Why Do My Feet Hurt

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Why Do My Feet Hurt
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: Foot Pain Causes, Treatment, and When to Seek Help. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

Common causes of foot pain include nerve damage, inflammation, overuse, overstretching, and trauma. Underlying health issues like diabetes and peripheral artery disease, which impacts blood flow, can also lead to foot pain.

Common Causes of Foot Pain

Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.

Updated on February 07, 2023

Lyle T. Modlin, DPM, is board-certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and has been in practice for over 30 years.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

As shock absorbers, your feet cushion up to one million pounds of pressure during a single hour of strenuous exercise. They also support 1.2 times your body weight during walking, and two to three times that during running activities. It is not hard to see why feet are highly susceptible to injury.

If you wake up and suddenly feel pain in your feet, what is going on? You probably want answers as well as information on how you can get better, such as whether a physical therapist can help treat your foot pain.

Foot pain is a frequent cause of visits to podiatrists and orthopedic physicians. With more than 26 bones, 33 joints, and five ligaments, many structures in the foot can be injured. When these structures become injured or overstressed, it can cause pain, and that can limit your ability to walk.

This article discusses some of the most common causes of foot pain, and how these conditions can be treated and prevented.

Low section of young woman massaging her foot.

Types of Foot Pain

Pain can strike in different areas of your foot. Certain conditions are commonly associated with these areas. They include:

  • Bottom of the foot: Plantar fasciitis
  • Arch of the foot: Posterior tibial tendonitis, tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • Ball of the foot/toes: Bunions, hammertoe, metatarsalgia, turf toe, Morton’s neuroma

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot pain. It results from irritation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot. This fascia connects your heel bone to your toes.

People with plantar fasciitis experience pain across the bottom of the foot, typically near the inner part of the heel. Discomfort with plantar fasciitis is more common in the morning after waking up and with strenuous exercise like running. Some people also feel the heel pain while simply walking.

Treatment

Physical therapy for plantar fasciitis involves treatments that decrease inflammation and improve the function of your foot, ankle, and leg. Exercises for plantar fasciitis may include:

  • Stretching
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Balance exercises

These exercises may also help prevent the condition from reoccurring.

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis

The posterior tibialis tendon runs down your inner lower leg and attaches to the bottom of your foot near the inside of the arch. The tendon helps support your foot’s natural arch. Irritation of the tendon may cause pain, limited walking ability, and flatfoot deformity. Posterior tibial tendonitis is also called posterior tibial tendon dysfunction.

Treatment

Treatment for posterior tibial tendonitis may include exercises for:

  • Flexibility
  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Reducing inflammation

Your physical therapist (PT) or healthcare provider may also recommend orthotics, medical devices that are worn inside the shoe.

Your PT can examine you and determine the best treatment for your posterior tibial tendonitis. Continuing with exercises and orthotics can help keep it from coming back, as can surgery.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when the main nerve that goes to the foot is compressed by bone or tissue. You may be more familiar with a similar condition in the wrist called carpal tunnel syndrome. The symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome are typically felt on the inner side of the foot and include burning, tingling, and shooting pains.

Treatment

Treatments for tarsal tunnel syndrome includes:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Orthotics
  • Changes in footwear

If these fail, a surgical procedure called tarsal tunnel release may be an option. You may be able to prevent tarsal tunnel syndrome by warming up before strenuous activity and keeping the muscles in the area strong and flexible.

Bunions

A bunion is a bony protrusion at the base of your big toe, on the inside of your foot. It’s caused by a misalignment in the joint. It can make your big toe point inward, even to the point that it overlaps the second toe. The lump can be painful, make your shoes uncomfortable, and change your balance and the way you walk.

Treatment

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are common for treating bunion pain. Your healthcare provider may also recommend corticosteroid injections. Other things that might help include:

  • Bunion pads
  • Splints
  • Orthotics

Physical therapy exercises for bunions include muscle strengthening to improve joint alignment and range-of-motion exercises to keep the joint moving. Surgery may be an option if physical therapy isn’t effective.

Many bunions can be prevented by:

  • Wearing properly fitting shoes
  • Avoiding high heels
  • Giving your feet a break from shoes when possible

Keeping your feet strong can also help prevent bunions.

Hammertoe

Hammertoe usually affects the second, third, or fourth toe. Like bunions, it’s caused by a misaligned joint that pushes tissue from the ball of your foot forward and underneath your toes. Eventually, it can cause your toe to take on a claw-like or hammer-like shape. Hammertoe can cause pain in the toe and ball of the foot.

Treatment

Hammertoe can be treated by:

  • Wearing loose-fitting shoes
  • Wearing hammertoe pads
  • Icing
  • Strengthening and stretching exercises
  • In severe cases, surgery

Hammertoe can be prevented by avoiding:

  • High heels
  • Narrow shoes
  • Shoes that crowd your longest toe

Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is a painful foot condition affecting the ball of the foot. It is called metatarsalgia because the bones in this region of the foot are named the metatarsals.

A lot of jumping or running activities increase the stress load on this region, and over time, the metatarsal bones can become swollen and painful. Some types of arthritis can also contribute to this condition.

Treatment

Metatarsalgia treatment often involves:

  • NSAIDs
  • Proper footwear
  • Metatarsal pads
  • Orthotics

Shoes with a wide toe box and good support can both help treat and prevent metatarsalgia.

Turf Toe

Turf toe is a sprain at the base of the big toe. It occurs when the big toe bends back beyond its normal range of motion. This can cause a tear in the ligaments that support it.

Turf toe often occurs when kicking a soccer ball, or missing the ball and kicking the ground. Pain with turf toe is experienced during walking and running activities. You may also experience toe cramping.

Treatment

Physical therapy for turf toe involves managing inflammation around your foot and toe and gently restoring normal mobility to the affected toe or toes. To prevent turf toe, you can learn proper running mechanics and wear hard-soled shoes during exercise.

Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma causes a sharp, stabbing pain when you walk or put pressure on your foot. It’s caused by thickening of a nerve between your toes, usually between the third and fourth toes. This often happens because of an injury. At first, symptoms may only be occasional, but they may become more common or even constant as the condition develops.

Treatment

Morton’s neuroma is treated with:

  • NSAIDs
  • Cortisone injections
  • Resting the foot
  • Wearing wide-toed shoes and metatarsal pads
  • Physical therapy
  • Sometimes surgery

You can help prevent it from developing by staying away from high-heeled or pointy-toed shoes.

Physical Therapy for Foot Pain

Physical therapy is one of the main ways to treat the symptoms of foot pain from many different causes. Gentle stretching of the foot often helps to alleviate the discomfort felt due to the above disorders.

Your physical therapist can also offer strategies to help treat your pain and improve your foot function. For example, an ice bottle massage may help control pain and inflammation. A PT may also be able to help you correct walking and running mechanics. This can help alleviate and prevent foot problems.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Foot pain can be a difficult thing to manage. It can prevent you from walking normally and may limit your ability to enjoy normal work and recreational activities.

If you regularly have foot pain or it seems to be getting worse or more frequent, talk to your healthcare provider. It is especially important to seek medical advice if you notice changes to the size and appearance of your joints. Ask whether a physical therapist could help you overcome foot pain and return to your normal active lifestyle.

Summary

Your foot contains dozens of structures that can be injured. Damage to these structures can cause pain and make it hard for you to walk.

Foot pain can affect the bottom of your foot, the arch of your foot, or the ball of the foot and the toes. Each type of pain and the condition that causes it is treated in a different way, but some treatment strategies include stretching and strengthening exercises, anti-inflammatory drugs, and orthotics. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

If you have severe or recurring pain in your foot, contact your healthcare provider. They may be able to recommend physical therapy or additional treatment to help you get back on your feet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my feet hurt when it’s cold outside?

Cold temperatures can aggravate foot pain caused by certain conditions. Plantar fasciitis and arch and heel pain are some conditions that may be exacerbated by colder temperatures. Additional foot problems such as frostbite can occur with extreme cold.

Can you get arthritis in your feet?

The short answer is yes. Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, including those joints in the foot and ankle, causing inflammation and pain. While there is no cure for arthritis, there are treatment options to help manage discomfort, including physical therapy, medications, and some surgical options.

20 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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By Laura Inverarity, DO
Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.

Foot Pain Causes, Treatment, and When to Seek Help

Catherine Moyer, DPM, is a podiatrist experienced in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders of the foot and ankle.

Updated on September 11, 2022

Oluseun Olufade, MD, is a board-certified orthopedist. He teaches as an Assistant Professor of Orthopedics at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Common causes of foot pain include nerve damage, inflammation, overuse, overstretching, and trauma. Underlying health issues like diabetes and peripheral artery disease, which impacts blood flow, can also lead to foot pain.

Foot pain can impact the entire foot or just parts of the foot, such as the heel, arch, or toes.

This article presents 10 of the most common reasons for foot pain. It talks about their symptoms, causes, and how they are diagnosed. It will also help you to learn more about treating foot pain.

common causes of foot pain

Plantar Fasciitis

The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis . This is irritation and inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of connective tissue that spans the sole of the foot.

Symptoms

Foot pain from this condition is generally worse when a person first steps out of bed in the morning. It usually feels better once you get moving, although a dull pain often persists.

Causes

Experts suspect there are certain factors that raise the risk of developing plantar fasciitis. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Prolonged standing
  • Weak foot muscles
  • Walking barefoot
  • Improper running footwear
  • Flat feet
  • Very high arches

While not the cause of plantar fasciitis, individuals with this condition often also have heel spurs. Heel spurs are bony growths that form around the heel. These may or may not cause additional pain.

Diagnosis

Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your foot pain in order to diagnose it. They will want to know exactly where it is located and if the pain is worse after you wake up.

They also will perform a physical exam. It includes pressing on the sole of your foot while you flex it, to see if your plantar fascia feels tender.

Treatment

The treatment of plantar fasciitis is based on simple self-care strategies. They include:

  • Reducing activity
  • Applying ice
  • Stretching
  • Postural support
  • Physical therapy
  • Taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)
  • Wearing a cushion-soled shoe with gel pad inserts or heel cups
  • Wearing a supportive shoe, even at home, and avoiding slippers or walking barefoot

If the pain persists, your healthcare provider may consider injecting a steroid into the foot where it hurts.

Surgery, which is meant to release part of the plantar fascia where it attaches to the heel bone, is rarely performed. If surgery is performed, large heel spurs may also be removed at this time.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome refers to compression of the posterior tibial nerve. This nerve passes through a space inside your ankle that’s called the tarsal tunnel.

Symptoms

With this syndrome, you may feel foot pain described as burning, tingling, and numb. It radiates from the inside (big toe side) of the ankle and into the arch and sole. The pain tends to be worse at night, and sometimes travels up to the calf or higher.

Causes

Anything that places pressure on the posterior tibial nerve can cause tarsal tunnel syndrome. For example, if you sprain your ankle, the swelling at the site may irritate or squeeze the nerve.

A bone spur, or abnormal bone growth, caused by ankle arthritis can lead to nerve compression within the tarsal tunnel. This is also true of other structural problems with the foot, such as a varicose vein, or a swollen ankle tendon or joint.

People with flat feet also are more prone to developing this syndrome.

Diagnosis

A medical history and physical exam are typically used to diagnose this syndrome. Sometimes, imaging tests are ordered to see if a structural abnormality is present in the foot. Nerve studies like electromyography and nerve conduction velocity may also be done.

Treatment

A range of non-surgical therapies are used to treat tarsal tunnel syndrome. They include:

  • R.I.C.E. protocol (rest, ice, compression of the nerve, elevation of the foot) if the condition follows an ankle injury
  • Taking an NSAID such as Advil (ibuprofen) or Aleve (naproxen)
  • Steroid injection
  • Wearing custom shoe inserts, especially if you have flat feet
  • Wearing a brace or cast to immobilize the foot

Surgery is considered if the nerve pain is severe or if it doesn’t respond to other therapies.

Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia refers to pain found in the ball of the foot. It develops when the ligaments that connect your metatarsal bones no longer offer them enough support. These are the five bones that make up your forefoot.

Symptoms

The bottom of the ball of the foot is where people with this condition feel a sharp pain. Sometimes the pain is near where the toes connect to the foot.

This foot pain, which may be equated to stepping on a stone, is usually eased by sitting down. It gets worse when you walk barefoot.

Causes

Many issues can make a person more vulnerable to developing this foot problem. Most often, it is due to abnormal foot mechanics, or the structure and motion of how your feet work. It also is caused by overuse, or by wearing shoes with poor cushioning.

Older people, those who are overweight, and people who run may also be at higher risk of developing metatarsalgia.

Diagnosis

A medical history and physical exam are needed to diagnose the condition. Imaging tests are only used if a second problem, such as a tumor, cyst, or bone fracture, is suspected.

Treatment

Wearing metatarsal pads is the primary treatment. Surgery may be an option if other treatments don’t provide relief.

Morton’s Neuroma

Morton’s neuroma is another common cause of foot pain. It causes a sharp or burning type of pain in the ball of the foot. Many people note it feels like walking on a marble or pebble.

Technically, a neuroma is a benign, or noncancerous, tumor of a nerve. Morton’s neuroma more accurately refers to a thickening of the tissue that surrounds one of the small nerves between the toes. These are called interdigital nerves.

Symptoms

The shooting or burning pain in the ball of the foot may spread between two toes. It is most common to feel this between the third and fourth toes. Your foot may be numb, with pain that gets worse with activity or when wearing shoes.

Causes

The cause of Morton’s neuroma has not been fully teased out. Experts think that certain factors, like having flat feet or wearing tight, narrow shoes such as high heels, may lead to increased pressure. This may cause injury to the tissue surrounding an interdigital nerve.

Diagnosis

Besides a medical history and physical exam, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are sometimes used to diagnose the condition.

Treatment

Proper shoe inserts that decrease pressure on the toe bones may ease the foot pain of Morton’s neuroma. A roomy, broad-toed shoe that allows the toes to spread out may help.

Sometimes, if the pain won’t go away, your healthcare provider may inject a steroid into the affected area.

If the above simple methods do not provide relief, the final option is surgery. It will mean removing a small part of the affected nerve or releasing the tissue that surrounds it.

Achilles Tendonitis

Tendons are the cord-like structures that anchor muscles to bone. When they are overstretched or overused, tendonitis can occur.

Achilles tendonitis refers to irritation or inflammation of the Achilles tendon. This tendon connects the calf and lower leg muscles to the heel bone of the foot.

Symptoms

This condition causes an aching or burning foot pain with activity or stretching. The affected tendon is usually painful to the touch. Mild swelling, warmth, and stiffness may also occur over the tendon.

If tendonitis keeps recurring, it may be a sign that the tendon is tearing and weakening. This issue is also known as tendinosis.

Causes

Several factors may contribute to Achilles tendonitis. They include:

  • A sudden increase in your exercise routine
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Wearing improper footwear
  • Training in cold weather
  • Flat feet
  • Leg length differences

Diagnosis

A medical history and physical exam are used to diagnose the condition. An MRI may be ordered if your healthcare provider suspects an Achilles tendon rupture. This problem occurs when the tendon fibers tear and separate.

Treatment

Treatment of Achilles tendonitis involves a combination of these at-home therapies:

  • R.I.C.E. protocol (rest, ice, compression of the nerve, elevation of the foot)
  • Taking an NSAID

Once the acute foot pain is eased, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about heel lift orthotics and physical therapy. The Alfredson protocol, a specialized exercise program, may be recommended.

Surgical repair may be needed for an Achilles tendon rupture.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis happens when cartilage in a joint breaks down from physical wear and tear. This causes decreased joint space, worn cartilage, and bone spurs, around the joint.

Often, the pain and lack of mobility of foot osteoarthritis are found at the ankle joint, the subtalar joint, and the big toe joint.

Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • A feeling of vibration or a grinding sound when moving the joint
  • Swelling, which generally gets worse with exercise

Bone spurs can contribute to osteoarthritis pain and may lead to a bump. They can cause foot pain on the top of the foot if they impact the toes. The midfoot and heel may also get bone spurs that are painful.

Causes

With aging, the cartilage in your joint naturally wears thin and frays. A family history of osteoarthritis and obesity also may increase your risk.

Diagnosis

A medical history and physical exam, along with an X-ray or other imaging test, are used for diagnosis.

Treatment

Osteoarthritis of the foot is first managed with simple measures. Examples are:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and exercise
  • Taking an NSAID
  • Physical therapy
  • Wearing a custom orthotic to reduce pain
  • Using an assistive device to aid in mobility

Arthroscopy, or joint fusion or replacement surgery, is considered if the pain won’t go away or it interferes with daily function.

Ingrown Toenails

An ingrown toenail occurs when the edge of a toenail grows or is pressed into the skin. Due to pressure from a shoe, it usually is found at the edge of the big toe. Even the smallest amount of ingrowing can hurt.

Symptoms

Besides pain, other signs of an ingrown toenail include red or swollen skin near the nail. The ingrown part of the nail is often unseen because it is buried beneath the skin.

Causes

Some factors that increase a person’s chance of having an ingrown toenail include:

  • Wearing poorly fitted shoes
  • Trimming the side edge of your toenail too short
  • Having some sort of trauma to the toenail

Diagnosis

A physical exam—simply looking at the affected toe—is all that is needed to diagnose an ingrown toenail.

Treatment

Treatment of an ingrown toenail depends on its severity. For minimal to mild foot pain, redness, and no discharge, then warm soaks and a tiny piece of cotton placed beneath the nail may be all that is needed.

If symptoms continue after a few days of this simple treatment, or if any yellow, cloudy pus is present, you should see your healthcare provider.

You may need an antibiotic. You also may need to have the ingrown part of the nail removed.

Corns and Calluses

A callus is a thickened area of skin found on parts of the feet that deal with excessive amounts of pressure or friction.

Corns occur on the toes where they rub against the shoe. Unlike calluses, corns have a central core or spot in the middle that is surrounded by dead skin.

Symptoms

Calluses are larger than corns. They are typically not painful unless they fissure, or split open. On the other hand, the central core of a corn is usually painful and tender to the touch.

Causes

Shoes that are either too tight or too loose are a common reason for corns and calluses. Socks that don’t fit well may also contribute. So can toe deformities such as hammer toe.

Diagnosis

Seeing your foot is all that is generally needed to diagnose a corn or callus. Keep in mind that corns and calluses also look similar to warts, which may cause discomfort too.

Treatment

Besides wearing proper shoes, you may consider home remedies to ease the foot pain caused by corns and calluses. Try:

  • Soaking your foot in warm water for 15 minutes or so, then using a pumice stone or callus file to remove dead skin over the corn or callus
  • Placing a donut-shaped, non-medicated foam corn pad over the corn or callus
  • Putting small bits of lamb wool (not cotton) between toes where the corn is

If corns or calluses remain a problem, it’s time to see your healthcare provider.

They may remove the dead layers of skin with a scalpel and apply a salicylic acid plaster to help dissolve the corn or callus. They may also recommend a custom foot orthotic.

Bunions

A bunion is a knobby bump on the side of the foot. It is often found just below the big toe joint, although bunions can occur on the pinkie toe side of the foot too.

Bunions vary in size. They are the result of the big toe shifting out of position over time and pressing against the second toe. This causes abnormal stress on the big toe joint and surrounding ligaments.

Symptoms

Symptoms generally progress over time as the bunion becomes more significant. Besides a sore or burning pain over the big toe joint, other symptoms may include redness, swelling, and stiffness.

Causes

Experts believe that people with certain foot types are more prone to developing bunions, and these foot types run in families. Wearing high heels, which forces the big toe to be squeezed into the second toe, also can cause a bunion to form.

Diagnosis

Bunions are diagnosed by a physical exam, although sometimes an X-ray is ordered to better assess the big toe joint.

Treatment

If you have symptoms like foot pain, bunions are often managed well with simple therapies. They include:

  • Applying ice
  • Foot and toe stretches
  • Taking an NSAID
  • Padding the bunion
  • Wearing proper footwear

If bunion symptoms are severe, won’t go away, and interfere with daily life, surgery may be needed.

Hammer Toe

Hammer toe is a common condition found in the second, third, or fourth toes. It happens when the joint where the toe meets the foot (the metatarsophalangeal joint) extends upward and the nearest joint as you move up the toe (the interphalangeal joint) flexes downward. This makes the toe bent like a hammer.

Symptoms

Foot pain may be felt when the top of the bent toe is pressed. Pain also may affect the ball of the foot at the bottom of the hammer toe.

Other symptoms include redness, swelling, and stiffness of the affected toe joint. Corns and calluses may also form on the affected toe.

Causes

Muscle imbalance is believed to be a key contributor to hammer toe formation. Tight shoes, especially high heels, are another prime cause.

A hammer toe may also arise as a result of an underlying medical condition like arthritis. It tends to run in families.

Diagnosis

A healthcare provider can diagnose hammer toe simply by inspecting your foot. Imaging, like an X-ray, may be ordered if they suspect an underlying condition.

Treatment

Various self-care strategies are used to treat hammer toe, such as:

  • Performing at-home foot and toe exercises to strengthen and stretch your toes
  • Wearing a non-medicated hammer toe pad
  • Wearing a loose-fitting, soft shoe with a deep toe box
  • Applying ice if the hammer toe becomes inflamed (acutely painful, red, and/or swollen)
  • Foot exercises

If these measures fail, or if tight tendons cause a rigid hammer toe that becomes immobile, surgery may be recommended. Rigid hammer toes are seen in people with severe arthritis or chronically neglected hammer toes.

Summary

Common causes of foot pain include plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel syndrome, metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, Achilles tendonitis, osteoarthritis, ingrown toenail, corns and calluses, bunion, and hammer toe.

Most of these problems can be managed with self-care measures like rest, ice, pain medication, wearing properly fitting shoes, and protecting the injury. However, for any problems that are persistent or that affect your quality of life, see a healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

If you are enduring foot pain, it’s important to see a healthcare provider for an evaluation. Foot pain can affect a person’s mood, risk of falls, and quality of life. You deserve to feel well and get back to your usual activities—and with the right therapy plan, you can.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does high blood pressure cause foot pain?

High blood pressure can lead to poor circulation. This can cause foot cramping and sores on the feet, both of which can cause foot pain.

Can foot pain be related to heart problems?

Yes. Heart disease is associated with swelling, sores, and cramping, all of which can cause foot pain.

How do you know if your toe is broken?

Symptoms of a broken toe include severe bruising and pain, swelling, difficulty walking, a discolored toenail, and the toe becoming crooked, deformed, or misshapen. The pinky is the toe that’s most likely toe to get broken.

How long does it take to recover from foot surgery?

It depends on the procedure. It takes about two to 12 weeks to return to some normal activities after hammertoe surgery, with full recovery happening at around three to six months after the procedure. More intensive surgeries might require five or six months for a full recovery.

What part of the foot hurts with diabetes?
All parts of the feet can be impacted by diabetes.
19 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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  5. Vega-Zelaya L, Iborra Á, Villanueva M, et al. Ultrasound-guided near-nerve needle sensory technique for the diagnosis of tarsal tunnel syndrome. JCM. 2021;10(14):3065. doi: 10.3390/jcm10143065
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  7. Charen DA, Markowitz JS, Cheung ZB, Matijakovich DJ, Chan JJ, Vulcano E. Overview of metatarsalgia. Orthopedics. 2019;42(1):e138-e143. doi:10.3928/01477447-20181206-06
  8. Park CH, Chang MC. Forefoot disorders and conservative treatment. Yeungnam Univ J Med. 2019;36(2):92-98. doi: 10.12701/yujm.2019.00185
  9. Roddy E, Menz HB. Foot osteoarthritis: latest evidence and developments. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2018;10(4):91-103. doi:10.1177/1759720X17753337
  10. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Arthritis of the foot and ankle.
  11. Buldt AK, Menz HB. Incorrectly fitted footwear, foot pain and foot disorders: a systematic search and narrative review of the literature. J Foot Ankle Res. 2018;11(1):43. doi: 10.1186/s13047-018-0284-z
  12. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Bunions: Overview.
  13. Aebischer AS, Duff S. Bunions: A review of management. Aust J Gen Pract. 2020;49(11):720-723. doi:10.31128/AJGP-07-20-5541
  14. Higgs SL. Hammer Toe. Postgrad Med J. 1931;6(68):130-2. doi:10.1136/pgmj.6.68.130
  15. Kwon OY, Tuttle LJ, Johnson JE, Mueller MJ. Muscle imbalance and reduced ankle joint motion in people with hammer toe deformity. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2009;24(8):670-5. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2009.05.010
  16. American Podiatric Medical Association. What is high blood pressure?
  17. Advanced Foot and Ankle Care Centers. Broken toes.
  18. Foot and Ankle Associates of Florida. How long does it take to recover from foot surgery?
  19. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes and foot problems.

Additional Reading

  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Arthritis of the foot and ankle.
  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Corns.
  • American Podiatric Medical Association. Hammer Toes.

By Catherine Moyer, DPM
Catherine Moyer, DPM, is a podiatrist experienced in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders of the foot and ankle.

What You Need to Know About Foot Pain

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Your feet bear weight when you’re standing and when you walk to where you need to go. Because of this, foot pain is common. Foot pain refers to any pain or discomfort in one or more parts of the foot, such as the following:

Why Do My Feet Hurt

The pain can range from mild to severe, and it may last a short time or be an ongoing issue. Many measures can help relieve your foot pain.

Foot pain can occur due to certain lifestyle choices or a medical condition. Common causes include:

Lifestyle choices

One of the main causes of foot pain is wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. Wearing high-heeled shoes can often cause foot pain because they place a great deal of pressure on the toes.

You can also develop foot pain if you get injured during high-impact exercise or sports activities, such as jogging or intense aerobics.

Common medical issues

Various medical issues are closely associated with foot pain.

Your feet are especially susceptible to the pain caused by arthritis. There are 33 joints in the foot, and arthritis can affect any of them.

Diabetes mellitus can also cause complications and several disorders of the feet. People with diabetes are more prone to have:

  • nerve damage in the feet
  • clogged or hardened arteries in the legs and feet
  • foot ulcers or sores

You’re also more at risk for having foot pain if you:

  • are overweight or have obesity
  • are pregnant
  • have a foot injury, such as a sprain, fracture, or tendinitis

Other potential causes of foot pain include:

  • corns
  • calluses
  • bunions
  • warts
  • ingrown toenails
  • medications that cause swelling of the feet
  • Morton’s neuroma, which is a thickening around the nerve tissue between the toes near the ball of the foot
  • hammer toes
  • athlete’s foot
  • Haglund’s deformity, which is an enlargement of the back of the heel bone
  • peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
  • fallen arches
  • plantar fasciitis
  • gout, especially affecting the big toe near the ball of the foot

Your at-home treatment options will vary depending on the pain you’re experiencing and its cause. However, following these tips may help relieve your discomfort:

  • Apply ice to the affected area.
  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever.
  • Use foot pads to prevent rubbing on the affected area.
  • Elevate the foot that’s causing you to have pain.
  • Rest your foot as much as possible.

Many people who regularly experience foot pain are aware of what triggers it, and they know the best way to manage their pain. However, you should see a doctor as soon as possible in the following situations:

  • Your pain comes on suddenly and is severe.
  • Your foot pain is due to a recent injury.
  • You can’t place any weight on your foot after an injury.
  • You have a medical condition that interferes with blood flow, and you experience foot pain.
  • The area that’s causing you pain has an open wound.
  • The area that’s causing you pain is discolored or has other symptoms of inflammation.
  • You have a fever in addition to foot pain.

The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you don’t already have a doctor.

During your appointment, the doctor will observe your posture and how you walk. They’ll also examine your back, legs, and feet.

They’ll want to know the details of your foot pain, such as:

  • when it started
  • what parts of the feet are affected
  • how severe it is.

If necessary, your doctor will order an X-ray.

The treatment for your condition depends on the cause.

For some people, something as simple as shoe inserts can provide a great deal of relief. They’re available over the counter or by prescription. Other people may need:

Follow these tips to help prevent ongoing foot pain:

  • Choose comfortable, roomy, and well-cushioned shoes.
  • Avoid shoes with high heels and narrow toe areas.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stretch your toes before engaging in vigorous exercise.
  • Practice good foot hygiene.
  • Always wear footwear when you’re outdoors to protect your feet.

Although foot pain is common, it’s not a typical part of life. You should seek medical help if you have foot pain that hasn’t resolved after a week or two of at-home treatment.

Last medically reviewed on January 11, 2022

How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Arthritis. (n.d.).
    apma.org/Patients/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=977
  • Diabetes and foot problems. (2017).
    niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/foot-problems
  • Foot pain and problems.
    (n.d.).
    urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=85&ContentID=P00914
  • Hamstra-Wright KL, et al. (2021). Risk factors for plantar fasciitis in physically active individuals: A systematic review and meta-analysis [Abstract].
    pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33530860/
  • Medications to treat feet. (n.d.).
    arthritis.org/about-arthritis/where-it-hurts/foot-heel-and-toe pain/treatment/foot-arthritis-medication.php

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.