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With 26 bones and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments making up the human foot, it is no wonder sprains are a common injury. In fact, as many as 28,000 ankle and foot sprains occur each day in the U.S., and about 45% of athletic injuries are ankle and foot sprains.

Anytime a foot lands in an awkward fashion, or an athlete moves in a twisting or pivoting motion, a sprain can occur. The tendons and ligaments that hold the foot and ankle bones together stretch and tear, causing pain and bruising. Sprains to the foot or ankle may be mild and heal on their own, but some are severe enough to need treatment. Symptoms are swelling and pain in the ankle, toe joints or arch of the foot. Depending on severity, it may be difficult to walk or put weight on the foot.


Foot and ankle sprains are generally diagnosed in three levels:

  • Grade I – a mild sprain in which there is stretching or tiny tears to the ligaments.

  • Grade II – a moderate sprain, in which the ligament is partially torn.

  • Grade III – a severe sprain, in which the ligaments are completely torn and you may be unable to walk or bear weight.

Types of sprains

While ankle sprains are quite common among the general population, foot sprains are experienced mostly among athletes engaged in activities that involve a lot of twisting motion. 


For more information about ankle sprains, click here.


The most common foot sprains are:


Midfoot – Occurs typically in a fall in which the center part of the foot is twisted. Snowboarders, horseback riders and ballet dancers are common athletes to experience such an injury, and they are usually moderate to severe. Among the general population, this sprain is most common in an accident in which the injury also includes a fracture.

First metatarsophalangeal joint – The joint at the base of the big toe, this is an injury better known as turf toe. The toe is caught and bent backwards, causing tearing of the ligaments. Football players, soccer players and ballet dancers most frequently experience this injury.

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