Foot pain is a common problem which can have many causes, including a sports injury, the natural shape of your foot or sometimes disease.
In many cases, foot pain goes away by itself without needing treatment. However, if your pain continues or affects your everyday life, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
The cause of your pain can often be identified by the location of the pain and other symptoms you might have.
If you have severe pain anywhere in your foot after a fall or accident, you could have a fracture. It will usually feel hot and swollen, and you might be unable to walk. You should go to your nearest minor injury unit or A&E if you suspect a broken toe, ankle or foot.
Exercising too much or wearing shoes that are too tight are both common causes of ankle pain. Other causes include:
Foot joint pain
Arthritis is a common cause of joint pain and stiffness, and sometimes crepitus (a cracking or crunching sound or sensation when you move a joint). Forms of arthritis that commonly cause painful feet or ankle pain are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Pain in your heel could be plantar fasciitis, a condition that around one in 10 people will get at some point in their lifetime. It makes it difficult to walk and is caused by the inflammation of a strong band of tissue that stretches from your heel to your toes.
If you have heel pain but you can lift your toes without pain, then you may have bursitis — inflammation of a bursa, which is a soft cushion inside your joints.
Sudden pain and difficulty walking may be an Achilles tendon rupture due to force or injury. Alternatively, Achilles tendinopathy is pain and stiffness that appears gradually. It's a type of tendonitis (inflammation in a tendon).
Other causes of heel pain include:
Exercising too much or wearing shoes that are too tight or poorly fitted are common causes of toe pain.
Wearing poorly fitted shoes can cause toe pain due to corns and calluses on your toes or hammertoe, where your second, third or fourth toes become bent upwards at the middle joint causing a hammer-like appearance. Hammertoe can also be caused by a muscle imbalance.
Injuries can also cause toe pain due to:
Other causes of toe pain include:
Pain in the ball of your foot
Pain in the ball of your foot is often caused by exercising too much or wearing shoes that are too tight or poorly fitted. The shape of your foot can also cause pain in the ball of your foot by putting extra pressure on it eg if you have hammertoes (toes that are bent upwards at the middle joints) or high arches. Other causes of pain in the ball of your foot include:
Pain on the bottom of your foot
Common causes of pain in the bottom of your foot include exercising too much or wearing shoes that are too tight or poorly fitted. Other causes include:
Pain on the top of your foot
Pain on the top of your foot is often caused by exercising too much or wearing shoes that are too tight or poorly fitted. Other causes include:
Other causes of foot pain
Corns or calluses are a common cause of foot pain; these hard patches of skin can cause discomfort when you walk. Other causes include:
Book an appointment with a Spire GP today
You should visit your GP if:
Your GP may be able to diagnose your foot problem just by examining your foot and talking about how you’re feeling. However, occasionally they might need to use imaging tests such as an X-ray or ultrasound scan to make a diagnosis.
Your GP may refer you to a consultant specialising in feet (a podiatrist or chiropodist) who can help diagnose you and recommend treatments, such as creams or insoles.
Most foot pain can be managed at home. Depending on what type of pain you have, you could try:
If you are overweight, losing weight can help ease your foot pain.
If you have ankle pain, you can try wrapping a bandage around your ankle to support it.
If you have a broken toe, you can buddy strap it — place a piece of cotton wool or gauze between your broken toe and the toe next to it, and then loosely strap these two toes together using tape. Do not buddy strap with your big toe or if your toe is badly broken.
If these treatments don’t improve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend:
What can cause foot pain without injury?
Foot pain is often caused by injury, both sudden and due to repetitive movements. However, it can also be caused by underlying medical conditions including:
Problems with blood vessels in your feet can also cause foot pain, such as peripheral arterial disease or diabetes. The natural shape of your foot is another cause of foot pain eg having high arches, which can increase your risk of developing heel spurs, or flat fleet.
What causes pain on side of foot?
Pain on the outside of your foot may be due to a fracture, stress fracture (tiny cracks in your bone usually caused by intense or repetitive exercise) or a sprain. However, other causes include:
What are the signs of arthritis in your feet?
Arthritis can affect any joint in your body, including those in your toes. Symptoms include:
How can I stop the pain in my feet?
In most cases, there are simple things you can do yourself to stop the pain in your feet. Rest and elevate your foot whenever possible and regularly perform gentle stretching exercises. You can also try applying an ice pack for up to 20 minutes every few hours and taking over-the-counter painkillers. Avoid wearing high heels or tight, pointy shoes; instead, wear wide shoes with low heels and soft soles.
If you are overweight, losing weight can also help.
If these treatments don’t improve your symptoms, see your GP. They may recommend:
Can foot pain be related to heart problems?
Foot pain can be related to heart problems. Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) causes a build-up of fatty deposits in arteries of the leg, restricting blood supply to your lower legs and feet. This can result in foot pain and wounds on your feet not healing properly. PAD can also damage your heart and increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Also, swelling of your foot, which can be painful, can be a sign of heart failure.
If you are concerned about your foot pain, see your GP.
Is pain in your feet a sign of diabetes?
Pain in your feet may be a sign of diabetes, as this disease can cause nerve damage. This can lead to:
Claw toe — when your toe points up or down and you can't straighten it due to muscle weakness, which is often caused by nerve damage
Neuropathy — nerve damage in your foot causing numbness, tingling and/or burning, sharp or stinging pain
Diabetes can also affect the blood vessels in your feet, reducing the delivery of blood and oxygen, which can cause pain.