Almost everyone will develop a painful foot problem at some point in their lifetime. The type of foot pain a person experiences will depend on the underlying cause—for example, some conditions cause swelling and inflammation, while others cause numbness or tingling.
Many times, the reason feet hurt is due to ill-fitting shoes. For instance, high heels often cause toe pain and can even cause changes and pain beyond the feet, affecting the ankles and leg muscles too.
Flip-flops can make foot problems worse as well because they have no arch support. However, wearing flip-flops in limited situations—like when using a public shower—is a good idea since they can help prevent plantar warts and athlete’s foot.
Regardless of the type of pain or whether it is located in the toe, heel, top of the foot, or another area, foot pain can eventually cause difficulties in daily life, including when walking. Before you develop severe pain or chronic foot pain, it's wise to see a foot doctor and get help.
Common Causes of Foot Pain
Here are some common causes of foot pain and how to avoid them:
- Athlete’s Foot: This is a type of ringworm that causes peeling, redness, and itching. Athlete's foot can often be treated using an over-the-counter antifungal cream or oral medications.
- Bunions: If there is a bony bump at the base of the big toe causing swelling or if the big toe is pressing into the smaller toes, you may have a bunion. While home treatments and wearing low-heeled shoes or orthotics may help, you may eventually need bunion surgery.
- Corns and Calluses: Pressure on the foot can cause corns or calluses, which are thick, hardened layers of skin. They most often appear at the ball of the foot or the heel. Pads may offer pain relief, but if they do not help, a doctor can prescribe custom shoe inserts (orthotics) or offer other treatments.
- Flat Feet: When the bottom of the foot comes into complete contact with the ground when standing, the condition is called flatfoot. In contrast to someone with high arches, a person with flat feet has no visible foot arch. Pain is usually concentrated in the heel.
- Fungal Infection: When a toenail or the surrounding skin is broken, fungi can enter, causing the nail to become thick, yellow, and brittle. A doctor may prescribe a topical antifungal cream or pain reliever or perform a minimally invasive procedure to help.
- Gout: Gout is a type of arthritis that is most common in the large joint of the big toe. If it is left untreated, surgery may be needed.
- Hammertoe: A hammertoe causes the middle joint of the toe to bend down. It usually occurs in the second, third, or fourth toe.
- Ingrown Toenails: If a toenail is trimmed too short, it can grow into the surrounding skin, causing foot pain and can lead to infection. Sometimes, soaking the foot in warm water, drying it thoroughly, and covering the ingrown nail with a Band-Aid can help ease the pain. If needed, surgery can be performed to remove part or all of the nail.
- Metatarsalgia: This is an overuse injury that causes nerve pain in the ball of the foot. Ill-fitting shoes can cause it, but foot deformities or participating in athletics may also cause metatarsalgia.
- Morton’s Neuroma: This is a condition that causes nerve tissue to thicken between the third and fourth toes. If caught early on, it can usually be treated without the need for surgery.
- Plantar Fasciitis: This is a common type of heel pain caused by overuse. Plantar fasciitis causes the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes, called the plantar fascia, to become inflamed. Stretching and warm-up exercises at home can often help, or a doctor may recommend physical therapy.
- Plantar Warts: Plantar warts are painful viral infections caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) that develop on the soles of the feet. They are round and may have small, black dots on the surface. Treatments include topical salicylic acid, laser therapy, or surgical removal if necessary.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: This form of arthritis can cause the toe joints to swell, causing pain in the heel or pain in the arch of the foot.
- Stress Fractures: Sometimes referred to as hairline fractures, these tiny cracks in the bone can be very painful. Home remedies that can help include rest, icing the area, and elevating the foot.
- Tendinitis (or Tendonitis): When the tendons in the foot are overused, it can cause foot tendinitis. If you have severe pain, a doctor may recommend pain injections or surgery.
Keeping You in Motion at Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute
Our specialty-trained podiatrists, Marc S. Bruell, D.P.M., Rachel L. Stern, D.P.M., Brian T. Damitz, D.P.M., Ronald E. Izynski, D.P.M., and Aaron K. Ruter, D.P.M., can diagnose and treat your foot pain and provide any follow-up care you may need. While it may be possible to treat your condition without surgery, if surgery is required, our doctors can expertly perform the appropriate procedure.
To schedule an appointment with one of our experienced podiatrists, please call (219) 921-1444 or request an appointment online.