It's so important to look after your feet - they are a complex anatomical structure that we constantly rest our whole body weight on. Foot pain, therefore, can interfere with your everyday life in a painful and irritating way.
Whether your foot pain is in your heels, in your toes, or in the arch of your foot, you should try to identify the cause of the pain and treat it immediately, even if you just take interim action at home. In this article we describe ten different kinds of foot pain and the best course of treatment for each.
1) Plantar Fasciitis. There is a band of tough tissue that connects your heel to your toes, and this can sometimes become inflamed. This manifests as pain in the arch of your foot or your heel. The best course of treatment is to rest your foot, and to wear shoes with a cushioned sole and good arch support, according to WebMD. Prevention also recommends massaging and stretching your feet and calves, which encourages blood flow and lengthens the plantar flexor muscles. You can find four great foot stretches here.
2) Flat feet. This is a condition in which your feet don't have enough of an arch; it can also be called fallen arches. It's fairly common - according to Healthline, a quarter of American adults have flat feet. It can be caused by your lifestyle, but often it is hereditary and there is little you can do to change it. However, you can support your feet in order to minimise the discomfort associated with fallen arches. Orthotics are inserts that slip into your shoes to support your arches, and you can buy these from the pharmacy. If you have particularly severe fallen arches you might like to visit a podiatrist and have orthotics personalised for your feet.
3) Heel spurs. WebMD explains that heel spurs are growths of bone on the bottom of your heel. You can get them from badly fitted shoes, abnormal posture or activities like running. They're relatively common and don't cause everyone pain. When they do cause pain, it's useful to have a cutout heel pad inside your shoe, and to wear shoes that have shock-absorbing soles. If the pain persists, you can ask your doctor about surgical options.
4) Calluses. Calluses are the thick patches of skin that develop on the points of your foot that rub most often on your shoes. They're often on the ball of the foot, and are especially common when you also have bunions (we'll get to those!). Even though they're your body's way of protecting your feet from friction, they can eventually cause a bit more pain as they build up and get in the way. Prevention recommends soaking your feet in warm water and then moisturising. When your feet are nice and soft you can gently exfoliate the calluses with pumice stone. If they're especially bad, a podiatrist can remove them with a blade.
5) Stone bruise. This is an extremely painful bruise, usually caused by an impact injury or by stepping on a hard object. It often feels like you have a stone in your shoe! Like any bruise it will go away by itself, but until then WebMD recommends resting your foot and icing the area.
6) Sprains and strains. There are many types of strains and sprains, and most don't require medical attention. They can happen at the joints or ligaments, which connect the many bones in your feet. They can also affect your muscles or tendons, which connect muscle to bone. Essentially strains occur when too much force is placed on a muscle, according to MedicineNet - this can be from a one-off injury, or can happen over time. The best course of treatment for strains and sprains is the RICE approach: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
7) Gout. This is a form or arthritis which can cause pain in the toes, especially the big toe. WebMD explains that crystals collect in the toe joints, which causes severe pain and swelling. You should rest the foot and ice the area to reduce inflammation, but you should also see your doctor if you suspect you have gout. They will be able to prescribe medications particular to this condition. You can also try to avoid gout-causing foods.
8) Achilles Tendinitis. Your achilles tendon attaches to your heel bone at the back of your foot and can become inflamed from overuse, according to Prevention. This is called tendonitis (which can affect any tendons in your body) and is particularly common in people who wear high heels regularly, and runners. Prevention advises that rest is essential in the case of tendinitis, and you should cease activity as soon as possible. You can also ice the area whenever you feel pain.
9) Bunions. Bunions are a bony bulge on the side of your foot, next to the base of your big toe. It is usually due to the misalignment of the first toe joint, and is exacerbated by ill-fitting shoes and age. Try changing to more comfortable shoes or wearing shoe inserts which hug the bunion and protect your foot. WebMD advises that bunions sometimes needs to be fixed with surgery.
10) Ingrown toenail. This happens when skin grows over the side of the toenail. It can happen on one or both sides, is extremely painful and can lead to infections. WebMD recommends soaking the foot in warm water four times a day, and wedging a piece of gauze between the nail and the wet skin to seperate them and encourage nail growth away from the skin. If you have persistent ingrown toenails and are experiencing a lot of pain or infection, see your doctor. There are surgical procedures which can fix ingrown toenails permanently.
Painful feet is something we often put up with - according to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, up to 80% of women have foot problems! It is important to identify the issue and then treat it immediately, rather than leaving it to worsen. This can be as simple as resting your feet - Foot Logics recommends laying on the floor with your feet up on the couch for 15 minutes, to clear any water retention - or soaking your feet in warm water and tea tree or peppermint oil. Massage your feet regularly with moisturising cream, and if you have persistently achy feet try wearing orthotic insoles. We rely on them all day, so it's important to look after your feet!