What are foot tendon tears?
- Posterior tibial tendon. The posterior (rear) tibial tendon attaches the calf muscle to the bones of the inside of the foot. It holds up the arch of the foot and supports the foot during walking. A tear to this tendon is usually from a fall. But it can also be injured from overuse. This is most common in athletes who put a lot of stress on the ankle during sports like basketball or soccer. The anterior (forward, or front) tibial tendon runs from the shin to the top of the foot. Injuries to this tendon are much less common than to the posterior tibial tendon.
- Peroneal tendons. The two peroneal tendons run down the outer part of your lower leg and behind your ankle bone on the outside of the foot. One tendon attaches to the middle of your foot on the outside. The other attaches to the bottom of your foot near the arch. Tears in these tendons are usually caused by an ankle sprain or a blow to the ankle. It can also be caused by overuse, usually in athletes who repeat movements that put stress on the ankle.
- Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon connects the calf to the heel bone and is important for walking, running, and jumping. It is the largest tendon in the body. It can tear if sudden high stress is put on it, especially if the calf muscle is stiff or weak and can’t take its share of the stress. For example, the Achilles tendon can tear when a sprinter pushes off at the start of a race.
- Pain. The moment of injury can be quite painful, and the injured area can be sore for a while until the injury heals. Pain usually gets worse when you try to move the foot or put weight on it.
- Swelling, redness, and warmth. The injured area is often swollen and red right after it is injured, and may also be warm to the touch.
- Weakness or loss of function. Your foot may feel weak or unstable. You may not be able to do the things you usually do.
Foot tendon tears are usually caused by a fall on the foot or sudden pressure on the tendon. It can also be caused by repetitive use of the foot and ankle in ways that put stress on the tendon. This is more likely to happen to athletes who put repetitive stress on their ankles. In addition, people with high arches have a higher risk of foot tendon tears.
Diagnosis, Treatment, & Prevention
Diagnosis & Tests
To properly diagnose a foot injury, you may need to see an orthopedic specialist who is trained to detect and treat foot and ankle injuries. During the exam, the doctor will:
- Ask about the injury, ask how your foot feels now, and when it hurts most
- Examine your foot and ask you to move it in certain ways
- Recommend imaging tests such as an:
- X-ray to check for broken bones and look for other damage
- MRI or CT scan if there is any question about which part of the foot is injured or the severity of the injury