Can ankle problems be caused by issues with your feet?

By Dr. Jackie Sutera


Ankle problems very commonly cause injuries to the feet.


Many ankle problems begin with ligament sprains. This is when they are forced to stretch beyond their ability and eventually tear. What are ligaments, exactly? These are strong, fibrous tissues that connect all of the bones in the ankle, composed of foot bones and the lower leg bones. They keep the ankle in the proper position, connect to the foot and stabilize the joint.


What causes ankle problems?


Unnatural motions like twisting, overstretching, and an unusual amount of force applied to the ankle joint and ligaments result in ankle and foot injury, pain, and sprains. This commonly happens during:


  • Running
  • Walking
  • Sports
  • Falling or when the ground is uneven. 


If there is severe tearing or rupture of the ligaments, you may hear or feel a “pop” when the sprain occurs. 


What are the most common ankle injuries?


Ankle problems can be quite painful and make it difficult to perform routine daily activities, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. 


  • Inversion 

When the foot is forced inward, this is called inversion. The lateral ligaments, which are outside of the ankle, become sprained. This is the most common type of ankle sprain.  


  • Eversion

The second most common ankle injury is when the foot forcefully goes outward, called eversion, spraining the medial (or inside) ligaments. These unnatural, twisting motions can happen when the foot is planted awkwardly, the ground is uneven, or stepping in a hole. However, these injuries can also occur due to “wear and tear” when the arch is abnormally flat or high and functions without support, stability, and cushion over time. This is often referred to as having “abnormal biomechanics.”


How to know if you have ankle problems 


Due to the inflammation from the injury, the ankle will become swollen, red, bruised, and painful, and the foot cannot usually function and walk properly. This can be diagnosed by your podiatrist carefully examining your foot and ankle. This physical exam includes palpation or gentle pressing around the ankle to determine which ligaments are injured. Range of motion, where the ankle is moved in different directions, will also be examined.  


RICE therapy (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) is often the first line of treatment. It is essential to have your ankle sprain evaluated to rule out ligament tears, ruptures, and even fractures of foot and ankle bones.  


Some of the symptoms of a severe sprain are similar to those experiencing a broken bone. Those who are experiencing these symptoms require prompt medical evaluation. X-rays and MRIs can help determine this.


How to avoid ankle problems


Brands like Vionic are designed to be stylish and comfortable and are an excellent choice for daily use. They offer the most important foot-friendly features built right into every shoe, making them ideal for an active lifestyle. 


This Vionic’s “Three Zone Comfort Technology”  includes a contoured arch, a cushioned insole, and a deep-seated heel cup. As a podiatrist, I believe these features help stabilize the foot and ankle and can also help prevent and treat pain caused by abnormal foot and ankle biomechanics. 


About the Author:

Dr. Jacqueline Sutera is a surgically trained doctor of podiatric medicine specializing in the prevention and treatment of foot pathology. She graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Philosophy. She later attended the New York College of Podiatric Medicine where she earned the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM). Dr. Sutera received her postgraduate residency training at the busy level-one trauma center at Jamaica Hospital in Queens, NY and Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. During her time there, she served as chief surgical resident and received and completed training in all aspects of podiatric medicine and surgery. Dr. Sutera is Board Certified in Foot Surgery and is a Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons. She is also a proud member and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association and the New York State Podiatric Medical Society. As one of NYC’s premier podiatric physicians, she is a caring, conscientious and extremely personable doctor who prides herself on being holistic in her approach to foot care. Where other doctors treat feet only locally, she has a unique gift of being able to link some foot problems to other underlying conditions taking place in the body.


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