Home pain management Understanding the 6 different types of foot pain and their causes

Understanding the 6 different types of foot pain and their causes

written by Vidya Sury January 30, 2021
Understanding the 6 different types of foot pain

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We depend on our feet to take us places every day of our lives. Yet, we tend to ignore them until they start to hurt. Of course, when they hurt, we want them to get well soon. But first, it is important to understand the different types of foot pain to get the right treatment.

There are many reasons why people experience different types of foot pain and it affects different areas of the foot. Where is the pain? Is it in your heel, the ball of your feet or the toes? Understanding different types of foot pain and their potential causes can help you manage your foot health.

Unfortunately, foot health is often neglected and people ignore pain in their feet until they get much worse. Identifying the pain and treating the cause right away will save you from serious health problems in the future.

Here are the 6 different types of foot pain and their causes

understanding 6 different types of foot pain

Heel Pain

If you have severe pain in your heels, there are a number of things that could be causing it. It may be an indication that you have plantar fasciitis, which is an inflammation of the tissues and muscles that connect the heel with the toes. Usually, this pain is worse in the morning and you will feel it spread to the arches as well as the heel. Simple stretches and rest and wearing shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole are usually enough to deal with this problem.

But if your heel pain doesn’t go away, you might have a more serious problem, like heel spurs. These are bone growths on the bottom of your foot that rub when you walk. If you think that you may have heel spurs, you should speak to a specialist and they can offer medications, physical therapy, and specially designed shoe inserts. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may need to explore the option of surgery.

Injuries can also cause heel pain, so consider whether you have recently stepped on something hard. You may have a stone bruise, which is a deep bruise, but you may also have a fracture in the heel so if the pain is particularly bad, do see a doctor. Besides medication to relieve the pain, plenty of rest to take the pressure off the heels and icing the area helps.

Ball of Foot Pain

A significant pain in the ball of your foot could be caused by a condition called Metatarsalgia. This is when the ball of the foot becomes inflamed and it is common in people that do a lot of exercise that involves running and jumping. Ice and rest can usually relieve the symptoms, but it may be best to see a doctor.

Another painful condition called Morton’s neuroma is caused by the thickening of the tissue around the nerves between the bases of the toes—usually the third and fourth toes. This is more common among women who wear high heels or tight shoes. To treat this, pain relievers can help, in addition to avoiding wearing high heels or narrow shoes. Sometimes a steroid injection in the area relieves the pain.

Yet another condition called sesamoiditis, which is a type of tendinitis can cause ball of foot pain, especially among runners and ballet dancers. Sesamoids are the two bones connected by tendons near the big toe. When the tendons surrounding the sesamoids are injured or inflamed, you get sesamoiditis. Plenty of rest, icing the pain, wearing a foot pad under the toe and wearing low-heeled footwear help.

Pain relief medication and bunion pads may help in the early stages but if they are too advanced, bunions may require surgery.

Arch pain

One of the most common causes for arch pain is plantar fasciitis, which can affect the heel and the arch. This is usually treated with an injection containing a steroid and local anesthetic.

Fallen arches or flat feet also cause foot pain. Flat feet are treated with shoe inserts, rest, ice, braces and physical therapy. In some cases, surgery may be recommended.

Toe Pain

While bunions can also be a common cause of toe pain, there are other possibilities too. Toe pain is quite common because they take a lot of the strain when we walk and run. Sometimes, pain may be caused by calluses or blisters, which will go away with a good foot care routine.

Other causes are:

  • Ingrown toenails are a painful condition where the skin on one or both sides of a toenail grow over the nail, leading to infections. Soaking the foot in warm water helps.
  • Bunions are another common cause of toe pain. These are bone growths similar to heel spurs, but grow at the base of the toe. If you notice that your big toe is bending inwards, it’s likely that you have bunions. This is usually age-related and comfortable shoes can help.
  • Hammertoes are caused when the second, third or fourth toe bends at the middle joint and it appears like a hammer. It usually happens due to muscle imbalance but more often than not from badly fitting shoes. Exercise and wearing proper shoes help.
  • Claw toes are when the toe points up or down and cannot straighten out. They are caused due to nerve damage from diabetes or alcoholism, which make the foot muscles weak. Not wearing special footwear to treat this can result in irritation and calluses.
  • Turf toe is when there is pain at the base of the big toe caused by overuse and injury. It can also be due to sesamoiditis or a sesamoid fracture.
  • Toe sprains are common when you stub the toe or jam it, causing damage to the tendon or soft tissues of the toe. This usually resolves itself unless there is a fracture, which needs immediate attention.
  • Toe fractures caused by a broken bone are common. While the serious fractures need surgery, minor fractures can be treated with rest, ice and painkillers.
  • Hallux rigidus or stiff toe is a form of arthritis at the base of the big toe that causes pain and stuff joints. These get worse over time if ignored. Treatment is usually in the form of pain killers and stretching exercises. In some cases, surgery may be recommended.
  • Corns are caused by thick buildups of skin where there is irritation or pressure on the foot or toe and often look like horns. Corns appear when ill-fitting footwear is worn.
  • Calluses are wide areas of tough skin buildup on the toes or feet. Like corns they are also caused by badly fitting footwear. Both corns and calluses are treated with a foot soak, using a pumice stone to wear out the extra skin and wearing proper shoes.

If you notice a lot of pain around the joints, it could be a sign that you have arthritis or gout. If the joint pain interferes with your normal routine, it’s best to see a doctor right away for treatment with medication and advice about what foods to avoid.

Pin on the foot’s outer edge

Sometimes, there is pain in the outer edge of the foot where the fifth metatarsal bone prone to breaking. The pain, bruising and swelling along the outer foot edge is an indication of this. Consult the doctor if it feels like a broken bone as you may need an x-ray. It can be treated with pain relievers, resting, icing the pain and keeping the foot elevated. Your doctor may recommend a cast or surgery if necessary.

Pain all over the foot

Sometimes the entire foot pains. This can be due to diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage. The pain can be unbearable with burning and stinging. Check with your doctor about options for relieving the pain to stop it from getting worse.

Read: Foot care for diabetes

Another cause for pain all over the foot is tendinitis, an inflammation and irritation of the tendons or bands that attach muscles to bones. Tendons run all over the surfaces of the foot, hence causing foot pain in different areas of the foot. Treatment involves resting, pain relievers and steroid injections depending on the intensity of the pain. In rare cases, surgery may be recommended.

Often, foot pain may be nothing to worry about and it will sort itself out on its own. However, it is best to get it checked out to rule out the possibility of an indication of something more serious.

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