Contusions or bruises to the feet and ankles are common sports injuries.They often occur as a result of direct trauma or repeated blows during certain sports activities such as being hit by a baseball, getting kicked during soccer, or getting stepped on during basketball. This results in swelling, bruising, and increased warmth as part of the inflammatory process.
Contusions can also be caused by running in shoes that are too large or too small causing repeated trauma between your foot and the shoe. Foot and ankle bruises and contusions can also come from regular daily activities, such stubbing your toe or foot, getting stepped on, or dropping a heavy object on your foot.
While most contusions heal rapidly, more severe contusions can cause problems and will require longer healing time.
While most common in athletes, you can also experience foot and ankle contusions from regular daily activities and poorly fitting shoes. For example, stubbing your toe or foot on a bed frame, someone stepping on your foot, or dropping a heavy object on your foot.
What's Happening To the Body
When a contusion occurs the muscle fibers, blood vessels, and connective tissue get crushed without breaking the skin. The injured tissue is flooded with a collection of blood and inflammatory products. This occurs due to the tissue damage from the blow and the body’s natural inflammatory response to injury. Pain and swelling result, the skin turns blue-purple-yellow, and the athlete notices increased warmth as part of the inflammatory process.
It's important to see your podiatrist as soon as possible to rule out extensive damage and be educated on the quickest way to regain normal function. In some cases, this may include an x-ray, CT scan or MRI. Your doctor will also rule out any ankle injuries or other damage.
Treatment of a Contusion or Bruise
For immediate treatment of a contusion, we recommend learn about RICE found on our ankle sprain treatment page (rest, ice, compression and elevation). Then follow these recommendation:
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
- Light stretching of the muscle (when affected) to prevent scar tissue formation
- Limit sports and other activities, depending on the severity and location of the injury and until the pain and swelling are gone.
Recovery time can vary depending on the severity and location of the contusion, from no limitations on activity to keeping weight off of the area for several days. Other sports-related foot problems from overuse and excessive training are heel pain (plantar fasciitis), Achilles tendonitis, stress fractures, and ankle sprains.
Prevention of a Contusion or Bruise
While it's not always possible to prevent a contusion or bruise from occurring during sports play, you do have control over the types of shoes you wear.
- Purchase shoes designed for your particular sport--wearing shoes designed for another sport (such as wearing running shoes when you're playing pickle ball or tennis) will not provide you with the support you need and lead to injury.
- Test your shoes - your shoes need to be stable. Shoes should only fold at the ball of your foot, not the middle, be difficult to wring out like a rag, and have a stable heel counter.
- Check your shoes for wear - if you play sports it's important to avoid wearing shoes that aren't worn out. You can check the bottom of your soles for wear on the tread. It's best to purchase new athletic shoes after 500 miles of wear which is usually once or twice a year depending on how active you are.
Addition to wearing the right shoes, check the field you're playing on to make sure there are no divots or other places in the field likely to cause a fall.