Foot Pain and Problems

Anatomy of the foot

The foot is one of the most complex parts of the body, consisting of 26 bones connected by numerous joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The foot is susceptible to many stresses. Foot problems can cause pain, inflammation, or injury, resulting in limited movement and mobility.

What are the different types of foot problems?

Foot pain is often caused by improper foot function. Improperly fitted shoes can worsen and, in some cases, cause foot problems. Shoes that fit properly and give good support can prevent irritation to the foot joints and skin. There are many types of foot problems that affect the heels, toes, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and joints of the foot.

The symptoms of foot problems may resemble other medical conditions and problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

What are heel spurs?

A heel spur is a bone growth on the heel bone. It is usually located on the underside of the heel bone where it attaches to the plantar fascia, a long band of connective tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot. This connective tissue holds the arch together and acts as a shock absorber during activity. If the plantar fascia is overstretched from running, wearing poor-fitting shoes, or being overweight, pain can result from the stress and inflammation of the tissue pulling on the bone. Over time, the body builds extra bone in response to this stress resulting in heel spurs. Treatment options may include:

  • Rest

  • Cold packs

  • Anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen

  • Proper stretching prior to activity

  • Proper footwear or shoe inserts

  • Corticosteroid injections

  • Surgery (for more severe, prolonged conditions)

What is a corn?

Corns are yellowish, callus growths that develop on top of the toes. Corns develop because of abuse or stress. Often, a corn develops where a toe rubs against a shoe or another toe. Corns can cause extreme discomfort and pain. Treatment may include:

  • Trimming the corn by shaving the layers of dead skin

  • Applying pads around the corn area

  • Wearing larger shoes to comfortably fit your foot without rubbing

  • Surgery

To avoid corn development, always purchase footwear that fits properly.

What is a bunion?

A bunion is a protrusion of bone or tissue around a joint. Bunions may occur at the base of the great toe or at the base of the little toe, and often occur when the joint is stressed over a period of time. Women are more frequently affected because they may wear tight, pointed, and confining shoes. Bunions can also be a result of arthritis, which often affects the big toe joint.

Treatment of bunions may vary depending on the pain and deformity. Treatment may include:

  • Wearing comfortable, well-fitting footwear (particularly shoes that conform to the shape of the foot and do not cause pressure areas)

  • Surgery (for pain, not for cosmetic purposes)

  • Applying pads to the affected area

  • Medications, such as ibuprofen

What is Morton's neuroma?

Morton's neuroma is a buildup of benign (noncancerous) tissue in the nerves running between the long bones of the foot. Morton's neuroma occurs when two bones rub together and squeeze the nerve between them. Most often, neuromas develop between the bones leading to the third and fourth toes. Morton's neuroma often causes swelling, tenderness, and pain. If the pain becomes severe, it may cause tingling, numbness, and burning in the toes. It usually occurs after standing or walking for a long period of time. Treatment for this condition may involve rest and/or a change in footwear that does not restrict the foot. If the problem persists, cortisone injections and/or surgery may be considered.

What are hammertoes?

A hammertoe is a condition in which the toe buckles, causing the middle joint of the affected toe to poke out. This condition is often aggravated by tight-fitting shoes that put pressure on the hammertoe. Often a corn develops at this site. Treatment for hammertoes may include:

  • Applying a toe pad specially positioned over the bony protrusion

  • Changing your footwear to accommodate the deformed toe

  • Surgical removal



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