Pain or discomfort can be felt anywhere in the foot, including the heel, toes, arch, instep, sole, or ankles.
Pain - foot
Poorly fitting shoes can cause foot pain. Problems may include:
- Bunions: A bump at the base of the big toe, which can become inflamed. Bunions often develop over time from wearing narrow-toed shoes.
- Calluses and corns:Thickened skin from rubbing or pressure. Calluses are on the balls of the feet or heels. Corns appear on the top of your toes.
- Hammer toes: Toes that curl downward into a claw-like position.
- Fallen arches: Also called flat feet.
- Plantar warts: Sores on the soles of your feet due to pressure.
Other common causes of foot pain include:
Aging and being overweight also increase your chances of having foot problems.
See also: Heel pain
The following steps may help relieve your foot pain:
- Apply ice to reduce pain and swelling.
- Raise your painful foot as much as possible.
- Reduce your activity until you feel better.
- Wear foot pads to prevent rubbing and irritation.
- Use an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. (Talk to your doctor first if you have a history of ulcer or liver problems.)
Other home care steps depend on what is causing your foot pain.
- For plantar warts, try an over-the-counter wart removal preparation.
- For calluses, soak in warm water and then rub them down with a pumice stone. Do NOT cut or burn corns or calluses.
- For foot pain caused by a stress fracture, an extended rest period is often necessary. Crutches may be used for a week or so to take the pressure off, if your foot is particularly painful.
- For foot pain due to plantar fasciitis, shoe inserts and stretches may help.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor if:
- You have sudden, severe foot pain
- Your foot pain began following an injury, especially if your foot is bleeding or bruising, or you cannot put weight on it
- You have redness or swelling of the joint, an open sore or ulcer on your foot, or a fever
- You have pain in your foot and have diabetes or a disease that affects blood flow
- Your foot does not feel better after using at-home treatments for 1-2 weeks
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your doctor will perform a physical examination, paying particular attention to your feet, legs, and back, your posture, and how you walk.
Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and medical history, such as:
- Do you have pain in one or both feet?
- What part of the foot hurts?
- Does the pain move from joint to joint, or does it always occur in the same place?
- Did the pain begin suddenly or slowly?
- How long have you had the pain?
- Is it worse at night or when you first wake up in the morning?
- Is it getting better?
- Does anything make your pain feel better or worse?
- Do you have any other symptoms?
- Do you have numbness in your toes?
X-rays may be done to help your doctor diagnose the cause of your foot pain.
Treatment depends on the exact cause of the foot pain. Treatment may include:
- A cast, if you broke a bone
- Removal of plantar warts, corns, or calluses by a foot specialist
- Orthotics, or shoe inserts
- Physical therapy to relieve tight or overused muscles
- Foot surgery
The following steps can prevent foot problems and foot pain:
- Wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes, with good arch support and cushioning.
- Wear shoes with plenty of room around the ball of your foot and toe.
- Avoid narrow-toed shoes and high heels.
- Wear sneakers as often as possible, especially when walking.
- Replace running shoes frequently.
- Warm up and cool down when exercising. Always stretch first.
- Increase your amount of exercise slowly over time to avoid putting excessive strain on your feet.
- Lose weight if you need to.
- Learn exercises to strengthen your feet and avoid pain. This can help flat feet and other potential foot problems.
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Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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