The Wound Care Clinician’s Podiatric Glossary

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Issue Number: 
Volume 12 Issue 8 - August 2018

Today’s Wound Clinic offers our readers this resource glossary of podiatry-related terms and conditions. Whether the podiatrist sees patients in the clinic or as a referral source, wound care clinicians are likely to encounter a variety of these terms on patient charts.
Editor's Note: This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of terms.     



Abduction: Movement of the foot away from the midline of the body.

Abscess: Collection of liquified tissue (pus) within the skin layer; often with pain, inflammation, and swelling.

Accessory navicular syndrome: When a small bone in the posterior tibial tendon becomes aggravated by shoes; also known as gorilloid navicular.

Achilles tendinitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon that causes pain in the back of the heel.

Actinic keratosis: Rough, scaly patches of skin often seen on the front of the lower leg that can develop into skin cancer; also referred to as “age spots.”

Adduction: Movement of the foot toward the midline of the body.

Adhesion: A band of contracted scar tissue that binds two parts of tissue or organs together; usually results after surgery, injury, or infection and is often associated with inflammation and scar tissue.

Allergic dermatitis: A condition in which the outer layers of the skin become inflamed by an irritating substance. 

Ankle instability: Condition caused by the overstretching of the ankle ligaments; can predispose patient to frequent ankle sprains and/or falls.

Ankylosis: The abnormal stiffening and immobility of a joint due to fusion of the bones.

Apophysitis: Irritation and inflammation of a growth plate in the bone.

Arch support: A shoe insert that absorbs body weight, relieving foot joints of pressure and holding the subtalar joint in neutral; relieves muscle strain and pain when standing, walking, running, etc.

Arthritis: Set of degenerative diseases that cause inflammation within a joint (see osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis); caused by the tearing of the joint’s cartilage; treatable but not curable.

Articular cartilage: The smooth, white tissue that covers the ends of bones where they come together to form joints.

Atrophy: The degeneration, weakening, or “wasting away” of body tissue, generally as a result of disease or disuse (eg, prolonged immobilization in a cast).


Baxter’s nerve: An entrapment of the calcaneal branch of the posterior tibial nerve; will result in loss of sensation and pain in the plantar heel; a diagnosis that should be considered when treating heel pain. 

Benign neoplasm: A noncancerous tumor or growth of a tissue; represents most foot tumors (eg, plantar wart).

Blister: Fluid-filled skin lesion caused by friction or rubbing of the skin.

Bone spur: Arthritic bony changes that increases bone mass.

Brachymetatarsia: Shortened bone, most commonly the 4th metatarsal in the foot.

Bromhidrosis: Condition of abnormal body odor typically determined by apocrine gland secretion. 

Bunion: Enlargement of the large toe joint that is often associated with pain (see hallux valgus).

Bunionectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the bunion and realign the big toe; surgery may involve bone cutting (osteotomy) of one or more bones of the foot, removal of spurs around the joint, and rebalancing of the tendons around the big toe; recovery time depends on the complexity of the surgery.

Bunionette: Lateral “bump” on the 5th metatarsal bone at the base of 5th toe (see tailor’s bunion).

Bursitis: Painful inflammation of the bursa sac, a fluid-filled sac or saclike cavity surrounding joins and tendons.


Calcaneus: Heel bone.

Calcification: Occurs when tissue hardens or suddenly becomes inflexible. 

Callus: Diffuse thickening of the outer layer of the skin usually found on the bottom of the foot; caused by shearing pressures.

Capsulitis: Inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding a joint.

Cavus foot: Often congenital, can cause rubbing in shoes on the top of the midfoot; also referred to as “high-arched foot.” 

Cellulitis: Bacterial infection involving the skin that can be red, hot, and/or swollen.

Charcot foot: Progressive degenerative condition characterized by nerve damage and severely weakened bones that can lead to debilitating foot deformity; most often occurs as a complication of long-term diabetes.

Chronic venous insufficiency: An improper functioning of the vein valves in the leg that causes swelling and skin changes.

Claw toe: Deformity that typically affects one or more of the small toes; characterized by bending at the two toe joints, which gives the appearance of a claw or talon.

Club foot: A deformity commonly present at birth in which the foot is turned inward, often so severely that the bottom of the foot faces sideways or upward.

Compression stockings: Elastic stockings designed to treat swollen legs and ankles by compressing incompetent, distended veins.

Contracted toe: Description of a bent toe caused by the excessive pulling (contraction) of tendons.

Contusion: A traumatic flesh injury (ie, bruise) that does not break the skin.

Corns: Pinpoint thickening of the outer layer of skin caused by friction; usually found on the tops of  the toes or directly beneath a bone.

Cuboid: The midfoot bone on the outside of the foot that lies between the calcaneus and metatarsals; may be crushed when the midfoot is injured; also referred to as a “nutcracker fracture.”

Cuneiform bones: The medial cuneiform, the intermediate cuneiform, and the lateral cuneiform bones present in the foot that are of primary importance in injuries to the tarsometatarsal joint (see Lisfranc injuries).

Cyst: Soft tissue mass.


Dermatitis: Inflammation of the skin associated with a rash that can be itchy, red, and/or swollen.

Diabetic neuropathy: Nerve damage that occurs as a complication of diabetes; patients experience abnormal nerve sensation (usually diminished sensation of touch, temperature, and/or pain).

Diabetic socks and shoes: Non-binding and non-elasticated stockings designed to not constrict the foot or leg; protective shoe gear specifically designed to fit the needs of a patient living with diabetes. 

Diagnostic ultrasound: Noninvasive study that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image that demonstrates and quantifies soft tissue pathologies.

Dislocation: A  misaligned joint between two or more bones that is usually caused by trauma or arthritis.

Distal: Meaning farthest away from the central location of the body or body part in question, such as “the toes are distal to the heel.”

Distal phalanges: The bones at the tips of the toes (and fingers).

Doppler study: Noninvasive test that measures and quantifies blood flow through arteries and veins.

Dorsal/dorsum: The upper surface of the foot.

Dorsiflexion: Bending the top of the foot upwards towards the knee.

Drop foot: Condition characterized by forefoot weakness or paralysis caused by neuromuscular disorders that prevents lifting the forefoot when walking.

Dry heels: Refers to heels lacking moisture in the keratinized layer, leading to sloughing skin or possible cracking that allows bacteria entry into the foot.


Eczema: Inflammatory skin condition of unknown origin characterized by patches of skin becoming red, rough, and inflamed (usually over joints, sometimes causing blisters that cause itching and bleeding).

Edema: Swelling.

Erythrasma: A superficial skin infection that causes brown, scaly skin patches; caused by corynebacterium minutissimum, a normal part of the skin flora (the microorganisms that are normally present on the skin).

Equinus deformity: Condition characterized by limited upward bending of the ankle joint and ankle rigidity.

Eversion: Three-plane description of a foot position in which the foot twists out and away from the midline of the body.

Exostosis: Benign outgrowth of cartilaginous tissue on a bone; also known as a bone spur.

Extensor: A muscle whose contraction extends or straightens a limb or other part of the body.


Fallen arches: Damage to tendon that may cause the arch shape of the foot to flatten; also referred to as “flat foot.”

Fibroma: Benign fibrous tumor of connective tissue.

Fibula: The most prominent bone on the outer side of the ankle; extends to the knee.

Fissure: Skin crack typically associated with excessively dry skin.

Fluoroscopy: An imaging technique that uses dynamic X-rays to obtain real-time moving images of bones and joints.

Fracture: Broken bone.

Frostbite: Injury to body tissues caused by exposure to extreme cold.


Gait: The manner in which one walks.  

Gait abnormality: Deviation from what is considered to be normal walking.

Gait analysis: Evaluation of the manner or style of walking; usually conducted by observing individuals as they walk naturally in a straight line.

Ganglion cyst: Gel or fluid-filled tissue mass typically attached to a tendon or tendon sheath.

Gangrene: Death of body tissue due to loss of blood supply.

Genu varum: A deformity marked by outward bowing at the knee in which the lower leg is angled inward in relation to the thigh’s axis, giving the limb the appearance of an archer’s bow; also referred to as bow-leggedness, bandiness, bandy-leg, and tibia vara).

Gout: A form of inflammatory arthritis caused by elevated blood uric acid levels that causes joints to appear red, hot, and/or swollen (without trauma or infection); big toe joint most commonly affected; also known as gouty arthritis

Granuloma: An inflamed soft tissue mass composed of granulation tissue; typically produced in response to infection, inflammation, or in the presence of a foreign substance.


Haglund’s deformity: Bony spur on back of  the heel bone.

Hallux: The big toe.

Hallux rigidus: Form of degenerative arthritis that affects the big toe joint, causing pain, stiffness, and rigidity; also known as hallux limitus.

Hallux valgus: Bunion deformity.

Hammertoe: An arthritic toe deformity in which the toe joint furthest from the end of the toe is contracted; often causing pain, inflammation, open sores, and corns.

Heel spur: An arthritic bony growth that forms on the bottom or the back of the heel bone (see plantar fasciitis).

Hematoma: A collection of clotted blood beneath the skin or nails.

Hyperhidrosis: Skin condition caused by excessive sweating typically experienced by patients living with anemia or hyperthyroidism.

Hyperkeratosis: Hard, callused, dead tissue built up by the body in areas of pressure or friction.


Inflammatory arthritis: Occurs when a disease affecting the patient causes cartilage to die off. 

Ingrown toenails: Painful problem in which the edge(s) of a toenail curls downward and grows into the skin.

Intermittent claudication: Muscle pain and fatigue that occurs after walking for short periods of time; symptoms require short periods of rest and are due to peripheral arterial disease.

Intoeing: Caused by metatarsus adductus (foot turns inward) or tibial torsion (shinbone turns); commonly referred to as “pigeon-toed.” 

Intractable plantar keratosis: A deeply nucleated keratotic lesion on the bottom of the foot.

Inversion: Turning inward toward the midline of the body.


Jones fracture: A break between the base and middle part of the 5th metatarsal of the foot; results in pain near the midportion of the foot on the outside. 


Lateral malleolus: The end of the fibula; the most prominent bone on the outside of the ankle.

Lesions: Damage to an area of the body that causes discomfort and pain, either acute or chronic (eg, warts, corns, calluses). 

Limb length discrepancy: A condition in which paired limbs are noticeably unequal.

Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries: Result when bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn; severity can range from simple to complex.

Lymphedema: Swelling that generally occurs in one or both arms or legs that is caused by a blockage within the lymphatic system.


Mallet toe: A deformity of a lesser toe (similar to a hammertoe) with less curvature of the toe; generally leads to a painful callus on the tip of the toe.

Medial: Meaning situated in the middle.

Medial malleolus: The most prominent bone on the inner side of the ankle.

Metatarsalgia: A condition caused by irritation of the ball of the foot that results in sharp pain, numbness, and/or tingling.

Metatarsals: The five long bones of the foot located just behind the toes.

Metatarsophalangeal joint: The joint where the toe meets the foot.

Metatarsus adductus: A foot deformity that occurs in children; the bones in the front half of the foot turn in toward the body.

Morton’s neuroma: A painful condition that affects the ball of the foot, usually between the 3rd and 4th toes; feels like “there’s a stone in your shoe.” 


Navicular bone: A boat-shaped bone that can appear in the ankle (or wrist).

Neuritis: An inflammation of a peripheral nerve(s); typically causes pain and numbness.

Neuroma: An enlargement and thickening of tissue commonly affecting the nerves between the toes that leads to pain, tingling, burning, and/or numbness.

Neuropathic arthropathy: Typically refers to painless fracture and dislocation of the foot in patients who lack normal sensation or feeling in the foot.

Neuropathy: Disease or dysfunction of one or more peripheral nerves that typically causes numbness or weakness.

Nevi: Small, benign pigmented lesions of the skin; often referred to as “moles.”

Night splints: Durable braces used at night to treat heel pain.

Nonunion: When a bone fails to come together after surgery due to walking on the foot too quickly.


Onychia: An inflammation of the nail folds (surrounding tissue of the nail plate) with formation of pus and shedding of the nail.

Onychomycosis: Fungal infection of the toenails; a yellow-white spot under the tip, eventually causing major discoloration of the nail, thickening, and decomposition; also known as tinea unguium.

Orthosis: The correction of disorders of the limbs or spine by use of braces and other devices to correct alignment or provide support. 

Orthotics: A branch of medicine that deals with the provision and use of artificial devices such as splints and braces.

Os trigonum: An extra (accessory) bone that can develop behind the ankle bone that is connected to the talus by a fibrous band; a congenital condition.

Os trigonum syndrome: A condition in which pain is experienced posterior of the ankle and reduced plantarflexion occurs; the ossicle (small bone), together with surrounding soft tissue, can become wedged between the tibia, talus, and calcaneus.

Osteoarthritis: The “wear-and-tear” type of arthritis that causes degeneration of joint cartilage and underlying bone, resulting in joint pain and stiffness; occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of bones wears down over time. 

Osteochondrosis dissecans: A joint condition in which a piece of cartilage and a thin layer of the bone beneath it becomes loose from the end of a bone.

Osteomyelitis: An infection of bone cells or marrow that can lead to death of tissue.

Osteopenia: A bone condition characterized by bone loss that is not as severe as in osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis: A condition of fragile bone with an increased susceptibility to fracture.

Osteotomy: The surgical cutting of a bone or removal of a piece of bone.


Paresthesia: An abnormal sensation, typically tingling or pricking (ie, “pins and needles”) caused by pressure on or damage to peripheral nerves; common causes are vitamin B-12 deficiency, diabetic neuropathy, and/or pinched nerves in the lower back.

Paronychia: An infection in the skin at the base or side of a nail; caused by an ingrown toenail.

Peripheral arterial disease: A common circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs.

Peripheral neuropathy: Damage to the body’s smaller nerves that branch off of the bigger nerve trunks.

Peripheral vascular disease: A systemic circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the extremities, causing pain and delayed healing.

Peroneal tendon: Located behind the outside bone of the ankle (fibula); balances the ankle and the back of the foot, preventing the foot from turning inwards repetitively; moves the foot outward (see eversion); susceptible to injury as the ankle turns, rolls, or becomes sprained.

Pes cavus: “High-arched” foot type.

Pes planus: “Flat foot” type.

Phalanges: The long bones of the toes (or fingers). 

Pitted keratolysis: A superficial bacterial skin infection that affects the soles of the feet (and, less often, the palms of the hands).

Plantar: Refers to the sole of the foot.

Plantar fascia: A thin layer of fibrous connective tissue supporting the arch of the foot.

Plantar fasciitis: An inflammation of the plantar fascia, or “arch muscle,” characterized by pain on the bottom of the heel and along the long arch of the foot.

Plantar fibroma: A benign nodule that grows on the bottom of the foot and usually appears after the age of 20; typically slow-growing and measuring less than 1 inch.

Plantarflexed metatarsal: A foot deformity in which the head of one of the long bones in the forefoot (metatarsal) is lower than the other four metatarsals, causing pain and inflammation.

Plantarflexion: A bending of the foot downward.

Porokeratosis: A lesion caused by a  clogged sweat gland.

Posterior tibial tendon: Helps, along with other supportive ligaments, to maintain the arch of the foot medial malleolus.

Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction: One of the most common problems of the foot and ankle that occurs when the tendon becomes inflamed or torn; tendon may not be able to provide stability and support for the arch of the foot, resulting in “flat foot.”

Pressure ulcer: A breakdown of skin caused by continuous pressure on a weight-bearing body part.

Pronation: A three-plane description of a foot position that is associated with “flat feet.”

Psoriasis: An autoimmune disease that causes a skin rash marked by red, itchy, scaly patches and thick, discolored toenails.

Psoriatic nails: A thickening, discoloring of the toenails associated with psoriasis that is not caused by fungal infection.


R.I.C.E protocol: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation pattern used to treat acute injuries, including ankle sprains.

Raynaud’s phenomenon: A disease characterized by pain, numbness, and pallor (pale-colored skin) of the extremities (mostly fingers and toes); triggered by cold sensitivity.

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy: A chronic condition that occurs when the nerves in the leg (or arm) become numb, swollen, and/or tender; can occur after small injury to the ankle, foot, or leg. 

Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune arthritic condition characterized by misshapen or discolored toes and fingers.


Septic joint: An infected space between two bones.

Sesamoiditis: An inflammation of one or two of the small bones located under the joint between the big toe and the first long bone (metatarsal).

Sever’s disease: Heel pain caused by inflammation of the heel bone growth plate (calcaneus) in adolescent children; also known as calcaneal apophysitis.

Shin splints: An overuse injury causing pain in the front of the leg associated with running/exercise.

Shockwave therapy: Noninvasive pain-relief treatment used to treat heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, and neuroma.

Shoe insert: Nonprescription support for feet; placed inside the shoes; can be custom-made.

Soft tissue mass: Benign or malignant tumors that emerge within the body that do not involve bone.

Spider veins: Veins that have become enlarged, twisted, and/or swollen when the valves in the veins become weak, causing blood to pool; cause pressure and red, blue, or purple lines throughout the legs and/or ankle; typically a precursor to varicose veins. 

Sprain: An overstretching or tearing of the ligament that connects bone to bone (diagnosed by severity; first, second, third degree).

Stress fracture: An overuse fracture of bone caused by repeated (rather than sudden) mechanical stress; most often occurs in the 2nd or 3rd metatarsal of the foot, but can also occur in the talus, fibula, calcaneus, and the navicular. 

Subluxation: A partial dislocation resulting in the misalignment of a joint; movement of the tendon from its normal position.

Supination: A three-plane description of a foot position found in “high-arched” feet.

Syndactyly: The condition of having some or all of the toes (or fingers) wholly or partly united; also referred to as “webbed toes.”

Synovial fluid: An egg white-like fluid found in the cavities of synovial joints that reduces friction between the articular cartilage of synovial joints during movement; also known as the synovia. 

Synovial joint: Joins bones with a fibrous joint capsule and constitutes the outer boundary of a synovial cavity; surrounds the bones’ articulating surfaces; also referred to as the “diarthrosis joint.”

Synovial sarcoma: A tumor filled with soft tissue that surrounds a joint; generally slow to grow and very painful; typically found in young adults and in the knees; can be misdiagnosed as plantar fasciitis.

Synovitis: An inflammation of the synovial membrane that lines joints that possess cavities (see synovial joint); joint usually swells due to synovial fluid collection; typically painful condition, particularly when the joint is moved.


Tailor’s bunion: A bone adaptation (bump) found on the outside of the fifth metatarsal head; associated with arthritic change (see “bunionette”).

Talar dome lesion: An injury to the cartilage and underlying bone of the talus within the ankle joint.

Talus: The ankle bone.

Tarsal coalition: A condition in which two or more bones in the midfoot or hindfoot (rearfoot) are joined/fused; may lead to limited motion and pain in one or both feet.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome: Pain, numbness, and/or tingling on the sole of the foot resulting from compression of the posterior tibial nerve or of the plantar nerves in the tarsal tunnel.

Tarsals: The bones of the foot. 

Tarsometatarsal arthritis: A degenerative condition affecting one or more of the small joints in the middle of the foot.

Tendinosis: A degenerative tearing of the tendon fibers.

Tendonitis: Inflammation of a tendon.

Tenosynovitis: Inflammation of a tendon and the sheath around the tendon.

Tibia: The larger, medial bone of the leg that extends from the knee to the ankle.

Tibialis anterior tendon: Moves the ankle upward and stabilizes the foot in the latter part of the stance phase of gait; extends the foot at the beginning and middle portions of the swing phase of gait.

Tinea pedis: A condition caused by fungal infection, which can lead to cracking, itching skin, and/or rash; also referred to as “athlete’s foot.”

Turf toe: A sprain (sports injury) found at the base of the big toe caused by a hyperextension of the first metatarsophalangeal joint.


Valgus deformity: A condition in which the bone segment distal to a joint is angled outward away from the body’s midline.

Varicose veins: Veins that have lost their elasticity and are enlarged.

Varus deformity: An inward angulation of the distal segment of a bone or joint toward the body’s midline. 

Venous insufficiency: Failure of the veins to adequately return blood to the heart, especially from the lower extremities.

Verruca plantaris: a contagious and usually painful wart on the sole of the foot; a plantar wart.


Wart: A skin lesion caused by a virus that enters the body through cuts or breaks in the skin; noncancerous growth that builds on the soles of the feet; also known as a verruca.

Wound dehiscence: A surgical complication in which a wound ruptures along a surgical site.


Xerosis: Dry, cracked skin

1.     Glossary of foot and ankle terms. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Accessed online:
2.     Glossary of podiatry terms: Country Foot Care. Accessed online:
3.     Podiatric glossary. Beaver Valley Foot Clinic. Accessed online: