  7. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 7
    Avoid further injury to the foot. You should avoid aggravating your foot injury for the first 72 hours by being cautious. Do not run or engage in any form of exercise that could cause more damage. Do not use hot baths, saunas, or heat packs, drink alcohol, or massage the injury. Any of these activities can might increase bleeding and swelling, slowing your healing.[8]

Part 2
Rehabilitating the Foot

  1. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 8
    Follow your doctor's instructions. Your doctor will give you advice on how to recover. She may recommend using crutches for a time or prescribe a program of physiotherapy. In a worse case, she may also give you a referral to a specialist who can better assess your injury.
  2. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 9
    Keep joints moving, muscles immobilized. Many healthcare professionals recommend that you continue to move your ankle in case of a sprain. The joint will heal faster if you begin moving it without pain, in a full range of motion. However, muscle strains can be different. If you have injured a muscle rather than a ligament, your doctor might tell you to keep the foot immobilized for several days and prescribe a cast, splint, or brace to protect it. The aim is to keep you from further tearing the injured muscle. You should be able to use your foot again once healing has started.[9]
  3. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 10
    Start regular activity slowly. Once the swelling has gone down and the pain has subsided, you will be able to put weight on your foot again. Start slowly. Your activity should be light. You will probably notice some amount of stiffness or soreness at first. This is natural and should go away as your muscles and ligaments become accustomed to use again. Warm up and stretch before exercising. Increase the duration and level of intensity over a period of several days.[10]
    • Try a low impact exercise to start. Swimming, for example, is much easier on the feet than running.
    • If you feel any sudden, sharp pain, stop your activity immediately.
  4. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 11
    Wear a stable and protective shoe. Your shoes should give you stable balance and not put you at risk of re-injury. High heels are out, obviously. Buy new shoes if you think that your injury was a result of insufficient cushioning. Arch supports might help, too, while another option is a therapy boot. These have velcro to ensure stability and make walking easier. You can get them from your doctor for between $100–$200.
  5. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 12
    Use crutches or a cane, if necessary. Crutches can help you get back to your routine, if your recovery is a longer one or if you still cannot put full weight on the foot. The most common kind of crutch is the axillary crutch. To fit properly, the crutch should come about two to three inches below your armpit while you are standing up straight. Your hands will hang over the crutches and rest on hand-grips. Put your weight on the healthy side. Move the crutches in front of you and, shifting your weight to your arms, swing your body through the crutches. Do not support yourself on your armpits — this can cause nerve damage. Rather, hold the hand-grips for support.[11]
    • Canes work slightly differently. A cane is not meant to be used on your weak side. Instead, it is meant to support the healthy side and the extra weight that it is bearing because of your injury.[12]

Part 3
Following Up

  1. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 13
    See a physiotherapist. While not always necessary, your doctor may refer you to physiotherapist to restore your joint mobility, muscle strength, and proper gait. Feet and ankles bear lots of weight. They are therefore one of the most common sites of injury. A physiotherapist will design exercises for you based on your injury, with an eye to gradually returning your muscles and ligaments to full health. You may be asked to do strength training with resistance bands, for example, or exercises in balance like standing on one foot.[13]
    • Physiotherapists will also show you how to properly tape your foot before exercise. Taping will give the still-injured foot added support.
  2. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 14
    Allow time for recovery. It should take about a week or two before you can walk again. You may be able to resume all of your normal activities within several months. Bear in mind that foot injuries vary, however, and that in worse scenarios you may require more time. In some cases people experience pain, swelling, and instability for months or even years after the initial injury. See your doctor if you experience a sudden increase in swelling or pain or sudden tingling or numbness. [14]
  3. Image titled Recover From a Foot Injury Step 15
    Consult a physician. Talk to your doctor if your injured foot does not recover or is taking more time than expected. She may consider referring you to an orthopedic specialist, who can determine the best course of action. Minor sprains and muscle strains rarely require surgery, either because surgery is less effective than non-invasive treatment or because it does not justify the risk. However, some cases of severe muscle strain (usually suffered by professional athletes) require surgery in order to restore the muscle to its full, former strength. Only a trained medical specialist can make this determination.[15]


  • Even a minor foot injury should be taken seriously. Please consult your doctor.

Article Info

Categories: Feet Knees and Legs