Definition

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).

Alternative Names

Pain – foot

Causes

Foot pain may be due to:

  • Aging
  • Being on your feet for long periods of time
  • Being overweight
  • A foot deformity that you were born with or develops later
  • Injury
  • 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’s 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 
  • Sprains
  • Stress fracture

Home Care

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 doctor first if you have a history of ulcer or liver problems.)

Other home care steps depend on what is causing your foot pain.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor or nurse 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 exam and look closely at your feet, legs, and back, your posture, and how you walk.

Your doctor 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 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

Prevention

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.
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