The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Cold Therapy or Hot: Which Is Best For Foot & Ankle Injuries?

Posted by on Monday, March 2nd, 2015


When your muscles ache, nothing feels better than a warm compress. Yet, you’ll also hear that ice is the quickest way to bring down inflammation following injury. Patients often ask the foot doctors at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC whether they should apply hot or cold therapy to treat their woes. We’ll try to explain these mechanisms of healing a little clearer so you can apply these helpful, easy, and cost-effective treatments at home, as needed.

Should you use cold therapy on your foot injury? For how long and how often should this treatment be applied? NYC foot doctors discuss. Image Source:

When & How To Use Cold Therapy For Foot & Ankle Injuries

When: Cold is best for acute traumas that occur suddenly and cause tremendous pain. Whether you fell, twisted your ankle funny, collided with a person or object, or dropped something on your foot, ice will constrict the blood vessels to limit internal bleeding. Cold therapy can also treat chronic pain, working to reduce inflammation when applied just after a run or prolonged physical activity.

How: The proper way to ice an injury is to buy an ice wrap or place the ice inside a thin towel. Many people like using ice packs that conform to the affected body part — like a clay pack, or a bag of frozen peas in a pinch! Apply it to the affected area for 10-20 minutes. Allow the area to return to room temperature before re-applying. A good guideline is to ice the area about every hour. The best time to hit an acute injury with icing is immediately following the injury and up to three days. After that, you may still use ice whenever you feel pain.

When & How To Use Heat Therapy For Foot & Ankle Injuries

When: Heat is best used to treat a chronic injury that comes and goes with dull pain or a sore ache. It is best applied to stiff, nagging joint and muscle pain that is not accompanied by obvious swelling. Heat increases circulation and raises skin temperature, which is good for triggering healing. It can also relax tight muscles and increase elasticity in connective tissues.

How: Heat is best applied when you’re at home resting or just before a workout. Do not use heat therapy following strenuous exercise, as this can cause more swelling and injury. Apply heat for 10-20 minutes at a time, using cloth between your skin and the heat pad to prevent burns. Ideally, you’ll use moist heat — like a jetted hot tub, a hot shower, or a hot wet towel. Special athletic hot pads or heated booties are good for people who use heat therapy often.

Foot Doctors in NYC

There is no substitute for a professional opinion. Some injuries can be quite serious and require much more advanced treatment than what’s been described here. Hot and cold therapy is often used alongside other treatments like platelet rich plasma injections, pain lasers, shockwave therapy, custom orthotics, prescription medication, alternative medicine, casting, physical therapy, and surgical intervention.Whenever possible, we seek the most affordable, minimally invasive treatments to treat your foot and ankle injuries in New York City. Visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan or Westchester, NY for the best care.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.