Arch rival, arch nemesis, arch Honey-I-will-pay-you-$20-to-massage-my-feet. You could make many jokes about foot pain while you sit with your feet propped up on a pillow to quiet the throbbing after being on them all day. For some people, this kind of foot pain is sporadic at best. For others, it's a way of life. Some seek treatment, others seek information before scheduling their next adventure at the doctor’s office. If you’re the latter, let’s get acquainted with your body’s sometimes cruel but necessary travel means: the feet.
The foot and ankle together have 26 bones, and 33 joints. Throw in an additional 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons (because things aren’t complicated enough) and you have glorious built-in mobility. With numbers that large, and the amount of time we spend exercising them, it’s no wonder we experience pain. The foot as a whole can experience a multitude of issues.
A person with whole-foot pain can suffer from Tendinopathy, sprains, fractures, infection, disease or arthritis.
Tendinopathy refers to the tendons connecting muscles to bones. Think of it as a rubber band tying two things together. Sometimes a tendon can become inflamed, otherwise known as Tendonitis, causing general pain in the foot. Tendinosis is when the tendon suffers micro-tears. Both forms of Tendinopathy are caused by over-exerting your feet.
While Tendinopathy pertains to your tendons, sprains pertain to your ligaments (also a stretchy fiber that connects your bones to one another). If a ligament is stretched too much it can suffer damage, or a complete tear. Most notably this happens after strenuous activity or an incident such as a fall.
A fracture is notoriously known as breaking a bone, however the bone does not need to completely break to be considered a fracture. A stress fracture is a cracked bone. Typical fractures are the result of an incident, while stress fractures are the result of repeated over-use.
The foot is vulnerable to several different types of infection. Parasites, bacterial, fungal, and viral infections can enter through tears in the skin and cause redness, swelling, warmth, drainage, and general pain.
Disease can also be problematic. Gout, a build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints, typically affects the big toe. People who have diabetes are subject to foot ulcers and neuropathy. They may experience tingling, numbness, or pain.
Arthritis can develop in the joints of the foot causing pain and immobility. Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken, making a person more vulnerable to fractures.
To further break down the intricacies of the foot and its ailments, there are three categories: the heel, forefoot, and toe.
There are two primary culprits of heel pain:
Plantar fasciitis refers to the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is the tissue on the bottom of your foot connecting your heel to your toes. Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of this tissue. It’s caused by excessive pressure or stress on the foot to include running or wearing improper inserts. The sharp pain associated with plantar fasciitis is strong in the morning, and after standing for long periods of time.
Achilles tendonitis is heel pain originating in the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon is located. The Achilles tendon is responsible for connecting the back of your leg to your heel. A sudden increase in strenuous activity such as sports can cause this type of injury.
Common causes of forefoot pain are:
Metatarsalgia is pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot. Despite its terrifying name, it can be managed with at-home treatments to include elevation, and ice on the affected area.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, except in your feet. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is the inflammation of the ligaments, or surrounding muscles, protecting your posterior tibial nerve. You will experience pain wherever the inflammation is pressing on the nerve.
Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction (PTTD) pertains to your arches. PTTD is a fancy name for the flattening of the foot. PTTD is caused by tendons failing to support the arch. Initial pain is located in the arch. As the arch flattens, it will gradually move to the outside of the foot. It is a progressive condition. Treatment is available and should be sought early to prevent the need for surgical measures.
Toe pain is quite possibly the easiest to identify:
Corns are essentially calluses. They are typically hardened, a different color than your skin, and are a result of ill-fitting shoes.
Bunions are a shifting of bones inside the foot. This can cause a bone to protrude on the side of your foot, and/or a change in alignment of your toes (they may even begin to overlap).
Ingrown toenails are the inward curling of your toenail, causing it to grow into your skin. It can cause pain, swelling, and sometimes even infection.
Hammertoe is typically the result of wearing shoes too small for your feet causing one or more of the toes to curl down and inward. If left untreated, the tendons in the affected toes will become tighter, causing the toe to stiffen in the curled form.
Morton’s neuroma is the inflammation of the nerve causing cramping, burning, or electric shock pain typically between the third and fourth toe.
As you can see, most foot pain is caused by ill-fitting shoes, high-impact activity, or disease. It's okay to research the cause of your pain, but no website can substitute the tailored attention, medical training, and years of experience a doctor can offer you. If you’re experiencing foot pain, whether or not you found an answer here, make an appointment with a podiatrist. Not only can they diagnose whatever issue you are suffering from, they can remedy the pain through proper treatment.
If you’re visiting or living in the New York area, contact the best podiatrists in NYC at Adler Footcare for a free assessment. We believe feet shouldn’t hurt and neither should their treatment.