Why Do My Feet Hurt?

Listed below is information about common foot problems and possible causes of foot pain.
Links to documents containing information are in green.

Please Note: This website contains general information about certain medical conditions and potential treatment options. The information is intended solely for educational purposes, not medical advice, and should not be used to self-diagnose or self-treat any medical condition. Please consult a podiatric physician if you have any questions about any matter involving your feet or legs and/or if you need to seek podiatric care for any foot or leg problems you may be experiencing.


Your Feet Aren’t Supposed to Hurt!

It is important to remember that foot pain is not normal. At the first sign of pain, or any noticeable changes in your feet, seek professional podiatric medical care.

Your feet must last a lifetime and regular foot care is important to your overall health. With proper detection, intervention, and care, most foot and ankle problems can be lessened or prevented.


Common Foot Problems

Athlete's Foot - Athlete's foot is a skin disease caused by a fungus, usually occurring between the toes. The fungus most commonly attacks the feet, because shoes create a warm, dark, and humid environment that encourages fungus growth. The warmth and dampness of areas around swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms are also breeding grounds for fungi. Because the infection was common among athletes who used these facilities frequently, the term "athlete's foot" became popular.

Bunions - A bunion is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe—the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint—that forms when the bone or tissue at the big toe joint moves out of place. This forces the toe to bend toward the others, causing an often painful lump of bone on the foot. Since this joint carries a lot of the body’s weight while walking, bunions can cause extreme pain if left untreated. The MTP joint itself may become stiff and sore, making even the wearing of shoes difficult or impossible. Bunions, from the Latin "bunio" (meaning enlargement) can also occur on the outside of the foot along the little toe, where it is called a "bunionette" or "tailor’s bunion".

Corns and Calluses - A corn or callus is a buildup of skin that forms at points of pressure or over bony prominences. Calluses form on the bottom side of the foot; corns form on the top of the foot and between the toes.

Flat Feet - A flat foot is a structural deformity resulting in the lowering of the arch of the foot. This is sometimes referred to as "fallen arches". A person with a flat foot or a highly arched foot that is fairly painful is in need of treatment. People with flat feet may have ankle, knee, or low back pain.

Fungal Nail Infections - A fungal nail infection, a condition called onychomycosis, is caused primarily by organisms called dermatophytes. Once these tiny organisms find their way under a nail, they begin to multiply. Ironically, when the fungus finds its way under the nail, the nail itself provides a protective environment for the fungus to thrive. The toenails are most vulnerable to infection, since they spend much of their day surrounded by dark, warm, and often moist shoes and socks.

Hammer Toes - A hammer toe is a contracture—or bending—of the toe at the first joint of the digit. This bending causes the toe to appear like an upside-down V when looked at from the side. Any toe can be involved, but the condition usually affects the second through fifth toes, known as the lesser digits. Hammer toes are more common to females than males.

Heel Pain - Heel pain is generally the result of faulty biomechanics (walking gait abnormalities) that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it. The stress may also result from injury, or a bruise incurred, while walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces. Other common causes of heel pain include wearing poorly constructed footwear and/or being overweight.

Ingrown Toenails - An ingrown toenail is a painful condition characterized by the nail digging into the surrounding skin, leading to inflammation and possible infection of the toe. This is a serious condition for people with impaired circulation, diabetes, or other systemic diseases.

Neuromas - A neuroma is a painful condition, also referred to as a “pinched nerve” or nerve tumor. It is a benign growth of nerve tissue frequently found between the third and fourth toes that brings on pain, a burning sensation, tingling, or numbness between the toes and in the ball of the foot.

Plantar Fasciitis - Plantar fasciitis, one of a variety of conditions that lead to heel pain, is an inflammation of the long band of connective tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot, causing pain at the bottom of the heel and arch. The inflammation may be aggravated by shoes that lack appropriate support, especially in the arch area. It is common among athletes who run and jump a lot and can be quite painful.

Warts - Warts are one of several soft tissue conditions of the foot that can be quite painful. They are caused by a virus, which generally invades the skin through small or invisible cuts and abrasions. Warts that appear on the sole are known as plantar warts and can be the source of sharp, burning pain. It is important to note that warts can be very resistant to treatment and have a tendency to recur.


Additional Information