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What are the Signs of a Sprained Foot?

A sprained foot manifests through pain, swelling, and bruising, often accompanied by difficulty in bearing weight. You might notice a limited range of motion or hear a popping sound at the injury's onset. For a visual guide and deeper insight into recognizing and managing a sprain, let's examine the nuances that can help you identify these symptoms effectively. What steps will you take if you spot these signs?
Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen

The signs of a sprained foot will generally vary depending on the kind of strain a person suffers. There are three different "grades" used to describe sprained feet. Grade one is a very minor sprain with tiny ligament tears, while grade two involves major tears, and a grade-three sprain is a total rip in some of the foot ligaments. The common symptoms among all three are tenderness and swelling, which will generally worsen along with the severity. More extreme sprains also involve significant bruising, and grade-three sprains can make the foot completely unusable.

Ligaments are generally quite flexible, and ligament injuries usually occur when someone tries to stretch them beyond their capacity. A sprained foot will normally occur when someone tries to pivot too suddenly, or falls in an awkward way. A movement like that can stretch the ligament to its limit and beyond, at which point tears will generally appear. For a grade-three sprained foot, the injury is often quite severe, and it is not uncommon for these issues to involve broken bones as well.

Sprained feet are relatively common among football players.
Sprained feet are relatively common among football players.

A sprained foot happens much more easily if someone is doing something relatively intense. This would generally include things like athletics or extreme outdoor activities like mountain climbing. For this reason, it is very common for foot sprain sufferers to be athletes, either professional or amateur. It’s also possible for a foot sprain to happen while someone is doing something mundane like walking down a flight of stairs, but it’s much more common in certain sports, especially football and dance.

A person with a sprained foot.
A person with a sprained foot.

If someone suffers a mild foot sprain, doctors might not do a whole lot about it. There may be a recommendation of getting some bed rest, and a person may get a prescription for pain medication. More severe sprains require more drastic measures. For example, the doctor may actually put the foot into some kind of cast to keep it still so that it has a better chance to heal. In some situations, surgery may even be needed to repair damaged ligaments.

Significant bruising may accompany foot sprains.
Significant bruising may accompany foot sprains.

According to experts, foot sprains aren’t actually all that common. It takes a relatively unusual movement to actually strain the foot ligaments, because most natural movements don’t put that much stress on them. In cases where someone does put strain on the foot ligaments, it is more common for the ankle to get sprained while the foot remains uninjured. Athletes and others at severe risk sometimes wear less flexible shoes, which can keep the foot from being over-flexed.

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Discussion Comments


@ocelot60- I think that you do have a sprained foot. Even though you didn't fall or do anything that you think may have caused you to sprain your foot, you probably did and just didn't notice it at the time. Sometimes, walking on coarse gravel or stepping on an object while walking briskly can cause a mild sprain with pain that sets in later.

I think you should take it easy for several days and stay off of your feet as much as possible. Try using a cold compress, and take some over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary. If this plan of action doesn't help relieve your symptoms of foot pain, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis.


I was wondering if I could have gotten a sprained foot from walking briskly. I have been taking these types of walks for exercise lately, and though I didn't think I sprained my foot, I have been experiencing pain since my last walk. Could it be a mild sprain?

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    • Sprained feet are relatively common among football players.
      By: Pete Saloutos
      Sprained feet are relatively common among football players.
    • A person with a sprained foot.
      By: Dusan Kostic
      A person with a sprained foot.
    • Significant bruising may accompany foot sprains.
      By: BlueSkyImages
      Significant bruising may accompany foot sprains.
    • Foot sprains are generally considered uncommon by doctors.
      By: lightwavemedia
      Foot sprains are generally considered uncommon by doctors.