6 Causes of Foot Pain: Symptoms & Treatment

Is your foot pain keeping you from living an active lifestyle?  Foot pain can make even simple activities like walking or jogging painful, but it doesn’t have to.  With proper treatment, your foot pain can be alleviated, making it possible for you to get back to the activities you love.

If you are unsure what is causing your foot pain, pinpointing the root cause of the pain is a good first step and can help determine what treatment plan is right for you.  In this article, we will look at 6 common causes of foot pain, along with their associated symptoms and treatment options. If you have been experiencing ongoing foot pain, it’s always a good idea to seek the help of a healthcare professional, such as a pedorthist, for proper assessment and treatment.


What is causing your foot pain?

Foot pain is generally caused by one of three things: injury, overuse, or an associated medical condition, such as diabetes or arthritis.  If you have a condition that causes inflammation of the bones, ligaments, or tendons of your feet, then an underlying condition may be the cause of your foot pain.  To help narrow down which of the three culprits is causing your foot pain, your pedorthist will perform gait analysis and will ask you questions about your sensation of foot pain and what situations cause you to experience foot pain.  Foot pain generally presents itself as one of three sensations: a burning pain, a dull pain, or a numb and tingling sensation.


How is foot pain generally treated?

Your treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause of your foot pain.  As part of your treatment plan, you may be required to wear foot orthotics to correct your body’s alignment and to redistribute your weight more evenly across your feet. By offering more stability, custom foot orthotics can take pressure off sore sports and help to relieve your foot pain. Other treatments commonly prescribed for foot pain include applying an ice pack, rest, stretching, elevating the foot, wearing a supportive brace, wearing properly fitted shoes, and physical therapy.

If your foot pain is keeping you from the activities you love, worry not.  With an effective treatment plan, foot pain can be alleviated, and you can go back to moving at your own pace.  Below we will look at 12 different causes of foot pain – with their associated symptoms and treatments.


  1. Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles tendonitis is the condition that occurs when the tendon at the back of your ankle (called your Achilles tendon) becomes irritated. This injury generally happens after you have increased your exercise frequency or intensity over a short period of time. When functioning properly, your Achilles tendon functions to point your foot away from your leg as you walk or run.

Symptoms: The first symptom of Achilles tendonitis is a mild pain just above the heel following physical activity.  Another symptom of Achilles tendinitis is pain that intensifies after prolonged movement such as running.  If you have Achilles tendonitis you may experience tenderness or stiffness near your heel upon waking that improves as you gently move your foot and ankle.

Treatment: Achilles tendonitis can be treated with foot orthotics, physical therapy, rest, ice packs, wearing a brace, elevating your foot, and stretching.


  1. Heel Spurs

Heel spurs occur when a calcium deposit forms an abnormal, bony protrusion on the bottom of the heel. These bony protrusions can extend up to half an inch beyond the base of the heel bone.  Heel spurs may cause pain when pressure is put on the heel, such as while walking or running.  More common in middle-aged adults, heel spurs may be caused by gait abnormalities, frequently running, wearing ill-fitted shoes, and obesity.

Symptoms: Though many people with heel spurs are asymptomatic, you may experience intermittent or chronic pain in your heel.  Another symptom of heel spurs is heel pain that worsens with walking or running.  Upon first waking up, you may experience the sensation of a knife going through your heel. As you get up and walk around the sharp pain normally turns into a dull ache.

Treatment: Heel spurs can be treated with foot orthotics, properly fitted shoes, physical therapy, wearing splints at night, and taping to rest stressed muscles.


  1. Bunions

A bunion is a bony bump that appears on the base of your big toe joint.  A bunion forms when your big toe presses against the toe next to it, causing your big toe joint to become bigger and protrude outwards. If you have developed a bunion, the skin above the bunion may appear red and feel sore.

Bunions are most commonly caused by a structural defect of the feet, excess stress on your foot or toes, arthritis of the feet, or due to an associated medical condition.  Another cause of bunions is wearing shoes that are too tight and narrow. Though bunions are more common on the big toe joint, smaller bunions (called bunionettes) can form on your small toe joint.

Symptoms: Common symptoms of bunions include swelling, movement restriction, or increased skin thickness of the affected toe.  If you have bunions you may experience pain, soreness, a burning sensation, or hardened skin under your foot.

Treatment: Bunions may be treated by wearing foot orthotics and properly fitted footwear. To alleviate pain caused by bunions, footwear should be roomy, with little to no heel and good arch supports.


  1. Calluses and Corns

Calluses and corns appear as layers of hardened skin on the feet and toes.   Though similar, corns and calluses have several key differences.   Corns are smaller than calluses, appear on the tops and sides of toes, and have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin.  Compared to corns, calluses are larger and appear on weight-bearing areas of the feet such as the heel and ball of the foot.  Calluses and corns are generally caused by wearing ill-fitted shoes, or by frequently wearing shoes without socks.

Symptoms: A common symptom of calluses and corns is skin that appears thick, rough, and either flaky, dry, or waxy.  Another symptom of calluses and corns is a hardened or raised bump on your toes, the ball of your foot, or heel. If you have calluses or corns you may experience pain under the skin of your feet.

Treatment: Calluses and corns can be treated by wearing properly fitted footwear with orthotics.  If you have a condition (such as diabetes) that reduces blood flow to your feet, you may require additional treatment to prevent further complications.


  1. Diabetic Foot

Diabetic foot is a condition that sometimes occurs in individuals with diabetes.  Over time, the high glucose content in your blood can damage your nerves and blood vessels in your feet and legs. This, in turn, causes reduced blood flow to your legs and feet and can lead to the development of the diabetic foot.  If you have diabetic foot, you may experience a numbing in your foot. The danger of this is that you might not realize it when a cut, blister, sore, or ulcer forms on your feet.  Such injuries take longer to heel in people with diabetes and can lead to an infection or more serious complication if left untreated.

Symptoms: If you suffer from diabetic foot, you may experience numbness or a loss of sensation in your feet, skin discoloration or redness, skin temperature changes, and a deformed foot appearance. Another sign of the diabetic foot is having wounds that don’t drain or heal.

Treatment: Diabetic foot can be treated with foot orthotics, properly fitted footwear, and frequently cleaning and dressing of any wounds.  In more serious cases, treatment may include wearing a cast foot, wearing a total contact cast, or surgery.


  1. Arthritic Foot

Arthritic foot occurs when the joints in your feet become inflamed, resulting in swelling, pain, and deformity of your feet.  Arthritic foot normally causes pain and stiffness in the smaller foot and ankle joints, such as the big toe joint, and the joint connecting the shinbone to the ankle. Arthritic foot may also impact the bones of the inner and outer mid-foot.

Symptoms: If you have arthritic foot, you may experience pain, swelling, or stiffness in your foot joints, or a reduced ability to bear weight on your feet.

Treatment: Arthritic foot can be treated with foot orthotics, properly fitted footwear, physical therapy, canes, walkers, or – in more serious cases – surgery.


In summary, there are many underlying conditions and injuries that can lead to foot pain. In this article, we looked at 6 common conditions associated with foot pain: Achilles tendinitis, heel spurs, bunions, corns, the diabetic foot, and the arthritic foot.  If you have been experiencing ongoing foot pain, it is wise to seek the help of a healthcare professional, such as a pedorthist, for proper assessment and treatment.  The good news is that with the proper treatment plan, you can get back to living an active lifestyle – pain-free.


Foot Treatment at River City Orthotics

Unsure of what is causing your foot pain? Give River City Orthotics a call.  At your initial appointment, your pedorthist will perform a thorough analysis to determine the underlying cause of your foot pain.  The thorough analysis will include gait analysis, alignment testing, range of motion testing, and strength testing.   Following the assessment, your pedorthist will provide you with a personalized treatment plan.  If you require treatment from a physiotherapist or chiropractor, your pedorthist will refer you to a specialist at our partnered clinic. If your treatment plan includes wearing foot orthotics, your pedorthist will custom-make your very own foot orthotics – personalized to your feet, condition, and lifestyle.