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Foot pain


Definition

Bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles make up the foot. The foot is strong enough to bear body weight and move the body. But the foot can be painful when injured or affected by illness.

Foot pain can affect any part of the foot, from the toes to the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel.

Mild foot pain often responds well to home treatments. But it can take time for the pain to ease. See a health care provider for severe foot pain, especially if it comes after an injury.

Causes

Any part of the foot can be injured or overused. Some illnesses cause foot pain, as well. For example, arthritis is a common cause of foot pain.

Common causes of foot pain include:

  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Achilles tendon rupture
  • Avulsion fracture
  • Bone spurs
  • Broken ankle
  • Broken foot
  • Broken toe
  • Bunions
  • Bursitis (A condition in which small sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near joints become inflamed.)
  • Corns and calluses
  • Diabetic neuropathy (Nerve damage caused by diabetes.)
  • Flatfeet
  • Gout
  • Haglund's deformity
  • Hammertoe and mallet toe
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Metatarsalgia
  • Morton's neuroma
  • Osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis)
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Plantar warts
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Retrocalcaneal bursitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stress fractures (Tiny cracks in a bone.)
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • Tendinitis (A condition that happens when swelling called inflammation affects a tendon.)

When to see a doctor

Even mild foot pain can be troubling, at least at first. It is usually safe to try simple home remedies for a while.

Seek immediate medical attention if you:

  • Have severe pain or swelling, especially after an injury.
  • Have an open wound or a wound that is oozing pus.
  • Have signs of infection, such as redness, warmth and tenderness in the affected area or you have a fever over 100 F (37.8 C).
  • Are unable to walk or put weight on the foot.
  • Have diabetes and have any wound that isn't healing or is deep, red, swollen or warm to the touch.

Schedule an office visit if you:

  • Have swelling that doesn't improve after 2 to 5 days of home treatment.
  • Have pain that doesn't improve after several weeks.
  • Have burning pain, numbness or tingling, particularly if it involves most or all of the bottom of the foot.

Self-care

Foot pain caused by an injury or overuse will often respond well to rest and cold therapy.

  • Don't do any activity that makes the pain worse.
  • Put ice on your foot for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.
  • Take pain medicines you can get without a prescription. Medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can ease pain and aid healing.
  • Consider using a foot brace you can get without a prescription to support your foot.

Even with the best of care, the foot might be stiff or hurt for several weeks. This is most likely to be first thing in the morning or after activity.

If you don't know the cause of your foot pain or if the pain is in both feet, see a health care provider before trying home remedies. This is especially true for those with diabetes.

Content Last Updated: 05-Apr-2023
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