What Causes Foot Pain?

Foot Pain Fast Facts

  • Your foot is a complex anatomical structure that may be affected by disease within your body or the foot itself.
  • When foot pain starts to interfere with your normal day-to-day activities, it is time to seek medical treatment.
  • The foot is composed of muscles and tendons, joints and bones, ligaments, nerves, skin, blood vessels, and soft tissue structures. Problems that affect any of the structures may result in foot pain.
  • Foot pain treatment recommended will depend on the cause of the pain. Some of the most common treatment options include over-the-counter (OTC) medications, stretching, physiotherapy, strengthening, immobilisation, shockwave therapy, and surgery.

Common Causes of Foot Pain

Foot pain can be attributed to several causes including deformities, biomechanical conditions, diseases, improper footwear, and injuries. In addition, foot pain can also be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, and infectious diseases.

For instance, plantar warts which develop in the bottom of the foot are caused by a virus and can result in foot pain and irritation. Athlete ’s foot, which also causes foot irritation and pain, is attributed to fungus.

Ingrown toenails are another common cause of foot pain. Ingrown toenails occur when the nail’s edges grows through the skin and leads to infection and pain. If you have diabetes, you are more prone to developing infections since your immune system is compromised.

Deformities such as tarsal coalitions, bunions, calcaneal valgus, mallet toes, hammertoes, bones spurs, and claw toes may also result in foot pain. Biomechanical abnormalities like tendon and muscle laxity or tightness, high arched feet, and flatfeet may also result in imbalances, deformities, and foot pain.

Many systemic diseases such as lupus, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes can also result in foot pain. Rheumatoid arthritis, a painful inflammation of the foot’s joints can also cause foot pain. When accompanied by alignment changes, foot deformities can also develop.

Trauma from cumulative repetitive injury or from an acute injury are also known to cause foot pain. A classic example would be Achilles tendinitis. Micro trauma injuries that are caused by running on hard or uneven surfaces and wearing ill-fitting footwear can also result in foot pain.

Also, wearing high heels or shoes that are too tight can also cause forefoot pain. Ill-fitting and non-sport specific shoes that are used for cycling or running can also often result in foot pain.

In addition, poor-fitting footwear can also cause bruising and blisters. Possible long-term effects of wearing ill-fitting footwear include calluses, corns, bunions, toe misalignment, and nerve and joint irritation.

Injuries like bruises, fractures, and muscle and ligament strains often occur suddenly. Fractures, sprains, and strains may also be the result of a single (or several) stresses to the foot. Repetitive over-stressing of the foot structures may also cause tendonitis, stress fractures, acute and chronic osteoarthritis, and plantar fasciitis.

When the fascia and muscles of the foot are strained by overloading, overuse, and over-stretching, it can result in injury and foot pain. Achilles tendonitis is a common injury of the foot. A common cause of heel pain, plantar fasciitis is caused by micro-trauma to a large ligament known as the plantar fascia.

Any injury to the joints and bones of the foot caused by a single blow or repetitive trauma can also lead to stress fracture and foot pain. A blunt-force injury may sometimes result in contusions and foot pain. However, in severe cases, it might cause damage to the foot’s ligaments and muscles.

While not all foot pain is a cause for worry, seeking medical treatment is recommended when the condition starts to interfere with your normal activities. It is also important to keep in mind that delayed treatment of severe foot pain may also result in disability, chronic pain, and other complications.