When Should I See a Doctor for a Foot Injury?

If you’ve injured your foot on a hike, run, or bike ride, the first question you’ll probably ask is: Do I need to see a doctor?

The good news is that if your pain is only mild, it’ll probably go away on its own after a couple weeks—especially if you rest. 

But if you have pain in both feet, have diabetes, or if you have severe pain that isn’t going away, you should see a doctor.

When to See a Doctor

You should make a doctor’s appointment after a foot injury if:

  • you feel pain in your foot for most of the day and it’s been a few weeks since your injury
  • you have swelling that isn’t getting better two to five days after your injury
  • you feel tingling, numbness, or burning pain—especially in the bottom of your foot

If you have tingling, burning, or numbness, you may have injured the nerves in your foot. Injured nerves can cause a condition called peripheral neuropathy. Some people with neuropathy also say it feels like having pins and needles in their feet. 

Over time, peripheral neuropathy can cause infections, burns, and falls. So it’s important to see a doctor who can provide treatment.

When to Go to Urgent Care or the ER for a Foot Injury

Even though many foot injuries heal on their own, some foot injuries require immediate treatment.

Get medical help right away if:

  1. There’s an open wound on your foot
  2. Pus is coming out of your foot
  3. You can’t walk or put weight on your foot
  4. You think your foot could be infected

You may have an infection if the skin around your injury is warm, red, or tender. You may also have an infection if you have a fever over 100 degrees F.

Treating Your Foot at Home After an Injury

You may not need to see a doctor after a foot injury. If your pain is manageable and you don’t have an infection, you can most likely safely treat your injury at home.

When treating your foot at home, be sure to follow these guidelines:

Rest—don’t do any activities that strain your foot (even if these activities are part of your normal, day-to-day routine). These may include things like hiking, biking, and running.

Ice—place ice or freeze packs on your foot multiple times each day, for 15-20 minutes each time.

Medications—over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen can help with swelling and reduce pain.

Foot Pain & Stiffness

It’s important to remember that you’ll probably have pain and stiffness for a few weeks after your foot injury—even if you’re treating your injury correctly. Many people experience foot pain in the mornings while their foot is still healing.

Diabetes & Foot Injuries

People with diabetes have higher chances of having nerve damage in their feet (called diabetic neuropathy). Nerve damage can make it harder to feel sensations in your feet.

If you have diabetes, you may not feel cuts or sores on your feet. Even if your feet feel okay, it’s important to see a doctor after you’ve had a foot injury. Diabetes can also make it harder for cuts and sores in your feet to heal. That’s because diabetes weakens normal blood flow inside your body.

Make an Appointment with an Orthopedic Specialist

If your foot injury hasn’t healed and it’s been a few weeks, you may benefit from seeing a doctor. You can make an appointment with an orthopedic foot specialist who has expertise in treating foot injuries.

 

What to Expect & How to Prepare for Your First Orthopedic Appointment