How to tell if you have a Torn Foot Tendon?

By Amelia Son, PTA

How to tell if you have a Torn Foot Tendon?

Tendons are fibrous tissues that attach muscle to bone. They can take a great amount of force but can snap or rupture if too much force is applied. Torn foot tendon injuries can be serious and must be treated properly to avoid permanent disability.  Tendons are specific to their area and must be treated in a specific manner.

image of anatomy of foot muscles and tendons

Anatomy of the foot muscles and tendons.

Symptoms of Torn Tendon

Torn tendons commonly occur in middle-aged or older individuals. They can be caused by direct trauma, tendon weakening due to age, increased stress on the tendon, steroid injections, and taking certain antibiotics. There are several signs and symptoms that may occur when a tendon is torn:

  • Hearing or feeling a snap or a pop.
  • Severe pain in the area.
  • Immediate or quick bruising.
  • Weakness in the joint.
  • The inability to use the foot or bear weight.
  • The inability to move the ankle.
  • Visible deformity in the area.

If you have experienced these above symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately because there is a possibility you have torn a tendon in your foot. Especially note the inability to move the ankle and the inability to weight bear. There also might be a feeling of instability when walking and putting weight on the ankle.  When there is severe pain in the foot accompanied by a snap or pop, you should visit the emergency room instead of waiting for an MD appointment.

Anatomy of the foot and plantar fascia.

Plantar fasciitis is treated at JOI


In diagnosing a torn tendon in a foot, a physical examination is required. The MD may also perform special tests to ensure that the tendon is torn and to see if there is any other damage. For example, in a torn Achilles tendon, the MD might perform a Thompson test.

This is where you kneel on a chair and let your ankle hang freely over the edge.  He will then squeeze your calf muscle to see if your foot and/or toes point downwards. If they do not, then the Achilles tendon is torn. For the foot, they may perform joint mobilization to see if one ankle has more laxity than another. If the MD believes that the damage is more severe, they may order an MRI or ultrasound of the injured area to fully diagnose and come up with a treatment plan.  The plantar fascia of the foot is well known to have micro-tears in the structure and it is a very common injury.

Treatment of a Torn Foot Tendon 

So, one may ask if a torn tendon will heal on its own? As far as treatment, some tears require surgery, like an Achilles Tendon tear and Rotator Cuff tear, while some tendons in the ankle are left to heal and scar down to the bone. This simply depends on the severity of the torn tendon and possible outcomes after treatment. Physical therapy can help return a post-surgical tear regain normal stretch to return to the previous level of activity. While the good news of no surgery required is welcomed, with regards to partial tears the strength may not fully return, even with the help of extensive rehabilitation. The recovery time is shorter, but strength may not return fully.

To schedule for Physical Therapy at one of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045.

image of anatomy of Achilles Tendon

Torn Achilles Tendon

JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room if they have suffered a fracture or soft tissue injury.  Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000.

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By: Amelia Son PTA

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