What Could Be Causing My Foot Pain?

Foot and ankle specialists can diagnose and provide treatment

a woman grabs her bare foot in pain.

Foot and ankle specialists can diagnose and provide treatment

Our feet are made for running, walking, jumping, balancing and so many other things. So, when foot pain strikes, there could be many possible causes.

Pain can range from mild to severe and affect the toes, heels, arches and soles. Sometimes the cause is clear. Other times, it isn’t.

Common causes of foot pain include accidents at home, sports and overuse injuries and medical issues, such as arthritis and obesity.

Turf toe – a sprain of the main joint of the big toe – is a common sports injury. Morton’s neuroma, which causes nerve pain in the ball of the foot or toes, is another one. It is also associated with wearing high heels or shoes that are too tight. Plantar fasciitis causes heel pain and is sometimes associated with wearing flip flops.

When to see your doctor

Foot pain can often be relieved with rest, icing, pain relievers, foot braces and other home remedies. But if pain is ongoing and you suspect something more serious, it’s time to seek medical help.

“The key to relieving foot pain and returning to an active lifestyle is making the correct diagnosis,” says Jacob Braunstein, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Clinic Jefferson. “Treatment for foot and ankle disorders can be complex and require specialized care.”

How to prepare for your doctor visit

Your doctor will want to examine your foot and look for areas of pain, inflammation, bruising or other injuries. They may watch you walk and ask you to stretch your toes.

Be ready to answer questions about your foot pain, including:

  • When symptoms started and pain location
  • What makes the pain better or worse?
  • What home remedies you have tried to relieve symptoms
  • Your general health

Your doctor may order an X-ray or other imaging test. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

“Focus should always be on reducing pain and improving mobility with timely and accurate diagnosing and appropriate treatment,” Dr. Braunstein says.

What is a foot and ankle specialist?

Your primary care doctor may diagnose and treat your foot problem or refer you to an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist. These specialists can perform surgery but are also trained to diagnose and treat foot and ankle issues using other methods.

Common foot and ankle injuries and conditions treated by these specialists include:

  • Achilles’ tendon tears
  • Congenital conditions
  • Dislocations
  • Bone fractures
  • Heel spurs
  • Tendinitis
  • Turf toe

What are treatment options?

Foot pain can often be treated without surgery. Medications can help reduce pain and inflammation. Your doctor may recommend using orthotics or specialized shoe inserts to help reduce pressure on your feet.

Occasionally, your doctor may give you a cortisone injection for pain relief. Foot problems often respond favorably to physical therapy and exercises.

When is surgery an option?

If your foot problem does not respond to non-surgical treatments, surgery may be an option.

Common types of surgery include:

  • Repair and reconstruction of Achilles tendon of the ankle
  • Procedures for fractures of the foot and ankle
  • Ankle reconstruction or replacement surgery

If surgery is needed, your doctor will discuss the procedure with you in detail and answer all your questions. Most foot and ankle surgeries can be performed on an outpatient basis, so you can return home the same day as your surgery.

How to prevent foot problems

Your feet do a lot of work. So, don’t neglect them.

“Remember the best way to protect your feet is to pay attention to them,” Dr. Braunstein says.

Take steps to support your feet and avoid foot pain.

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stretch your foot and ankle regularly
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Avoid high heels
  • Avoid flip flops, especially if you have flat feet
  • Don’t go barefoot

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