Plantar plate tears cause pain at the ball of the foot that can make it difficult to bear weight on the feet, especially when bending the
toes upwards. Sometimes, as a result of a longstanding plantar plate tear, the space next to the affected toe may increase to leave a
‘V’ appearance between the toes.
The plantar plate is a thick, fibrous tissue at the bottom of the foot that starts within each joint at the ball of the
foot and extends up through the joint capsule and into the toes. Due to its location, pressure is placed on it with every step you take.
When the plantar plate is overloaded and damaged, a plantar plate injury or a more serious plantar plate tear can occur.
Plantar plate injuries are serious because plantar plates have many important functions. They are responsible for helping maintain the stability and alignment (and hence function) of the toes, helping prevent them from spreading or splaying, helping you push off the ground when walking, and preventing your toes from hyperextending when they’re bent upwards. This means that when the plantar plate is damaged and torn, toes can move out of alignment and your gait can change significantly - and often detrimentally.
Plantar plate injuries and tears occur when the forefoot, and hence the plantar plate, is overloaded with excess pressure or force placed on the tissue. This overloading may occur from:
The second toe joint is the most common place for a plantar plate injury to occur, although any toe can be affected. If you’ve injured your plantar plate, you may:
Plantar plate tears can be confidently diagnosed by our podiatrists in our clinic during a physical assessment and thorough exam. Depending on how the injury is likely to have arisen, if we suspect that other structures have been involved in the injury, we may refer you for medical imaging to get the complete picture of the extent of your injury, so we can prescribe the best course of treatment.
We find that the earlier we are able to diagnose and start treating your plantar plate injury, the better and faster we can get you back to moving without pain. Treating a plantar plate injury comes in two stages, the first being relieving your pain and symptoms so you can walk more comfortably, and the second is supporting the healing and repair of the plantar plate while putting the right measures in place to prevent it from recurring in the future. To achieve this, we may use:
If a plantar plate injury or tear is not effectively rehabilitated, the condition can become chronic. This means you may develop long standing toe deformities, which can erode the joint capsule, put you at risk of developing arthritis in the joint, and lead to pain, stiffness and impaired function. The toe may also dislocate out of place, affecting your foot biomechanics and gait, even to the point where you may need to consider a surgical correction.
How long will it take for my plantar plate injury to heal completely?
This depends on how severely it has been injured and whether a tear has occurred. We estimate between 8-16 weeks.
Can I keep exercising with a plantar plate tear?
If you have a tear, then your podiatrist will discuss with you the best ways to modify your physical activity. While we know it is disheartening to reduce your activity levels, our goal is to get you back to pain-free living as quickly as possible while preventing any long-term complications. We’ll also discuss safe activities that you can continue to do, as well as modification techniques where appropriate.