Understanding Foot Pain

Causes and Treatment for Chronic and Temporary Foot Pain
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Foot pain can come in a number of forms and from a number of causes. Something as relatively minor and harmless as an ingrown toenail or blister can be painful enough to cripple us. The fact is, however, that there are several common types of foot pain and, while some are mild and temporary, other types of foot pain can be both chronic and debilitating.

Foot pain can not only restrict your activities, it can also affect your mood and impact your quality of life. If you are suffering from chronic foot pain, finding effective treatment can be a challenge.

  • What Is Foot Pain?
  • Common Causes of Foot Pain
  • Treatment for Foot Pain
  • Preventing Foot Pain
  • Getting Help

What is Foot Pain

Like many other aches, pains and other uncomfortable sensations in our bodies, foot pain is not always the result of something apparent or obvious.

Foot Pain Definition

Foot injury, overuse or conditions causing inflammation involving any of the bones, ligaments or tendons in the foot can cause foot pain. Arthritis is a common cause of foot pain. Injury to the nerves of the feet, known as peripheral neuropathy, may result in intense burning pain, numbness or tingling.

Foot pain is not always caused by an underlying disease. For example, causes of foot pain can include poorly fitting shoes, prolonged periods of standing, overuse from too much walking or running, and assorted sprains, strains, or other injuries.

What Foot Pain Can Feel Like

foot muscles and tendons

Depending on the location and the underlying cause, foot pain can run a wide gamut of sensations. Foot pain can be experienced as a dull, throbbing ache, a burning sensation, a sharp and stinging pain, and even a deep muscle pain due to cramping.

Chronic foot pain is often a burning sensation or a constant pain on a bone. Severe pain can occur if the sufferer is diabetic. This is typically a burning, sharp, or aching pain that can cause walking to be painful, and even the slightest touch can be unbearable.

Myths About Foot Pain

You shouldn’t wear high heels if you have foot pain

High heels aren’t that great for your feet to start with, but you don’t have to stop wearing them. Just be smart about what you wear and how long you wear them. A lower, wider heel is better, and only wear them for a few hours a day at most.

Wearing shoes is bad for a foot sprain

On the contrary, going barefoot or wearing thin slippers can make a sprain worse because the added support of a stable and protective shoe with a stiffer sole is needed for your foot to heal.

Plantar warts are nothing to worry about

Plantar warts are caused by a virus and aren’t cancerous. However, they can be quite painful, depending on where they are located. You should seek treatment of any painful plantar warts that don’t clear up on their own.

How much I weigh won’t affect my feet.

Being overweight puts added pressure on your feet, increasing your risk of osteoarthritis, tendon inflammation and inflammation of the plantar fascia, or plantar fasciitis. This is an inflammation of the tough band of tissue on the sole of your foot.

Foot pain is caused by poorly fitting shoes

While both temporary and chronic foot pain can be caused by shoes that don’t fit correctly, there are a number of other conditions that could be your foot pain, including osteoarthritis, diabetes, foot injuries and gout.

Common Causes of Foot Pain

A complete list of causes of foot pain would be quite lengthy, but here are some of the most common:

Plantar fasciitis

If you suddenly begin to experience a stabbing pain in your heel with your first steps in the morning, it’s possible that you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. Those who are likely to develop plantar fasciitis are runners, people who are overweight or obese, and those whose shoes have inadequate support.


Metatarsalgia is pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot, the area between the arches and toes on the bottom of your foot. Metatarsalgia centers under the five bones at the base of your toes, or metatarsals. It can develop it if you do a lot of running and jumping. There are other causes as well, including foot deformities and shoes that are too tight or too loose.

Morton’s Neuroma

A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue that may develop in various parts of the body and the most common neuroma in the foot is known as Morton’s neuroma. This affects the ball of your foot between the third and fourth toes and can feel as if you are standing on a pebble caught in your shoe or a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot. Your toes may also sting, burn or feel numb.


A bunion is a painful bony bump that develops on the joint at the base of your big toe. Bunions develop slowly and form when your big toe pushes against your next toe, forcing the joint of your big toe to get bigger and stick out. The skin over the bunion can become red and sore. Tight, narrow shoes can cause bunions or aggravate them.

Flat feet

Flat feet is sometimes referred to as pes planus or fallen arches. It is postural deformity in which the arches of the foot gradually flatten, or collapse, allowing the entire soles of your feet to touch the floor when you stand up. While it is a common and usually painless condition, flatfeet can develop after an injury or from the simple wear-and-tear stresses of age, leading to pain.

Achilles tendinitis

This is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone. Aching and burning pain occurs especially with morning activity. It may improve slightly with initial activity but becomes worse with further activity and is aggravated by exercise. Over time less exercise is required to cause the pain. The Achilles tendon will often be enlarged and feel warm and tender to the touch.

human foot bones

Treatment for Foot Pain

While it may seem unnecessary at times to actually treat the pain in your foot, if the pain becomes annoying, bothersome, or makes it difficult to walk then treating the pain is a natural first step.

Self Treatment Options

Treating the pain in your feet can help relieve the discomfort. A Harvard Medical School article offers this advice,

“Pain is a symptom common to many foot conditions, and pain medications are a good solution for most types of foot pain. You also can try other approaches, either before resorting to pain relievers or in conjunction with them. For example, you can try an ice pack or a warm foot soak before reaching for the pain pills. In general, if your skin feels warm to the touch (indicating that your foot is inflamed and possibly swollen), apply ice. Don’t apply warmth to an inflamed area because it will only increase the blood flow and make the inflammation worse.”

Many times, common over-the-counter (OTC) treatments can be enough to cope with the pain, especially if it is relatively mild and temporary.

You have a few different options when it comes to OTC medications. Some are topical, which means they are applied to the skin. Others are taken in pill form and work internally. These are the three main OTC medication classes:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. For foot pain, NSAIDs should be taken at a low dosage for a limited amount of time only. Because NSAIDs possess anti-inflammatory qualities they are best suited for minor foot injuries or sprains with inflammation as well as pain.

Analgesics. A common pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, that relieves pain, but not inflammation. Consider other OTC medications if you drink alcohol regularly because of the liver damage than can be caused from acetaminophen combined with alcohol.

Topical analgesics. These lotions, creams, and gels penetrate the skin when applied and can help relieve some forms of mild foot pain. Ingredients such as menthol, eucalyptus oil, and turpentine oil distract nerves with a different sensation, while others contain salicylates, which is the same ingredient found in aspirin.

Active Release Technique® (ART®)

Normal foot mechanics can be restored by using a combination of manual therapy and corrective exercise plan. The result can be an elimination of foot pain such as preventing the plantar fascia from being subjected to excess force and stress. Experience has shown that Active Release Technique®, or ART® therapy can be an effective tool for recovering from plantar fasciitis.

This can occur as ART® therapy is used to locate and treat scar tissue adhesions that accumulate in the muscles and soft tissues. In addition, it can help increase normal tissue flexibility, movement and comfort, and restore your full balance and stability.

Active Release Technique® can help with issues such as plantar fasciitis for immediate and long lasting results. In addition, ART® can also disrupt the workout cycle that leads to continual stress injuries, while restoring strength, speed and endurance.

Anatomy in Motion (AiM)

Treating foot pain with AiM therapy is prefaced on the understanding that we are not trying to ‘fix’ you. What we do is decipher why your body has stopped reaching its full movement potential with the resulting pain or discomfort. The way in which we determine your foot’s dysfunction is through movements and how you respond to the pain caused by those movements.

Through Anatomy in Motion movement treatments, we’ll learn how to move you away from that pain naturally. This will allow your body to start working properly and on the path to reaching its full potential. We believe that treating foot pain with AiM is one of the best natural therapies available.

NeuroKinetic Therapy™ (NKT™)

Many injuries, especially sports-related injuries, are not immediately apparent until more damage occurs because many athletes “push through” the pain. However, they can unwittingly be neglecting injuries and, as a result, these can become worse over time.

The brain and body adapts to the impact of injuries on our movement. While our bodies usually do heal over time, left untreated they can cause other problems. And, if an injury hasn’t completely healed, or has gotten worse over time, this can cause pain in other areas as a result of muscle compensation.

Using NeuroKinetic Therapy™, or NKT™, can restore your body back to its proper movement and balance. With NKT™ dysfunctional movement patterns are identified and readjusted, so that functional movement is restored. This is done by testing muscles to identify which ones are compensating for other muscles. Once the compensation pattern is defined, the compensator muscle is released and re-trained neurologically to work correctly throughout its range of motion repeatedly.

Proprioceptive – Deep Tendon Reflex (P-DTR®)

Proprioceptive – Deep Tendon Reflex, or P-DTR®, utilizes a paired receptor model and reflex treatment to help get our bodies back to its proper movement. It leverages the function of our nervous system to receive sensory data from the movements of our body.

For example, if you burn yourself, you instantly react. Also, if you are stretching and you overdo it, those muscles will try to stop overworking in an effort to prevent a tear from occurring. However, in some instances, this nervous system response can cause an imbalance in the way you move and lead to pain and other movement dysfunctions.

Utilizing P-DTR® can relieve muscle pain through a number of muscle tests that stimulate your deep tendon reflexes. P-DTR® rebuilds and reconnects your “faulty” connections with healthy and natural proprioceptive responses. This natural treatment will help your brain to be better prepared in dealing with pain and help to restore proper motor functions.

Preventing Foot Pain

  • Wear shoes that fit well and are comfortable, roomy, and well-cushioned
  • Avoid wearing shoes with tall heels and narrow toe areas
  • Maintain a healthy weight as being overweight or obese can affect your feet
  • Stretch before engaging in exercise and improve your flexibility
  • Maintain good foot hygiene and trim your toenails properly. Cut your toenails straight across and don’t round the corners as this leads to ingrown toenails
  • Always wear footwear when you’re outdoors to protect your feet from cuts and scrapes
  • Combine sitting with standing since doing either one for too long is unhealthy
  • Stay hydrated to help avoid foot cramps, which can be caused by dehydration and a lack of potassium

Getting Help

At your first appointment here at Pain and Performance Solutions, we will learn all we can about your present pain and condition, along with any history of discomfort. Treating and relieving foot pain starts once we understand where and how your pain started.

A full examination will help us determine which form of treatment is best suited to get you on your road to recovery. Your trust in us is key, as is your honesty. Ultimately, getting your body healthy and working properly is the only way to achieve total recovery. So, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and will answer any questions that you may have.

We will conduct a full examination to help us determine which form of treatment is best suited to put you on your road to recovery. Because our bodies will compensate for pain to allow us to function during the day, the pain can shift around and lead to other forms of pain.

Our overall goal at Pain and Performance Solutions is to help identify what your body is trying to tell you. Pain is obviously uncomfortable and obnoxious, but it is also brilliant because it’s a communicator. Treating foot pain with AIM therapy, for example, is really a way for us to listen to your pain through your movements. Please don’t go another day not knowing why you are in pain. Let us help to ease your mind by diagnosing the source of that pain.

Our goal is to work through the sequence of pain and dysfunction in order to get your body healthy and working properly and to achieve total recovery. Don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to help and will answer any questions that you may have. You can reach us at (707) 636-4404 or by filling out our online contact form.