3 Common Foot and Ankle Injuries to Watch For in Soccer

Aug 2, 2021

Foot and ankle injuries are among the most common injuries that affect both men and women in soccer. It is a game of kicking, running and striking, of course. With that said, there are some injuries in particular that can affect players, ones that are common yet overlooked. This post will take a look at these foot/ankle problems and what players can do to reduce their risk of suffering with them. 

Plantar Fasciitis

You probably heard the name before. If you're not sure what it is, here's a refresher. Plantar fasciitis it's basically a stretching or inflammation of the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that connects the bottom of the heel to the ball of your foot. This band of tissue helps your feet mint in an arch and absorbs impact when playing soccer especially when running and jumping. 

Of course when you develop plantar fasciitis you become well aware of the pain. You're more likely to get plantar fasciitis if you have flat feet or weak leg and foot muscles. Women players are also at a higher risk because of a higher Q angle which can lead to knock knees and overpronation. 

But playing on hard surfaces such as turf fields or repetitive strain from landing on the foot can cause plantar fasciitis. This is a reason why soccer players are at risk for developing this injury.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis 

  • Pain along the arch under the heel of your foot 
  • Muscle tightness or weakness 
  • Inability to push off with the foot
  • Walking with a limp or painful walking
  • Nodules or lumps near the underside of the foot.

In most cases, treatment will involve a combination of physical therapy and custom orthotics. Therapy helps to strengthen the muscles of the feet and legs. Custom orthotics reduce the pressure your feet sustain while helping you maintain healthy arches. Plantar fasciitis rarely gets severe but when it does, the most effective treatments are usually injections or surgical procedures.

In general it's also important that you wear the right soccer cleats from the get-go. They should be suited for maximum shock absorption. They should also come in an appropriate length and width for your feet. And don't forget to buy soccer shoes that allow you to insert custom orthotics if you will need them.

Ankle Sprain

You've likely seen this before: in the midst of a game, a player drops to the ground tensing their face and gripping their ankle. Without having to guess, you know it's a sprain. Ankle sprains are actually the most common injuries soccer players face, They can affect players of all ages and backgrounds. 

Sprains occur when you force the ankle out of its normal position, leading to overstretched or torn ligaments. In the case of torn ligaments, the tearing could be partial or complete. Soccer players usually sprain their ankles if they fall and twist their foot, or if they land awkwardly after jumping. 

But it can also happen in other ways too such as playing on uneven surfaces or if another player accidentally lands on your foot. Playing in the wrong shoes or having weak leg muscles or ankle instability can also lead to ankle sprains as well.

Symptoms of an Ankle Sprain 

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Swallowing
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Popping sensations or sounds at the time of the injury

The good news about ankle sprains is that they're generally mild and fairly straightforward to treat. Most soccer players who sprained their ankles will respond to R.I.C.E treatment: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Also having some over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol, Advil, or Motrin will come in handy for the most painful days.

You may have to do some physiotherapy to strengthen the tissues so they heal faster. Custom orthotics can take some pressure off your feet and ankles. If the sprain is severe, you may need a walking boot or cast to help keep the ankle stable. Very rarely, a sprain may be severe enough surgery is required.

We highly suggest that players wear shoes that offer a high level of stability to prevent the ankle from rolling. Also, regular conditioning and stretching such as FIFA's neuromuscular drills can keep the ankle more resilient against injuries.  

Achilles Tendonitis

ACL tears are a nightmare for soccer players and all athletes in general. But it has a more common, less severe but nonetheless troubling cousin: Achilles tendinitis. Basically, Achilles tendonitis is inflammation or rupture of the Achilles tendon. That sounds quite traumatic and it can be. But usually, it starts off (and remains) mild.

It may begin as simple swelling of the surrounding tissue before progressing to actual tearing or a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon. 

Achilles tendonitis usually occurs due to a sudden increase in exercise frequency or intensity. The very movements of soccer itself can aggravate an Achilles tendon injury. Running up hills during practice, wearing the wrong cleats or just having poorly conditioned leg muscles can lead to Achilles tendonitis. 

Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis 

  • A mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel
  • Tenderness or stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Restricted range of motion

The first line of treatment for Achilles tendonitis is R.I.C.E: rest, ice, compression, elevation. Over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol, Advil, or Motrin can come in handy for pain relief. You’ll likely need some physical therapy to strengthen nearby muscles that are weakened. Also, custom orthotics will help lift your heel and reduce the tension. Remember, Achilles tendonitis is not the same as an ACL tear so the likelihood of you needing surgery is pretty low. 

Find Your Footing for Injury-Free Feet 

A soccer players' most valuable tools are his or her feet. They need to be treated with the utmost care. Make sure to condition your legs and feet with stretching and strength training. Also, invest in the right soccer gear namely your cleats and leg protection. 

It’s also not a bad idea to buy a pair of custom orthotics. They help maintain healthy arches and reduce impact forces of running and jumping. If you take good care of your feet, the chances of you being sidelined by a foot injury will be much lower.

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