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Foot pain

Contents of this page:


Normal foot X-ray
Normal foot X-ray
Leg skeletal anatomy
Leg skeletal anatomy

Alternative Names    Return to top

Pain - foot

Definition    Return to top

Pain or discomfort can be felt anywhere in the foot, including the heel, toes, arch, instep, sole, or ankles.

See also:

Causes    Return to top

Foot pain can be caused by:

Poorly-fitting shoes often cause these problems. Aging and being overweight also increase your chances of having foot problems.

Morton's neuroma is a type of foot pain that is usually centered between the third and fourth toes. It results from thickening and swelling of tissue around a nerve in the area. Symptoms include tingling and sharp, shooting, or burning pains in the ball of your foot (and sometimes toes), especially when wearing shoes or pressing on the area. Pain gradually gets worse over time. Morton's neuroma is more common in women than men.

Other common causes of foot pain include:

See also: Heel pain

Home Care    Return to top

For plantar warts, try an over-the-counter wart removal preparation.

For calluses, soak in warm water and then rub them down with a pumice stone. DO NOT cut or burn corns or calluses.

For foot pain caused by a stress fracture, an extended rest period is often necessary. Crutches may be used for a week or so to take the pressure off, if your foot is particularly painful.

For foot pain due to plantar fasciitis, shoe inserts and stretches may help.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your doctor if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit    Return to top

Your doctor will perform a physical examination, paying particular attention to your feet, legs, and back, and your stance, posture, and gait.

To help diagnose the cause of the problem, your doctor will ask medical history questions, such as:

X-rays may be useful in making a diagnosis.

For bunions, plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, Morton's neuroma, or other conditions, your doctor may inject cortisone. This will be considered if oral medication, changing your shoes, and other measures have not helped. No more than three injections in a year should be attempted in most cases.

A broken foot will be casted. Broken toes will be taped.

Orthotics fit by an orthotist or other specialist can help many structurally related problems. Physical therapy is also quite helpful for conditions related to over-use or tight muscles, such as plantar fasciitis or achilles tendinitis.

Removal of plantar warts, corns, or calluses may be necessary. This may be performed by a medical doctor or a podiatrist.

Surgery may be considered for certain conditions like bunions or hammer toes if the pain interferes with walking or other activities.

Prevention    Return to top

The following steps can prevent foot problems and foot pain:

References    Return to top

Hochman MG. Nerves in a pinch: imaging of nerve compression syndromes. Radiol Clin North Am. Jan 2004; 42(1): 221-45.

Kay D. Morton's neuroma. Foot Ankle Clin. 2003; 8(1): 49-59.

American College of Radiology (ACR), Expert Panel on Musculoskeletal Imaging. Chronic foot pain. Reston, VA: American College of Radiology; 2002.

Ho K, Abu-Laban RB. Ankle and foot. In: Marx J, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2006:chap 55.

Update Date: 3/4/2009

Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept. of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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