How to Care for a Sprained Foot

A sprained foot has stretched or torn ligaments.

A foot sprain can occur when an accident –- such as falling, being hit or twisting your foot -- causes tearing or stretching of the ligaments that connect the bones inside of a joint. An accident may move the joint out of its natural position and cause stretching. A sprain can be mild, moderate or severe. Call your doctor about a foot sprain that causes pain or prevents you from using your foot. For mild sprains, apply the RICE treatment -- Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Things You'll Need

  • Ice

  • Compression bandages

  • Over-the-counter pain medication

  • Splint

  • Tape

Step 1

Rest your injured foot. Avoid moving the foot or placing weight on it. Your doctor may require you to use crutches or a cane, or refrain from physical activity.


Step 2

Ice your foot to prevent or reduce swelling and pain. Use a cloth-covered ice pack for 20 minutes four to eight times a day. Alternatively, use a frozen vegetable package on the injured area. Using ice for longer than 20 minutes can result in injury.

Step 3

Compress your injured foot by wrapping it with a compression bandage. Compression helps to prevent swelling. Wrapping too tightly can restrict the flow of blood. If your foot throbs or hurts, or the areas near the bandage lose color, you may have wrapped the bandage too tightly.

Step 4

Elevate your injured foot at least 12 inches above the level of your heart to improve circulation and help reduce swelling. Use pillows while lying down to achieve the proper elevation of your foot.


Step 5

Wear a splint on your sprained toe in addition to using the RICE method. For turf toe, your doctor may recommend an NSAID, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, to treat pain and swelling. recommends taping the injured toe to the next toe to relieve the pain until you can see your doctor.

Step 6

Protect your injured foot while it heals by wearing a shoe insert or stiff-soled shoes if recommended by your doctor. Turf toe sprains usually heal in about two to three weeks. Mild midfoot sprains heal in a few weeks. Severe sprains may take two months to heal.

Step 7

Take over-the-counter pain medication, with your doctor's approval, to alleviate pain while your sprain heals.


Unlike the sprain, which is an injury to ligaments, a strain is an injury to your muscles or tendons caused by stretching or tearing. A Grade I sprain is mild with microscopic ligament damage. A Grade II sprain is moderate with partially torn ligaments and severe stretching. A Grade III sprain involves completely torn ligaments and the inability to bear weight on the foot. Severe midfoot sprains might require immobilization of your foot in a cast. Confirm that you have a sprained foot and not another injury. Your doctor can determine if your foot is sprained. Another indicator is if you heard a tearing sound or a pop when you injured your foot. A sprained foot can be painful, and you may notice bruising, swelling or difficulty moving your foot. Foot sprains occur at midfoot near the arch of your foot, and in the first metatarsophalangeal joint located at the base of your big toe. Midfoot sprains usually result from sports-related accidents. Sprains to the metatarsophalangeal, a condition called turf toe joint, usually results from bending the toe backward too far, or hyperextension.


See your doctor about a foot sprain, especially if your pain does not subside in a few days or if you are unable to place weight on your injured foot. If you have medical conditions such as diabetes or diseases that cause reduced blood flow or impaired feeling in your feet, see your doctor regardless of the severity of your foot sprain.


Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.