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Foot pain

Foot pain is a common problem, and has many possible causes.

Foot pain treatments include rest, pain relievers, stretching exercises and changes in habits or footwear. Surgery may be helpful for some people with foot pain.

Causes of foot pain

Pain in the foot can be due to a problem in any part of the foot. Bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, fascia, toenail beds, nerves, blood vessels or skin can be the source of foot pain.

The cause of foot pain can be narrowed down by location and by considering some of the most common causes.

Heel pain

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain. The plantar fascia, a band of tough tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes, becomes irritated or inflamed. Heel pain, worse in the morning when getting out of bed, is the most common symptom. Arch pain may also be present.

Treatment for plantar fasciitis includes:

  • Rest
  • Calf muscle stretches
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Shoes with good arch support and a cushioned sole

Various other treatments for plantar fasciitis are available.

Heel spurs are abnormal growths of bone on the bottom of the heel bone, which may cause foot pain during walking or standing. Although one in 10 people has heel spurs, only one in 20 of these people will have foot pain. Heel spurs can occur in people with plantar fasciitis, but they do not cause plantar fasciitis. People with flat feet or high arches are more likely to have foot pain from heel spurs.

Treatment for heel spurs include:

  • Protective heel pad
  • Custom-made insert (orthotic) worn in the shoe
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Cortisone injections
  • Rest
  • Physiotherapy
  • Surgery (rarely)

A stone bruise is a bruise of the fat pad of the heel. It can occur after stepping on a rock or other hard object. The heel colour may not appear bruised, but the heel pain gets better with rest.

A fracture of the heel bone (calcaneus) is the most commonly fractured foot bone. It is most often caused by high impact to the heel -- for example, when a person has fallen from a height or been in a car accident. Injuries can range from a cracking a bone during vigorous exercise to a shattered bone from a high fall. Heel pain, bruising, swelling, limping or difficulty walking are the main symptoms.

Calcaneus fracture treatment includes:

  • Rest from weight bearing, often with crutches
  • Thorough padding of the heel
  • Splinting or casting to protect the heel bone
  • Pain relievers
  • Surgery


Ball of foot pain

Metatarsalgia produces pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot. Strenuous activity or badly-fitting shoes are the usual causes. Older people or people with narrow, arched or flat feet are more at risk. Treatment for metatarsalgia includes:

  • Pain relievers
  • Changes to more comfortable footwear
  • Inserts for the shoes to relieve pressure on the ball of the foot
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