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Why do my toes and ankles crack and click?

Last Modified: October 26, 2023

Family Medicine


This post was written by Ashley M. Bojrab, DPM, FACFAS, ABPM, CWS, PPG – Podiatry.

Do your toes and ankles make popping noises? Some people find the cracking and clicking sounds satisfying, but it can be helpful to know the source of these noises and what they can tell us about your joint health.

Anatomy lesson

The first thing to understand is the anatomy of the area where the popping sound is coming from, known as a joint, where two bones meet. Joints are important because they are necessary for movement. The end of each bone involved in the joint is covered with cartilage and has a space that contains synovial fluid. These joints also have a variety of other soft tissue, including ligaments and tendons, which allow for stabilization of the joint.    

Producing the “pop”

While joints allow for motion to occur, there are times when there are pressure changes within the joint. Sudden changes in pressure can cause bubbles to form within the synovial fluid and when the bubble collapses this can result in popping sensations or sounds.

Another theory is that the motion of the tendons or ligaments around the joint can generate these noises. When there are deformities in the bone, for example, arthritis, the ligaments and tendons can click, clack and pop, rather than gliding smoothly.

The risk

Now that we have some theories about what causes the sounds, it begs the question of whether the noises are good or bad. While the answer might be that these audible symptoms are generally harmless, constant cracking and popping of the joints can cause inflammation and swelling, which could lead to damage to the joints. Once the inflammation and swelling occur, it may take some time to resolve. If the pain and swelling continue to worsen, you should speak to your primary healthcare provider.

Meet the team at PPG – Podiatry and learn about more of the common foot conditions we can help with by visiting us here.    




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