The feet are made up of 26 bones supported by muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. All are susceptible to injury and can cause pain. Foot pain can be the first sign of medical conditions, such as arthritis, diabetes, and other nerve or circulatory disorders. Pain in your feet can be debilitating, and many foot problems are due to neglect or a lack of awareness or resources for proper care.
Foot pain is quite common, as almost three-fourths of the American population will experience some type of foot pain at some point in their lives. Foot pain often responds well to rest and other at-home treatments, such as ice or heat therapy and over-the-counter pain relievers. Proper foot care can prevent many sources of foot pain.
Rest can help treat most types of foot pain, but treatment can vary depending on the cause of your foot pain. Some other treatment options include:
Physical therapy, foot stretches, and functional mobility training
Medication: over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription pain relievers, or muscle relaxants
Heat or ice therapy
Wearing foot brace or compression sleeve
Wart, corn, or bunion removal
Surgery – This is typically your doctor’s absolute last resort for most types of foot pain.
There are several ways to prevent the development of some types of foot pain, such as:
Wear shoes with proper arch support and a cushioned sole
Wearing the correct size shoes
For those wearing high heels, wear shorter heels and limit the length of time you wear high heels.
Proper foot hygiene such as regularly washing them, cutting your toenails, and applying foot cream or lotion as needed.
Maintaining a healthy weight can help decrease the likelihood you develop some form of foot pain.
Pain in the foot may feel like a dull, throbbing ache or sharp, stinging sensation. Fractures, strains, and breaks in some parts of your foot are typically immediate, sharp shooting pain and often are accompanied by swelling or bruising. Some may experience numbness, tenderness, or swelling in their feet depending on the cause of foot pain.
Foot pain may impair your ability to walk, run, exercise, and stand for long periods or eliminate your ability to complete your daily routine.
Knowing when to see a doctor for foot pain is imperative, as many sources of foot pain can be treated at home. If your foot pain is sudden and severe, due to a recent injury or suspected injury, or accompanied by an infection or open wound, visit the nearest medical facility to discuss treatment options.
For non-medical emergencies, track the severity, duration, and frequency of your foot pain before visiting a doctor. Ask your family members if there is a history of auto-immune disorders, such as arthritis, related disorders, and diabetes. Your doctor will ask about these and your medical history. Your doctor will also conduct a physical examination to observe your posture and walking gait. They will look at your feet for any signs of infection, fractures, or other causes of foot pain, such as corns, warts, bunions, and calluses.
Your doctor may order diagnostic tests such as:
Depending on the cause or suspected cause of your foot pain, your medical professional may refer you to a specialist, such as a podiatrist or a rheumatologist, for further diagnostic testing and treatment.
Foot pain is categorized by the location of your foot pain.
Heel pain: Many things can cause heel pain, such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, heel fractures, stone bruises
Ball of foot pain: Ill-fitting shoes typically cause this type of foot pain, but metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, and sesamoiditis can cause pain in the ball of your foot.
Arch pain: Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of arch pain, but flat feet can contribute to arch pain.
Toe pain: Gout, bunions, fractured or broken toes, hammertoes, claw toes, turf toes, corns and calluses, and hallux rigidus can contribute to toe pain.
Pain on the outer edge of the foot: The outer edge of your foot contains the fifth metatarsal bone, which is the most commonly broken bone in the foot.
There are many causes of foot pain, but these are some of the most common causes: