San Francisco Podiatry Video


Friday, July 19, 2013

How Can I Tell if My Foot is Broken?

Hi My Running Doc,

A couple of days ago I accidentally kicked the wall with my right foot. My foot still hurts and it is bruised.  I read on your website that bruising can be a sign of a metatarsal fracture. How can I tell if it is just bruised or if my foot is actually broken? I would love to have your expert opinion!

David, Houston, Texas.

Hi David, 

Bruising is a Bad Sign
It is true that bruising is a bad sign when it comes to foot and ankle injury. When you actually fracture a bone, the bone cracks and bleeds quite a lot. That blood diffuses throughout the soft tissue under the skin. What you see is a bruise. That is part of the reason that a bruise can be so concerning for a fracture in the foot. 

In fact the sort of bruising pattern that the picture of your foot shows is often indicative of a fracture or broken bone in the foot. Given your pattern of bruising it is more likely that you have a metatarsal fracture or a fracture in one of the bones in the little toe such as the proximal phalanx phone.

Myths about Foot Fractures

1.  If you can walk on the foot, it can’t be broken.  FALSE!

This may be one of the most widely perpetuated myths about foot injury on the Internet. I have seen many patients with serious fractures that are walking on the foot. Some patients are limping and obviously in a tremendous amount of pain while other patients with fractures or broken bones barely feel any discomfort at all. This is not a reliable indicator of whether or not you have a broken bone in your foot.

2.  There is nothing you can do for a broken toe.  FALSE!

This is also absolutely not true. While it is true that most fractures in the toe will heal uneventfully, there are things you can do to speed healing and decrease your risk of complications. Fractures of the bones in the toe can move if not properly stabilized. Certain shoes will speed healing. Taping the toes to provide stability and immobilize the fracture will also help. But some toes should never be taped together. 

Without the proper treatment of a broken toe, the fracture can fail to heal leading to what physicians refer to as a nonunion. A fracture that never heals correctly can lead to pain, disability and interfere with your ability to run or even walk without pain.  Occasionally patients that take the approach that “nothing can be done for fractured toe” just end up in surgery later.  For the most part this is avoidable if the toe treated correctly.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

If you are suspicious that there might be a broken bone in your foot (or in one of your toes) it is best to figure out whether or not it is actually broken.  The best option is to have an in-person evaluation by a sports medicine specialist such as a sports podiatrist.  The second option is to have a remote consultation with a sports podiatrist via webcam. A third option is an attempt at self-diagnosis. This video on YouTube can show you how to perform self-diagnosis of metatarsal stress fractures. This same video would apply in your case if the pain is located where you’re bruising is in the foot.

If you see a physician in person or via webcam or you perform your own self-diagnosis and think that you probably have a fracture then you should get x-rays. X-rays will not only confirm (or rule out) a broken bone in the foot but it will also give you an idea of the severity of the problem. There are some fractures that absolutely must be treated surgically. Others simply need a fracture walking boot in order to stabilize the fracture and allow it to heal. And occasionally it is necessary to use crutches. 

But not all fractures are the same. So if you have pain and bruising after this sort of injury and suspect that you have a fracture in your foot it is important to determine whether or not there actually is a broken bone, and treat it appropriately. As long as you treat the fracture correctly you should be able to heal and then get back to running.

Dr. Christopher Segler, D.P.M. is board certified, American Board of Podiatric Medicine. Because he is an active marathon runner and 10-time Ironman triathlon finisher, his practice focuses exclusively on helping runners get back to running as quickly as possible. He travels back and forth between San Francisco, Houston, and Hawaii so he can often to help Texas and California patients with running injuries.  He also provides web consultations via Skype for injured runners who who are too busy to drive to a podiatry office. If you are in San Francisco and have a question about a running injury, you can reach him directly at 415-308-0833. If you live in Houston and think you have a stress fracture, your can call him at 713-489-7674. Visit our Houston Doc On The Run Practice. Learn more about stress fractures here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Does running barefoot put me at risk of toenail fungus?

Hi My Running Doc!

I have heard that going barefoot in locker rooms can put me at risk of a fungal infection and toenail fungus. Does running barefoot also put me more at risk of a toenail fungus infection? 

Jimmy, San Francisco, CA
Hi Jimmy, 

Great question!  The short answer is no... running barefoot does not actually put you more at risk of getting a toenail fungus infection than running in running shoes.

But before we explain that, let's explain why there is such a high risk of getting a fungal infection from a gym locker room.  People work out at the gym all day long. Most of them shower once they are done. 

So the floors in the locker rooms are continually coated with water dripping off of freshly showered athletes. This leaves the floors in the gym locker rooms perpetually moist. This moisture creates the perfect environment for fungal growth. If you walk around in there barefoot the chances are good you might pick up a fungal infection in the form of athlete's foot.

The same organism that causes athlete's foot is also the same organism that causes fungal toenail infections.

In order to get a toe nail fungus infection you must have a couple of conditions present at the same time.

1. Active fungus and/or fungal spores.
2. Trauma to the toenails.

Much like a gymnasium locker room, running shoes are actually the perfect incubators for toenail fungus. Your feet are like little heaters warming up the inside of the shoes to the perfect temperature for fungal growth.  When you exercise, your feet sweat. The inside of the running shoes are also dark and devoid of sunlight. All of this creates the perfect environment for toenail fungus to grow.  

When you run, the ends of your toes and hence the toenails can bump up against the inside of the shoes. Many marathon runners have witnessed this first hand in the form of black and blue toenails after a long run. It's not a large amount of trauma, just a small amount of repetitive trauma that can cause bruising under the toenail.

If you have this sort of trauma to the toenails when you have foot fungus growing inside your running shoes, the fungal spores and live fungus can get underneath the toenail and start to grow. The result is a  fungal toenail infection.

You know you have thick yellowing discolored toenails indicative a  toenail fungus infection.

When you run barefoot you're unlikely to have trauma to the toenails in the presence of a large amount of toenail fungus or fungal spores that are often coating the inside of running shoes. And in this respect, you're actually a lower risk of getting a toenail fungus infection when running barefoot as compared to when running in heavily used running shoes.

Dr. Christopher Segler, DPM is a marathon runner and 11-time Ironman triathlon finisher.  His podiatry sports medicine practice focuses on convenient rapid treatment of running injuries. He is often invited to speak at medical conferences on the topic of barefoot running biomechanics. You can learn more about running related toenail infections and laser treatment of toenail fungus at   If you have a question about a toenail fungus infection or barefoot running injury you can call him directly at 415-308-0833