At TFC Podiatry, this month we are talking about pain into the ball of the foot. As sports returns post lockdown we are seeing a lot of injured athletes with pain into the ball of the foot. As the nature of many high-intensity sports, the foot and particularly the forefoot can be placed under a large amount of strain, making forefoot injuries highly prevalent. While such injuries aren’t totally preventable, there are a number of interventions that can be put in place to reduce the likelihood of developing such injuries.
How can my injury be diagnosed?
As podiatrists, we are able to combine evidence from thorough history checking as well as with palpation and an understanding of forefoot injuries to come up with a diagnosis. We are also able to refer for further imaging, such as X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI’s or CT scans to confirm a diagnosis.
Risk factors for developing forefoot injuries
- Foot posture (excessive pronation or supination of the foot)
- Compression of the forefoot, whether it be caused by tight footwear or foot posture
- Training errors
- Tight posterior leg muscles
- Playing a sport that involves increased forces placed on the forefoot.
Tips to reduce the likelihood of developing forefoot injuries
Avoid training errors
Overtraining can increase the risk of forefoot injuries greatly by introducing too much load too quickly. Just like the rest of your body, your foot and lower leg muscles take time to adapt to added training loads. Listen to your how your body feels and train according to your own fitness levels.
Get fitted into the right footwear correctly
Most sports have footwear specifically designed for the movements involved in that sport. Football boots, cycling shoes and ballet/dancing shoes all tend to be quite narrow footwear. Make sure you get fitted by a professional correctly into the right size and style for you as to avoid compressing the components of the forefoot.
Don’t skip leg day (more specifically, calves)
Having weaker and tight calf muscles may have the potential to make you rely on the joints in your forefoot in gait to make up for the weaker muscles surrounding the ankle joint. Be sure to keep up your calf strength at the gym with calf raises.
If you feel something may not be right, seek help early
Early detection if such injuries in the forefoot may be the difference between being able to keep playing your sport and having to take a few weeks off. With early detection of some forefoot injuries we may be able to keep you playing whilst providing a thorough treatment plan.
How can we help you?
Our team of Podiatrists are able to create case-specific management plans for many forefoot injuries to get you returning to your sport as quickly as possible. Some treatment options for these include:
- Offloading, whether that be with a CAM walker (moonboot), orthotics, strapping, padding or changing of footwear
- Soft tissue therapy, often including dry needling and shockwave therapy
- Temporary changes to exercise regimes, to allow optimal loading and rest to occur. Sometimes this may include complete rest from exercising
- Strengthening of the intrinsic foot muscles and lower leg muscles
- Removal of any corns/calluses/warts via debridement
- A referral to a podiatric/orthopaedic surgeon is sometimes required.