How to Manage Basic Foot Aches
Foot health is easily taken for granted, especially considering how much work and weight our feet bear day in and day out. However, this is precisely why foot health should be made a top priority: to prevent chronic pain and even disability. Foot pain is common and near inevitable as we grow older, and work our bodies longer and harder. But unlike most things in our adult lives, basic foot aches can be understood, managed, and eventually resolved.
Brushing up on a bit of general foot anatomy is helpful to better understand the source of your pain. It is important to identify the origin of the pain – such as the heel, the arch, the toes, or the balls of your feet – in order to accurately treat a localized injury.
Here are a few tips on identifying the source of your foot aches, and how to manage foot pain in your daily life:
Common Sources of Foot Aches
Your feet require adequate care and support which, in turn, will support overall body. Common sources of foot pain include:
- Poorly-fitting shoes: A proper shoe fit encompasses several factors. This includes the foot length, the shoe depth, the width of the toe box, and more. Have your feet professionally measured at the end of the day, when your feet are largest due to swelling. Also make sure to have the shoes fit your largest foot, as feet are rarely symmetrical.
- Improper support: Proper arch support is necessary, especially if your arches have fallen or your feet tend to pronate. If your shoes are not supportive enough, purchase custom or over-the-counter insoles for the support you need.
- Inappropriate footwear: Most sports have specific footwear specially designed to properly meet the activity’s demands. Cross-training shoes, running shoes, hiking shoes, and tennis shoes are just a few examples. Inappropriate footwear can easily result in physical injury on the court or on the field.
- Spending too long on the feet: Long hours spent on the feet, especially on hard surfaces like concrete, will soon result in pain and even injury.
- Overuse: Like every other part of the body, your feet need rest, too. Avoid overworking the feet by spacing out demanding physical activities like running or sports.
- Trauma: Foot trauma can include everything from sprains, strains, and fractures.
- Fungal infection: Fungal infections like athlete’s foot and toenail fungus are extremely common, and highly contagious.
- Plantar warts: Plantar warts are caused by HPV, which enters through small cuts and breaks in the skin.
- Bunions: Bunions are bony growths formed at the base of the big toe, which can become extremely painful.
- Corns and calluses: Corns and calluses are formed by the thickening and hardening of the skin on the feet, caused by the skin protecting itself from excessive friction.
- Blistering: Foot blisters are common, and are the result of excessive rubbing against the skin from poor shoes or friction.
Foot pain can also be further reduced to localized injuries, which can point to specific conditions:
Heel pain is the most common cause of foot aches. Pain beneath the heel indicates inflammation of the tissues underneath the foot, which can signify one of several conditions:
- Plantar fasciitis: The fascia is the band of tissue which connects the heel bone to the toes. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the fascia, an injury which often occurs due to overuse. Risk factors include obesity, having a job which requires long hours on hard surfaces, running for exercise, and having flat feet or high arches. The best course of treatment for plantar fasciitis is a good stretching regimen.
- Heel spur: A heel spur is a calcium deposit protruding from the underside of the heel, and is often the result of chronic plantar fasciitis. The risk factors for heel spurs are the same as those for plantar fasciitis, with treatment including surgery and non-surgical solutions like custom orthotics.
- Stone bruise: A stone bruise occurs when the fat pad underneath the heel is injured, usually from stepping on a hard object such as a stone. With enough rest, a stone bruise will eventually heal on its own.
Pain behind the heel, on the other hand, could indicate the inflammation of the area where the Achilles tendon meets the heel bone. This could be the result of excessive running or wearing shoes which dig into the back of the heel. Treatment includes wearing specialized heel inserts or open-back shoes, stretching the Achilles tendon, and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the swelling.
Pain in the Balls of the Feet
Pain in the ball of the foot, where the heads of the metatarsals meet, is known as metatarsalgia. This pain and inflammation can be the result of a number of factors, from running and high-impact sports to excess weight and poorly designed shoes. It can also be an indication of:
- Stress fractures: Stress fractures are small breaks in the bones of the toes, which can dramatically impact the way you bear weight on the feet.
- Morton’s neuroma: Morton’s neuroma is a growth in the fibrous tissue surrounding the nerves leading to the toes, and can cause the uncomfortable sensation of having a pebble stuck in your shoe. Its development is commonly linked to the wearing of high-heels, and can be treated by switching to better shoes, corticosteroid injections, or surgery.
Pain in the arch of the foot is usually a symptom of plantar fasciitis, or an indication of fallen arches. Fallen arches, or flat feet, are often the result of inflammation, tearing, stretching, or damage to the tendons. Treatment for fallen arches includes rest, stretching exercises, physical therapy, orthotics, and anti-inflammatory medications.
Due to the various joints in the toes, toe injuries can be especially painful. Common sources of toe pain include:
- Gout: Gout is a form of arthritis which mainly targets the big toe. Gout produces extreme swelling and pain in the toes, through causing crystals to form and collect in the toe joints. The condition can be treated through rest, icing the affected areas, and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the swelling.
- Bunions: A bunion is a bony growth that develops on the joint where the big toe connects to the foot. Bunions are more common in women, due to heels forcing the bones of the feet into unnatural formations. Bunion pain can often be alleviated through more supportive shoes or inserts, or you may remove the bunions via surgery.
- Hammertoe: Hammertoes occur when the toes bend downwards at the middle joint, forming a hammer-like appearance instead of pointing straight forward. The condition is most often caused through repeated wear of ill-fitting shoes such as high heels, but may be the result of a muscle imbalance or even arthritis. Mild hammertoe can be treated through toe pads, cushions, or inserts, but severe cases may require surgery to reposition the bones.
Find Foot Pain Relief with Dr. Vikki and Dr. Connie
The feet are fragile, and require the special care and attention of an expert podiatrist. If you’re experiencing foot pain, or are seeking to prevent injury before it strikes, schedule a consultation with Dr. Vikki Dr. Connie at the Superior Foot & Ankle Care Center today.