arrow backward icon
Back to Blog

Decoding Your Foot and Ankle MRI: A Step-by-Step Guide

Decoding Your Foot and Ankle MRI: A Step-by-Step Guide
Stay updated with our newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Foot and ankle injuries are one of the most common types of sports injuries. However, everyday activities can also cause foot injuries and issues. If you suffer from prolonged foot pain, you may want to consider getting an MRI of the foot and ankle. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the conditions it can detect within your foot and ankle, and uncover the array of benefits it offers. From demystifying the procedure itself to equipping you with the knowledge to navigate the experience of undergoing a foot MRI and ankle MRI scan with confidence, this guide is your companion on the path to foot health and well-being. 

What is the basic anatomy of the foot and ankle?

The foot has 26 bones, spanning the ankle, midfoot, and toes. They articulate at various joints, enabling movement and stability. Supporting these movements are numerous muscles in the foot and ankle, while tough ligaments connect bones, maintaining alignment and preventing excessive movement. Fibrous tendons link muscles to bones, facilitating foot and ankle mobility. Beneath the arch, the plantar fascia, a sturdy tissue band, provides support and absorbs shock during activities. 

Understanding the importance of foot and ankle MRI in diagnosing pain:

MRI is crucial for diagnosing foot pain because it provides detailed images of soft tissues, allowing for early detection and accurate diagnosis of several conditions listed below. Detailed MRI images help plan and track foot pain treatment effectively, making foot MRI invaluable for managing foot pain.

Identifying common foot and ankle injuries through MRI imaging:

An MRI of the foot is a non-invasive, painless diagnostic test that can help diagnose a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Achilles tendon injuries: damage to the achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. 
  • Ligament injuries: damage to the tough bands of tissue that connect bones to each other, often resulting from overstretching or tearing. Examples include medial and lateral ankle ligament injuries. Medial ankle ligament issues involve injuries on the inside of the ankle, while lateral ankle ligament issues involve injuries on the outside, typically from the foot rolling inward.
  • Cartilage injuries: damage to the smooth, rubbery tissue that covers the ends of bones in joints, leading to pain and stiffness. 
  • Plantar fasciitis: inflammation of the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, causing heel pain. 
  • Fractures, including stress fractures: broken bones, either due to sudden injury or repetitive stress.
  • Bone marrow edema around the foot: swelling in the bone marrow, often caused by injury or inflammation.
  • Tumors: abnormal growths of tissue in the soft tissues or bones of the foot, which can be benign or malignant.
  • Infection: presence of harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi.
  • Avascular necrosis: death of bone tissue due to loss of blood supply, often resulting in pain and limited mobility.
  • Morton's neuroma: thickening of tissue around a nerve leading to the toes, causing pain and numbness, often between the third and fourth toes.
  • Metatarsalgia: pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot, often due to overuse or wearing improper footwear. 
  • Diabetic Neuropathy: nerve damage caused by diabetes, leading to pain, numbness, and tingling in the feet. 
  • Arthritis : damage to the joints in the foot, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling.

When should I get a foot and ankle MRI?

A foot and ankle MRI is recommended when a detailed evaluation of the structures is needed. This is often indicated when there is persistent pain and particularly useful for evaluation of soft tissues, including muscles, tendons, ligaments and sometimes nerves that may not be visible on X-rays or other imaging modalities. 

What is the science behind foot and ankle MRI scans?

Your body's water molecules contain tiny magnets called protons. When you're in the MRI machine's magnetic field, these protons align in a certain way. Then, radio waves shake them up temporarily. Once the radio waves are turned off, the protons gradually return to their original alignment with the magnetic field. As they do so, they release energy in the form of radio signals. The MRI machine detects these signals and uses them to create detailed images of the internal structures of your body.

What are the benefits of a foot and ankle MRI?

Foot and ankle MRIs offer precision, detecting microscopic abnormalities that other methods might miss, all without exposing you to radiation, making them more safe and patient-friendly. With high-resolution images, they provide detailed diagnoses, revealing torn ligaments, fractures, and swelling, giving valuable insight. This natural approach to foot health makes MRI a reliable diagnostic tool, ideal for pregnant women, young children, and those sensitive to radiation.

What happens before, during and after the MRI scan?

  • You will be asked to remove all metal items, including wristwatches, keys, and jewelry. These objects must be kept outside the scan room.
  • You are often asked to undress and put on a hospital gown or loose-fitting clothes.
  • You will be told to lie on the scanner’s table.
  • Your foot must be flat, with your feet pointing towards the magnet.
  • The examination table will then move into the open end of the tube in the machine. An intercom inside the MRI scanner lets you talk with the radiography personnel.
  • It is essential to lie very still: movement will blur or warp the images.
  • While it is in operation, the MRI scanner makes loud noises. (You may be offered earplugs. Sometimes, you can listen to music through headphones if you prefer).
  • The foot that is being scanned may feel a little warm.
  • If the images are satisfactory, you can get dressed and go home.

Tips for preparing physically and emotionally for a foot and ankle MRI:

People often feel nervous about undergoing an MRI scan, especially those who are claustrophobic. However, with the right preparation and mindset, you can feel empowered and more at ease before stepping into the scanner. Here's a guide to help you navigate the process and alleviate any nerves:

  • Prepare by learning about the MRI procedure to ease anxiety.
  • Communicate any concerns with experienced healthcare staff.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing.
  • Wear loose, metal-free clothing for comfort.
  • Consider open MRI machines for more space if claustrophobic.
  • Stay focused on positive outcomes during the scan.
  • Bring along friends or family for added support.
  • Don't hesitate to take breaks or ask for assistance if needed.

Strategies for managing foot and ankle pain while waiting for MRI results:

Here are simplified strategies considering the condition and suspected diagnosis:

  1. Rest and Elevate: Rest your foot and elevate it to reduce swelling.
  2. Ice Therapy: Apply ice packs to ease pain and swelling.
  3. Pain Relief: Take pain relievers as needed.
  4. Compression: Use compression socks or wraps for swelling.
  5. Appropriate Footwear: Wear supportive shoes suitable for your condition.
  6. Orthotic Inserts: Use inserts if recommended for your foot alignment.
  7. Gentle Exercise: Do low-impact exercises recommended by your doctor.
  8. Stretching: Stretch gently to relieve tightness.
  9. Relaxation Techniques: Try relaxation methods to manage stress and pain.
  10. Physical Therapy: Consider it for specific exercises.
  11. Heat Therapy: Use heat packs for muscle relaxation.
  12. Stay Positive: Keep a positive mindset while waiting for results.

Who reports the findings from a foot and ankle MRI scan?

A radiologist specialising in imaging and radiology and/or other specialised doctors will inspect and interpret the scan images. A report of the radiologist’s findings is sent to you. You will need to book an appointment with your own doctor or healthcare provider  to examine the results and plan treatment.

Decoding abnormal findings in foot and ankle MRI reports:

Let’s dive a little more deeply into the specifics and what the scan report may show.

  1. Soft Tissues:
  • Tendon Problems: Thickening or damage to tendons.
  • Ligament Tears: Rips or irregularities in ligaments.
  • Muscle Strain: Swelling or changes in muscle appearance.
  • Bursitis: Fluid buildup around joints.
  • Nerve Issues: Pinching or compression of nerves.
  1. Bones:
  • Stress Fractures: Tiny cracks in bones.
  • Bone Spurs: Extra bits of bone near joints.
  • Arthritis: Joint wear and tear, seen as thinning or bone growth.
  • Bone Tumors: Abnormal growths in bones.
  1. Joints:
  • Arthritis: Joint inflammation, erosion, or swelling.
  • Synovitis: Swelling of the lining of the joints.
  1. Other Issues:
  • Cysts: Fluid-filled sacs.
  • Infections: Pus pockets or signs of infection.
  1. Examples of specific conditions: 
  • Achilles Tendon: Located at the back of the ankle, connecting the calf muscles to the heel bone. MRI may show signs of thickening, inflammation, or tears, indicating potential Achilles tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon) or rupture.
  • Peroneal Tendons: Situated on the outer side of the ankle, running behind the outer ankle bone. MRI may reveal partial or complete tears in the peroneal tendons.
  • Deltoid Ligament: Found on the inner side of the ankle, connecting the ankle bones to the foot bones. MRI findings may indicate sprain or tears in the deltoid ligament, potentially causing ankle instability.
  • Plantar Fascia: Runs along the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. In plantar fasciitis, MRI may show thickening, inflammation, or degeneration of the plantar fascia

Knowing these findings helps your doctor understand what's causing your foot and ankle trouble and plan the right treatment.

Treatment options for conditions detected by foot and ankle MRI:

Specific treatment depends on the condition and should be discussed with your doctor for personalized guidance. It's essential to follow up with your doctor for further evaluation and tailored treatment plans based on MRI results.

Preventive measures for maintaining foot and ankle health:

Prevention is crucial for avoiding injuries. Here are some ideas:


  1. Calf Raises: Stand on the edge of a step, raise heels, then lower them. Strengthen calf muscles.
  2. Resistance Band Exercises: Wrap a band around the ball of your foot, push against resistance to strengthen ankle muscles.
  3. Balance Exercises: Stand on one leg for 30 seconds to improve stability.
  4. Proprioception Training: Stand on a wobble board to improve balance and prevent ankle sprains.


  1. Toe Stretch: Pull toes back toward shin for 15-30 seconds to stretch calf and plantar fascia.
  2. Achilles and Calf Stretch: Stand with one foot slightly behind the other, bend the front knee, and lean forward to stretch your calf and achilles tendon of the leg that is positioned behind. 
  3. Plantar Fascia Stretch: While sitting, cross one leg over the other so your ankle rests on the opposite knee, then gently bend back your toes towards your shin and massage the bottom of your foot to stretch the plantar fascia.


  1. Supportive Shoes: Wear shoes with proper arch support and cushioning, suitable for your activity.
  2. Proper Fit: Ensure shoes fit well and provide ample room for toes to move.

Warm-Up and Cool Down:

  1. Warm-Up: Start with light aerobic activity like walking or cycling for 5-10 minutes to increase blood flow to muscles.
  2. Dynamic Stretches: Perform dynamic stretches such as leg swings or arm circles to prepare muscles for activity.
  3. Cool Down: End exercise session with static stretches, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension.

Remember to perform exercises and stretches regularly, listen to your body, and adjust intensity as needed.

Enhancing foot health through proper hygiene and care:

Enhancing foot health through proper hygiene and care is crucial for overall well-being. Simple practices like daily washing and drying, trimming nails and moisturizing help prevent infections and dryness. Wearing well-fitting, supportive shoes and clean, moisture-wicking socks, along with rotating footwear, reduces the risk of blisters and fungal growth. Regular foot inspections and exercises promote flexibility and strength, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing conditions like diabetes contribute to overall foot health. By incorporating these habits into your routine, you can enjoy pain-free mobility and prevent common foot problems.

What is the cost of a foot and ankle MRI scan?

The cost of a foot and ankle MRI can vary depending on several factors, including location. In the UK, patients can expect to pay anywhere from £250 and up.

Insurance coverage:

This can vary. If you're covered under the National Health Service (NHS), the MRI may be fully covered if it's deemed medically necessary. However, there may be long wait times for non-urgent cases.If you have private health insurance, coverage for MRIs may vary depending on your policy. 

"Delaying a diagnosis when facing persistent symptoms in your foot or ankle can hinder your path to recovery. Prompt attention not only illuminates the route to effective treatment but also steps around complications that might slow your stride towards optimal health. Don't wait to seek advice—your mobility and comfort are too important to ignore."
Dr. Sachin Shah, General Practitioner

Tips for finding the right healthcare provider for foot and ankle MRI:

If you need to find the right provider for getting an MRI foot and ankle, GetScanned is the best platform to help you. With GetScanned, users of the platform can:

  • Find an MRI, CT, or ultrasound scan near them easily through a B2C marketplace.
  • Book an appointment with an MRI, CT, or ultrasound scanning center near them.
  • Find an MRI, CT, or ultrasound scan center with a suitable price point.  
  • GetScanned provides round-the-clock support to ensure you have the best possible experience.


MRI is a vital tool for diagnosing a range of foot and ankle conditions. Unlike other imaging options, MRI provides detailed and precise insights into foot and ankle health. Early detection through MRI can prevent complications and facilitate an effective treatment plan. At GetScanned, we offer a user-friendly platform for booking MRI, CT, or ultrasound scans near you in minutes. Don't delay in prioritizing your foot health—schedule an MRI scan today to take proactive steps towards better well-being.

Ready to get a foot and ankle MRI and take charge of your foot health? Book an MRI scan today!


Let’s address some frequently asked questions about MRI scan:

1.Is an X-ray, CT or MRI better for foot and ankle injuries?

X-rays are great for showing bones, while MRI is better for soft tissues like ligaments and tendons; so, X-rays are useful for detecting fractures, while MRI is more detailed for diagnosing issues like ligament tears or tendon damage in the foot and ankle.CT and MRI are both effective in the diagnosis of ankle tendon injuries. Your doctor may suggest an MRI scan if the injury affects soft tissues. On the other hand, a CT scan will be recommended if the injury involves bone abnormalities, internal bleeding, and fractures. 

2. Will an MRI of the foot show nerve damage?

Yes, an MRI of the foot can help in the early detection of nerve damage in the foot before it becomes permanent. Although MRI scans provide detailed imaging of the foot's soft tissues, 562063649they need to be combined with neurological examinations to address the underlying causes of foot nerve damage effectively.

3.How long does a typical foot and ankle MRI take?

The duration of a foot and ankle MRI typically ranges from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on various factors such as the specific protocol used and the complexity.

4.Does the whole body enter the MRI scan for a foot and ankle MRI?

No, during a foot and ankle MRI, only the foot and ankle area are positioned inside the scanner. The rest of the body remains outside of the scanner.

5.When should I consider getting a second or follow-up foot and ankle MRI scan?

Consider seeking a second opinion and another foot MRI if you have ongoing symptoms despite treatment, if there's uncertainty about the initial diagnosis or if the initial MRI results are inconclusive or unclear.