Summer Fun in RecoveryPickleball, a unique blend of tennis, ping pong, and badminton, has been growing in popularity. With its simple rules, low-cost equipment, and suitability for all ages, it's no wonder why more people are taking it up.

However, as with any sport, pickleball comes with its own set of risks. At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, we have seen a growing number of injuries of the foot and ankle among pickleball players. Pickleball's fast-paced nature, combined with the regular side-to-side movement, puts a considerable amount of stress on the feet and ankles. Players often sustain injuries ranging from minor ankle sprains and strains to more serious conditions like Achilles tendonitis or stress fractures.

While these injuries can be treated, prevention is always the best approach. By understanding the potential risks and taking steps to maintain your foot and ankle health, you can continue to enjoy pickleball safely. With some tips from our podiatrists to help maintain your foot and ankle health, we hope you can continue to enjoy this exciting sport while staying safe!

Common Foot & Ankle Injuries from Pickleball

While pickleball is a fun and engaging activity, its rapid movements and repetitive actions can lead to various foot and ankle injuries. Let's take a look at some of the most common injuries associated with this sport:

  • Plantar Fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot injuries sustained by pickleball players. This condition is characterized by severe pain, especially heel pain, typically felt upon taking the first steps in the morning or after a long period of rest. It occurs when the plantar fascia (a tough, fibrous band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot connecting the heel bone to the toes) becomes inflamed due to excessive strain.
  • Achilles Tendonitis: Another prevalent injury among pickleball enthusiasts is Achilles tendonitis. This condition arises when the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle to the heel, becomes strained due to overuse. Achilles tendonitis presents as pain along the back of the leg near the heel. Continuous stress on the Achilles tendon can even lead to more serious conditions like Achilles tendon rupture.
  • Ankle Sprains: Ankle sprains are also common in pickleball due to the sport's requirement for quick, lateral movements. An ankle sprain typically occurs when the foot rolls or twists beyond its normal range of motion, causing the ligaments in the ankle to stretch or tear. The most common among these are inversion ankle sprains, where the foot rolls inward, and the outer ligaments are stretched too far.
  • Stress Fractures: Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bones caused by overuse, running, and high-impact activities such as jumping. In pickleball, a stress fracture will typically occur in the feet and can manifest as gradually escalating foot pain. Ignoring these injuries could lead to larger, harder-to-heal fractures over time.

Expert Tips for Preventing Pickleball Injuries

Prevention is always better than cure, and this is especially true when it comes to sports injuries. Our podiatrists at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists are knowledgeable in advising athletes on how to avoid foot and ankle injuries. Some of our top tips include:

Proper Warm-Up and Cool-Down Routines

Warming up before any physical activity is essential, and pickleball is no exception. A good warm-up routine increases blood flow to the muscles, enhancing flexibility and reducing the risk of injury. Start with some light cardio, like jogging or jumping jacks, followed by dynamic stretches that mimic pickleball movements.

Cooling down after the game is just as important. It helps your body return to its normal state, reduces muscle stiffness, and speeds up recovery. Spend a few minutes stretching your feet and ankles after the game, focusing on any areas that feel particularly tight or sore.

Importance of Good Footwear

In pickleball, you're constantly moving, pivoting, and jumping, which can put a lot of stress on your feet and ankles. Wearing appropriate footwear is crucial to prevent injuries. Choose shoes specifically designed for pickleball or similar sports as they provide the necessary support, cushioning, and traction. Ensure they fit well and are comfortable to play in. Remember, worn-out shoes lose their effectiveness, so replace them regularly.

Training and Conditioning

Improper or inadequate training can lead to overuse injuries. Work on improving your strength, flexibility, and endurance through regular conditioning exercises. Incorporate resistance training, balance exercises, and cardio workouts into your routine. Also, learn proper pickleball techniques and movements from a trained professional to ensure you're not putting unnecessary strain on your body.

Regular Rest and Recovery

Rest is a vital part of injury prevention. Overtraining without giving your body enough time to recover can lead to chronic injuries. Ensure you're getting adequate sleep as it is when most of the body's repair and recovery processes take place. Listen to your body and give it the rest it needs between games or training sessions.


Staying hydrated, especially during extended play or in hot weather, is key to maintaining peak performance and preventing injuries. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, and fatigue, increasing the risk of injury. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your game to stay in top form.

How to Deal with Pickleball Injuries

In the event of a foot or ankle injury, the initial response can significantly influence the recovery process. If you experience a sprain or strain, the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is generally recommended as the first line of treatment. Rest allows the injured area to begin healing, while ice can help reduce swelling and numb the pain. Compression with a bandage can further minimize swelling, and elevation can help decrease blood flow to the area, reducing inflammation.

While minor injuries can often be managed at home, it's crucial to know when to seek medical attention. If you experience severe pain, can't move the injured area, have a joint that feels unstable or deformed, or if your symptoms don't improve after a few days of home treatment, it's time to consult Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists. Additionally, any signs of an infection, such as increased warmth, redness, swelling, or pus, should prompt immediate medical attention.

A delay in treatment can lead to complications, chronic pain, and even long-term disability. Our podiatrists are skilled in diagnosing and treating a range of conditions that can affect athletes' feet and ankles. No matter the injury, we have the expertise to provide effective treatments tailored to the individual patient's needs and sport-specific requirements. Remember, every injury and individual is unique, so what works for one person might not work for another. Always consult with a podiatrist for personalized advice and treatment strategies.

Visit Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists Today

Podiatrists play a significant role in both the prevention and treatment of sports injuries that affect the foot and ankle. At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, our team of experienced podiatrists has a deep understanding of the unique demands that sports like pickleball can place on these critical structures of the body.

Whether you're seeking to prevent or recover from an injury, our foot and ankle specialists can provide the best care to get you back in action. Schedule a consultation or check-up with Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists today. Your feet will thank you for it!

Get the best podiatric care in Chicago, IL at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists!Schedule your appointment online today; we look forward to seeing you!