According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, eight out of every ten Americans will experience foot pain at some point, with a large percentage of the cases being preventable.1 Essentially, foot pain all boils down to this simple, yet often overlooked phrase: “Prevention is better than the cure.”
Unfortunately, not everyone knows what precautions to take, but that doesn’t have to be the case for you! Below are six of the most common causes of foot pain and what you can do to avoid and deal with them:
Despite the discomfort, many people choose fashion over function, opting for shoes that cause pinched toes and cramped feet. The problem with choosing style over comfort is that you are subjecting your feet to constant constraint, abuse and subsequently poor biomechanics. Over time, this can lead to a condition called metatarsalgia, which manifests as an all-encompassing pain on the ball of the foot due to inflammation of the connective tissue in that particular area. 2,3 Every time you put pressure on that spot, you will feel constant pain to the extent that it will make walking uncomfortable if not unbearable.
Fortunately, this situation does not require a visit to the hospital since it can be cured through proper rest, icing and compressing of the foot. 4
Icing your foot is as simple as buying a small bottle of water from a grocery store, letting it solidify into ice in your freezer and rolling it under the arch of your foot twice a day in 10- to 20-minute intervals (use a small hand towel while gripping the bottle to make it easier to use). Be sure to take ibuprofen or a similar non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (any generic variant will do) for at least a week while treating yourself to help ease the muscle pain.
5 If you strain it, the tissue becomes swollen and inflamed. While the name may appear to indicate a serious condition, it is fairly common for people playing tennis or other activities that require you to exert pressure from the forefoot and into the toes so that you can propel yourself forward (such as a woman wearing high heels). As a result, this can place a considerable amount of strain on the plantar fascia, leading to inflammation and subsequent pain.6
If you have plantar fasciitis, stop putting constant pressure on your foot and perform the same exercise mentioned above (for Inadequate Footwear). You can avoid developing plantar fasciitis in the future by limiting the amount of time you place considerable pressure on your feet. Limit such activities to two or three times per week with at least one rest day in between.
As anyone who has ever worn leather shoes without socks can attest to, blisters are incredibly irritating. Blisters normally manifest when there is an excess amount of friction between the skin on your feet (usually the back of your ankles) and the sides of your shoe. This can lead to the development of a fluid-filled bubble in that area.
The easiest method for preventing blisters is to wear the right kind of socks and wearing well-fitting shoes.7 By having a layer of adequate protection between your foot and the material of your shoe, you can prevent your skin from getting rubbed and chafed.
If you do develop a blister, there is an easy way to handle it. First, get a sterile needle (you can disinfect one through the use of boiling water and rubbing alcohol or you can buy one from your nearest pharmacy) and puncture the side (not the top) to let the fluid out. Next, apply some betadine or a similar antibiotic ointment and place a tight Band-Aid over it. This should help to prevent any infection and will result in the blister going away within a day after the treatment.
Foot cramps are sudden contractions in your foot that feel as if the muscle is digging into itself. They can come suddenly with no inexplicable reason and can last for several painful minutes. One of the common causes of foot cramps is dehydration and, as such, it is important to stay consistently hydrated to ensure that you’re getting enough water.8 However, other potential reasons could come in the form of a lack of calcium, magnesium or even potassium due to limited diets. In fact, people on calorie- or nutrition-restrictive diets are among the likeliest to develop foot cramps due to a combination of fewer nutrients consumed and a lack of sufficient water in their system.
To prevent this from happening, make sure to eat a wide array of nutrients through your daily diet and drink a lot of water. Easy peasy!
If you’re feeling pain on the edge of your toenails, you may want to book an appointment with a podiatrist (a foot specialist) since this could be a warning sign of an ingrown nail. While ingrown toenails can be genetic, actively engaging in sports can also increase your risk of developing it due to the possibility of broken nails, increased pressure on your toes and tight footwear. 9
Your average ingrown toenail occurs when a section of the nail in your foot pierces the skin and starts to grow forward into it. While you may not feel anything initially, as the nail grows, it continues to penetrate past the section of dead skin and into the more sensitive, fleshy areas. This creates a gradual pain in that particular location, especially if pressure is placed on it, leading to inflammation and even an infection. In such a case, always seek the assistance of a podiatrist since trying to resolve the problem yourself could make it worse.
What the podiatrist will do is remove the section of the nail that is growing into your toe and file it so that it grows properly. But to avoid this situation in the first place, make sure there is at least an inch of space for your toes to move around in your shoes. Also, don’t cut your toenails too short.
One of the worst common cases of foot pain is a stress fracture, which is typically located in the metatarsal bones (the five long bones of your foot) and can come about through reckless continuous pressure being placed on the foot.10 This is considered one of the worst common cases since it occurs when a person ignores their pre-existing foot pain and or injury and attempts to “tough it out.” Some of the common symptoms of this type of condition are prolonged feelings of intense pain within a particular spot on the foot, making it difficult to walk.11
Treating a stress fracture involves getting as much rest as possible, visiting a podiatrist for advice and treatment options, as well as making sure your foot is always elevated to prevent pressure from being placed on it.
Your feet hold your weight every time you decide to get up and move, so taking special care of them is essential, especially if you’re an athlete or enjoy activities that put excess strain on them. You only have two of them, so keep them healthy and happy!
1 Swierzewski J. Anatomy of the Foot and Ankle. 1999.
2Staff M. Symptoms and causes – Plantar fasciitis – Mayo Clinic. Mayoclinicorg. 2017. Accessed January 14, 2017.
3 Heel To Heal: New Stretch Relieves Pain From Plantar Fasciitis. ScienceDaily. 2006. Accessed January 14, 2017.
4Gingerich N. 3 Foot Stretches To Help You Walk Without Pain. Prevention. 2015. Accessed January 14, 2017.
5 N. Foot Massage – A Relief For Tired Feet – Women Fitness. Women Fitness. 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017.
6 Russel E. 6 Ways to Soothe Foot Pain. https://wwwreadersdigestca/health/conditions/6-ways-soothe-foot-pain/2/. 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017.
7Epsom Salt & Apple Cider Vinegar Foot Bath Recipe That REVERSES Foot Pain, Remove Fungus & Odor. NaturalNews Blogs. 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017.
8 Hopkins J. Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Hopkinsmedicineorg. 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017.
9Hopkins J. Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Hopkinsmedicineorg. 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017.
10Looks B. Natural home remedies: Foot pain. Best Health Magazine Canada. 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017.
11 Metcalf E. Losing Weight Can Also Help Your Feet. EverydayHealthcom. 2009. Accessed January 14, 2017.