7 Common Causes of Foot Pain

Sep 12, 2019
5 min read

Are you suffering from soreness in your feet? Whether it's a burning sensation, a sharp shooting pain, or a deep ache, foot pain can be distracting or even debilitating. Since your feet are such an important part of everyday mobility, it's important to address even minimal foot pain immediately, before it becomes aggravated and is harder to treat. Discover 7 common causes of foot pain and find out where you can get help for any of these conditions.

1. Bunions A bunion is a protrusion of bone at the largest knuckle of your big toe. Usually, it looks like a red, swollen lump on the side or top of that knuckle.

Some people have an inherited weakness in the muscular structure of their feet that makes it more likely they'll have bunions at some point later in life. However, for most people, bunions form because of repetitive motion or constant pressure that slowly moves the tissues and bone of the joint out of their normal place.

In extreme cases, bunions need to be surgically addressed; but you may be able to find some relief by switching to looser, more comfortable footwear. Wear a nighttime splint, use shoe inserts to improve foot support, or soak your feet in warm water. If the bunions become very sore, try ibuprofen and ice packs to reduce the pain and swelling.

2. Plantar Fasciitis There's an important ligament that connects the heel to the front of the toe, and it's called the plantar fascia. Since it runs along the bottom of your foot, it's easy for this ligament to become injured or inflamed. Vicious, sharp pain in your heels could indicate plantar fasciitis.

Often, this condition is caused or made worse by high-impact running or by poorly placed arches in your footwear. Try switching shoes, and take a few days off from exercise. Pain medication like ibuprofen, along with foot soaks and ice, should mediate the symptoms.

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis involves changes throughout your whole body. This chronic inflammatory condition makes your joints swell and grow stiff and sore. Over the course of the disease, bones throughout your body can shift and joints can deform as the cartilage and ligaments suffer due to the constant inflammation.

If you're experiencing pain in the joints of your feet, as well as in other parts of your body, you may be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Consult a doctor who can then refer you to a rheumatologist as soon as possible to begin effective treatment before the disease causes severe damage.

4. Gout Gout may sound like an old-fashioned condition, but it's definitely a pervasive affliction even in modern times, and it's one of the 7 common causes of foot pain. Gout occurs when your kidneys aren't working right and they fail to break down all the uric acids you've been consuming. Those uric acids need somewhere to go, so they form tiny crystals that eventually settle in the lowest parts of your body—the feet. You'll probably feel the worst pain in your big toe joints.

Try avoiding certain foods like nuts, seafood, thick sauces, and richer meats, all of which cause more uric acid in your body. Cut back on drinking as well, since alcohol can exacerbate the condition. However, it's important to consult with a doctor, because gout can also be a sign of kidney disease, leukemia, or genetic disorders.

5. Sprain If you have localized pain that you can trace back to a specific injury or exertion, you may have sprained or strained your foot. A sprain involves the overextension of a tendon or ligament or stress damage to a muscle. In that case, you'll need to avoid exercise that could worsen the damage.

Take time to allow your foot to heal. To minimize further harm, you may need to wrap and immobilize the affected area. In severe cases, physical therapy is essential to ensure proper healing and to help you regain your full range of motion. Talk to a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that you've sprained or strained your foot.

6. Ingrown Toenails If they aren't noticed and addressed quickly, ingrown toenails can become a real problem for your feet. They can dig deep into skin and flesh, causing sharp pain. Unless you seek treatment, the ingrown toenail might cause an infection.

To prevent ingrown toenails, wear shoes that fit you well and gives your toes the space they need. Avoid cutting your toenails too short, and be sure to clip them straight across. If you suspect that an ingrown toenail is causing your foot pain, you may need a doctor's help to properly address the issue.

7. Athlete's Foot Athlete's foot is usually associated more with itching than pain. However, this fungal infection can certainly cause a strong burning sensation akin to pain. It also inflames your skin, making it peel away, and those raw areas often sting painfully.

Athlete's foot usually thrives in warm, moist, bacteria-filled environments, like sweaty gym socks. Try to wear breathable socks and footwear when exercising, and switch to dry socks as soon as possible afterward. Wash your feet regularly and let them air-dry.

Once athlete's foot takes hold, it can be hard to dispel. Talk to a doctor about your treatment options.

Finding Help for the 7 Common Causes of Foot Pain After reading through this list of the 7 common causes of foot pain, you may have an idea of which condition is causing your particular ailment. However, it's important to get a professional's help rather than attempting to treat your condition yourself.