Pain or discomfort can be felt anywhere in the foot. You may have pain in the heel, toes, arch, instep, or bottom of foot (sole).
Pain - foot
Foot pain may be due to:
- Being on your feet for long periods of time
- Being overweight
- A foot deformity that you were born with or develops later
- Shoes that fit poorly or do not have much cushioning
- Too much walking or other sports activity
The following can cause foot pain:
- Arthritis and gout. Common in the big toe, which becomes red, swollen, and very tender.
- Broken bones.
- Bunions. A bump at the base of the big toe from wearing narrow-toed shoes or from abnormal bone alignment.
- 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.
- Morton neuroma. A thickening of nerve tissue between the toes.
- Nerve damage from diabetes.
- Plantar fasciitis.
- Plantar warts. Sores on the soles of your feet due to pressure.
- Stress fracture.
- Nerve problems.
The following steps may help relieve your foot pain:
- Apply ice to reduce pain and swelling.
- Keep your painful foot elevated as much as possible.
- Reduce your activity until you feel better.
- Wear shoes that fit your feet and are right for the activity you are doing.
- Wear foot pads to prevent rubbing and irritation.
- Use an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. (Talk to your health care provider first if you have a history of ulcer or liver problems.)
Other home care steps depend on what is causing your foot pain.
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 toes, a wide toe box.
- 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.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider 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 to 2 weeks
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your provider will do a physical exam. Your provider will ask questions about your symptoms and medical history.
X-rays or MRI 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 splint or a cast, if you broke a bone
- Shoes that protect your feet
- 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
Irwin TA. Tendon injuries of the foot and ankle. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 117.
Kadakia AR. Heel pain and plantar fasciitis: hindfoot conditions. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 119.
Molloy A, Selvan D. Ligamentous injuries of the foot and ankle. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 116.
Perera A, Mason L. Forefoot problems in sport. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 120.
Price MD, Chiodo CP. Foot and ankle pain. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Gabriel SE, McInnes IB, O'Dell JR, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 49.
Silverstein JA, Moeller JL, Hutchinson MR. Common issues in orthopedics. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 30.