Your foot is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Strong enough to bear your body weight, your foot can be prone to injury and pain.
Foot pain can affect any part of your foot, from your toes to your Achilles tendon at the back of your heel.
Although mild foot pain often responds well to home treatments, it can take time to resolve. Your doctor should evaluate severe foot pain, especially if it follows an injury.
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 may result in intense burning pain, numbness or tingling (peripheral neuropathy).
Some common causes of foot pain include:
- Achilles tendinitis
- Achilles tendon rupture
- Avulsion fracture
- Bone spurs
- Broken foot
- Broken toe
- Bursitis (joint inflammation)
- Corns and calluses
- Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage caused by diabetes)
- Gout (arthritis related to excess uric acid)
- Haglund's deformity
- Hammertoe and mallet toe
- High heels or poorly fitting shoes
- Ingrown toenails
- Morton's neuroma
- Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints)
- Osteomyelitis (a bone infection)
- Paget's disease of bone
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Plantar fasciitis
- Plantar warts
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Raynaud's disease
- Reactive arthritis
- Retrocalcaneal bursitis
- Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)
- Septic arthritis
- Stress fractures
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome
When to see a doctor
Even relatively mild foot pain can be quite debilitating, at least at first. It is usually safe to try simple home remedies for a while.
Seek immediate medical attention if you:
- Have severe pain or swelling
- Have an open wound or a wound that is oozing pus
- Have signs of infection, such as redness, warmth and tenderness in the affected area or you have a fever over 100 F (37.8 C)
- Are unable to walk or put weight on your foot
- Have diabetes and have any wound that isn't healing or is deep, red, swollen or warm to the touch
Schedule an office visit if you:
- Have persistent swelling that doesn't improve at all after two to five days of home treatment
- Have persistent pain that doesn't improve after several weeks
- Have burning pain, numbness or tingling, particularly involving most or all of the bottom of your foot
If your foot pain is due to an injury or overuse, it will often respond well to rest and cold therapy. Avoid activities that can worsen your foot pain, and put ice on your foot for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications will also help with pain and may help with healing.
Even with the best of care, you may have some foot stiffness or pain, particularly first thing in the morning or after you've been active, for several weeks. If you are unsure of the cause of your foot pain, or if it is widespread or involving both feet, and particularly if you have diabetes, see your doctor before trying home remedies.