What is a Sprained Foot?

Posted on 06-20-2024 by Dr. Erik Nilssen

A foot sprain occurs when the bands of fibrous tissue connecting the bones to each other inside the joint tear. These tough bands are referred to as ligaments.

Types of Ankle and Foot Sprains

A sprained foot usually occurs when the ankle and foot become abnormally twisted or bent. When a sprain occurs, the injury typically involves one of two areas: The midfoot or the first metatarsophalangeal joint. The midfoot refers to the central part of the foot, including the arch; whereas, the first metatarsophalangeal joint is the joint that is located at the base of the big toe.

How Foot Sprains Occur


Athletes frequently sustain midfoot sprains due to a fall, a collision or an abnormal twisting motion of their midfoot.

The athletes who are at the highest risk of sustaining a foot sprain include:

  • Competitive Divers
  • Horseback Riders
  • Windsurfers
  • Football Players
  • Basketball Players
  • Baseball Players
  • Tennis Players

Ballet dancers are also vulnerable to sustaining midfoot sprains. Midfoot sprains usually occur when the dancer loses balance while spinning on his or her toes. Another common cause of this injury is when the dancer lands on his or her foot incorrectly following a rotating jump.


Approximately one-third of the midfoot sprains occurring among individuals in the general public who do not participate in high-risk activities are caused by some kind of accident. A twisting action may occur during a fall or stumble. On occasion, severe midfoot sprains result from a high-impact trauma (i.e., automobile accident or falling from a relatively high place).


Typically, a first metatarsophalangeal joint sprain occurs when a ballet dancer or football player falls forward while his or her big toe remains flat against the ground and bends backwards (hyperextension). Football players who wear lightweight shoes while competing on artificial turf frequently experience a first metatarsophalangeal joint sprain, which is why this injury is commonly referred to as ‘turf toe.’

Symptoms of a Foot Sprain

Individuals who sustain a mild to moderate midfoot sprain will notice swelling and tenderness in the center of the foot. He or she may also experience local bruising. If a severe strain occurs, the individual may not be able to put weight on the injured ankle and foot. A sprain to the first metatarsophalangeal joint involves swelling and pain at the base of the big toe.


Recovery time varies greatly depending on how severe the sprain and which ligament or joint is injured. A mild midfoot sprain will usually heal within just a few weeks; however, a more severe sprain could take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to heal. The pain associated with ‘turf toe’ generally subsides within 2 weeks.


Individuals can treat milder midfoot sprains and ‘turf toe’ by practicing the RICE rule:

  • R – Rest
  • I – Ice
  • C – Compress
  • E – Elevate

In addition, we may recommend that individuals take an NSAID or acetaminophen to reduce inflammation and ease pain. Individuals with a ‘turf toe’ injury who visit North Florida Bone & Joint Specialists in Pensacola, Florida may receive a splint. Furthermore, these individuals can wear stiff-soled shoes to protect their big toe as it heals.


Foot sprains may be prevented by wearing shoes that assist in stabilizing the foot. In addition, an exercise program that concentrates on strengthening and stretching the ankle, and foot may help prevent this type of injury.

Severe Lisfranc Injuries May Require a Cast

At North Florida Bone & Joint Specialists in Pensacola, Florida, individuals who rely on their feet for their profession may receive a cast to immobilize their foot as it heals. Furthermore, a severe midfoot sprain may threaten the career of a professional dancer or an athlete, which is why these individuals are given special treatment regimens to ensure the foot heals properly.

If you have sustained any type of sprain, feel free to contact us. We are here to help you!


Save or share this information:

Check out some of our related posts:

Back to the Blog