A few weeks ago, Britney Spears brought new meaning to the phrase “pop star” when she broke a metatarsal bone in her foot while practicing a dance routine. The incident was caught on tape, and you can hear the bone make a loud popping noise. You can google it if you’re not squeamish about hearing such things. Most of us are squeamish, however, and for a good reason. When your lower limbs make snapping, popping, or crunching sounds, it’s most likely a sign that something’s wrong.

Here are some examples of noises that feet and ankles make and what they might mean:

  • If you hear crunching when walking or flexing your ankles, you probably have osteoarthritis. That’s when the protective cartilage between bones wears down, and two bones rub against each other. It’s a common condition in older adults that can affect your toes and feet as well as your ankles. We can mitigate the pain of arthritis with medications, custom orthotics, and surgery for severe cases.
  • A loud popping or snapping sound that comes from the back of your heel is probably a ruptured Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon stretches your heel bone to your calf muscle, often overstretched during sports. A torn or ruptured Achilles tendon hurts a great deal, needs medical attention, and may require surgery to repair.
  • Old injuries can sometimes cause future problems – and noises. For example, a torn tendon has moved out of place and is slipping across a bone; or, scar tissue has built up and is now interfering with proper joint movement.

Feet or ankles that snap, crackle or pop without causing you pain may not need any treatment. On the other hand, foot noise accompanied by pain or difficulty walking indicates a problem that board-certified podiatrist Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center can help you with. Dr. Wilhelm serves Fairfax County residents at our office in Centreville, Virginia. Call us at (703) 996-3000 or contact us online for an appointment.

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