Hard Foot Lump Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions
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Are you concerned about the hard lump located on your foot? This may be a sign of injury, infection, arthritis, or abnormal growth of nerves, muscles, or soft tissue. Learn more about associated symptoms, causes and treatment options for your hard foot lump.
Symptoms of a hard foot lump
A hard lump in the foot can be a painful and disruptive condition that can affect many day-to-day activities. It is understandable to want to seek care promptly for this condition as it can easily impact your mobility at work and during your free time. The foot is a complex system of bones, muscles, nerves, and ligaments constructed and designed to withstand hours of weight-bearing. Having a hard lump impacting any of these nearby components, or even caused by an injury to them, can lead to further irritation or damage.
Common accompanying symptoms of a hard foot lump are
It's also likely to experience the following with a hard foot lump.
If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician promptly in order to get the appropriate diagnosis and care.
Causes of a hard foot lump
The feet are divided into three main parts: the forefoot, the midfoot and the hindfoot. The forefoot is composed of the five toes (phalanges) and the five longer bones (metatarsals); the midfoot is a collection of bones that forms the foot’s arches, and the hindfoot is composed of the heel and ankle. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves run along the surfaces of these structures, providing motion, balance, and sensation to the foot. Damage and injury to any of these components can result in hard lumps and associated symptoms.
The feet are also susceptible to the development of hard lumps and bumps due to conditions such as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is the medical term for nerve damage. It results in a loss of sensation and numbness, especially in the extremities. If sensation is affected in the foot, it may be difficult to notice initial lesions. These lesions can worsen and develop into large, hard bumps.
Many causes of hard foot lumps are dermatologic in nature and affect the different layers of the skin — the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layer. Most of these conditions are easily visible, usually benign, and include conditions such as skin tags, cysts, and neurofibromas.
Inflammatory causes that can result in hard foot lumps include the following.
- Infectious: Bacteria can easily enter cuts and lesions of the feet and result in infectious abscesses — pus-filled pockets within the body tissue. If unnoticed, abscesses can harden over time and result in visible bumps that may affect ambulation, or postoperative care where you resume light activity such as standing and walking. See an image of an abscess on the arm here. There are also viruses that can infect the top layer of skin and result in skin growths as well.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness throughout the body. Arthritis can result in thickening and swelling that can result in damage and deformity of the bones and cartilage in the form of nodules. See this image for a visual representation of arthritic nodules on the foot.
Cancerous causes of a hard foot lump may include the following.
- Nerve/Muscular/Soft tissue: Growths can often arise from the muscle, soft tissue and nerves of the foot causing hard, sometimes large lumps. For example, growths of the nerves in the foot can result in lumps in addition to symptoms of pain or numbness.
- Vascular: Growths that result from the vasculature and blood vessels of the body are called angiomas or pyogenic granulomas. They are dome-shaped, appear red, and bleed with trauma.
Environmental causes can be related to lifestyle habits or certain exposures.
- Pressure: From wearing shoes to the ground and terrain and even socks, the feet are constantly exposed to things that cause friction and increased pressure. As a protective mechanism, the skin hardens and thickens and can develop lesions such as corns and callouses.
- Trauma: Traumatic injury to the foot can result in bruising, irritation and also fracture.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Warts, also called common warts or verrucae, are small, rough, rounded growths on the top layer of the skin. They may appear alone or in clusters. Common warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are contagious through direct contact. They may spread from one place on the body to another simply through touch.
A corn is a hard, thick layer of skin that develops when the skin experiences lots of friction and pressure. A corn may cause discomfort, but is of no big concern.
Top Symptoms: thickened skin on the foot with visible lines, foot bump with lines through the thickened skin, painful thickened skin, skin thickening
Symptoms that always occur with corn: thickened skin on the foot with visible lines
Morton neuroma, also called by the older name Morton's neuroma, is a thickening of fibrous tissue in the ball of the foot. This tissue encapsulates the nerve leading to the third and fourth toes. It is not actually a tumor of the nerve, as the name suggests.
The thickening is caused by years of trauma, irritation, and/or compression to the feet. High-heeled shoes, especially if narrow or tight, are a common cause. The condition is most often seen in women over age 45.
Symptoms include burning pain in the ball of the foot, especially with walking or running. The condition will not heal on its own and can lead to chronic foot pain.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination of the foot with simple range of motion exercises, and sometimes x-ray.
Treatment includes changing to better-fitting shoes that do not compress the nerve; using orthotics in the shoes to take more pressure off of the nerve; and in some cases the use of corticosteroid injections.
Top Symptoms: foot numbness, pain in the sole of the foot, pain when touching the foot, pain in both feet, foot injury
Lipoma is a word that translates as "fatty tumor," but a lipoma is not cancer. It is simply a growth of fat between the muscle layer and the skin above it.
The exact cause is not known. The condition does run in families and is associated with other unusual syndromes such as adiposis dolorosa, which is similar. Lipomas most often appear after age 40.
Symptoms include a soft, easily moveable lump beneath the skin, about two inches across. A lipoma is painless unless its growth is irritating the nerves around it. They are most often found on the back, neck, and abdomen, and sometimes the arms and upper legs.
It is a good idea to have any new or unusual growth checked by a medical provider, just to make certain it is benign.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination, biopsy, and imaging such as ultrasound or CT scan.
Most of the time, treatment is not necessary unless the lipoma is unsightly or is interfering with other structures. It can be removed through surgery or liposuction.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored groin bump, marble sized groin lump, small groin lump
Symptoms that always occur with lipoma: skin-colored groin bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
The Achilles tendon connects the back of the heel to the muscles of the calves. Achilles tendonitis can be an acute or chronic condition. The term tendonitis implies inflammatory cells in the region of the tendon. While this may be true in acute cases of tendon overuse or tendon ..
A cyst is a small sac or lump, filled with fluid, air, fat, or other material, that begins to grow somewhere in the body for no apparent reason. A skin cyst is one that forms just beneath the skin.
It's believed that skin cysts form around trapped keratin cells – the cells that form the relatively tough outer layer of the skin.
These cysts are not contagious.
Anyone can get a skin cyst, but they are most common in those who are over age 18, have acne, or have injured the skin.
Symptoms include the appearance of a small, rounded lump under the skin. Cysts are normally painless unless infected, when they will be reddened and sore and contain pus.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination. A small cyst can be left alone, though if it is unsightly or large enough to interfere with movement it can be removed in a simple procedure done in a doctor's office. An infected cyst must be treated so that the infection does not spread.
Top Symptoms: skin-colored armpit bump, marble sized armpit lump, small armpit lump
Symptoms that always occur with skin cyst: skin-colored armpit bump
Urgency: Wait and watch
Arthritis is a general term for multiple conditions that cause painful inflammation and stiffness throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition that is autoimmune in nature, meaning that the body's immune system which normally protects the body by att..
Gout is a form of arthritis that causes sudden pain, stiffness, and swelling in a joint. The big toe is often affected.
Top Symptoms: swollen toes
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Osteoid osteoma is a noncancerous bone tumor. It is most commonly found in the femur (thighbone) close to where it inserts into the hip bone. These tumors are also found in the tibia (shinbone) and the spine. Osteoid osteoma is not considered a cancerous tumor as it is very unlikely to sprea..
Ewing sarcoma is a type of bone cancer often affecting the legs, pelvis, ribs, arms or spine. It can occur anytime during childhood and young adulthood; it is rarely seen in adults.
Rarity: Ultra rare
Top Symptoms: fatigue, loss of appetite, new headache, fever, rib pain
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Hard foot lump treatments and relief
When to see a doctor
The causes of hard foot lumps are varied and treatment is dependent on the specific cause, making it important to see your doctor. Many treatment options are surgical in nature and involve invasive or noninvasive removal of the lump. Treatment for lumps is usually only necessary if they are causing further symptoms or are distressing to you; however, removal for cosmetic reasons is also acceptable. Surgical options include:
- Cryosurgery: The application of extreme cold to destroy and remove diseased tissue.
- Electrodesiccation: The use of an electric current to remove skin lesions.
- Shave excision: The use of a sharp razor with or without an electrode to feather the edges of a lesion to make it smaller or less noticeable.
- Scissors: At times the solution is to simply cut off the lesion/lump with surgical scissors.
If the hard foot lump is associated with an infection, your physician will prescribe appropriate antibiotics to treat the condition and prevent complications. If your hard foot lump and associated symptoms are due to cancer, your physician will discuss treatment options including surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
FAQs about a hard foot lump
Will my walking be affected by my hard foot lump?
Your foot lump may make it more painful to walk, and the extent and severity of the pain can be dependent on the location of the lump (forefoot, midfoot, hindfoot). Walking is most often affected by lumps that develop in the forefoot and midfoot.
Why is there fluid draining from my hard foot lump?
If there is fluid or pus coming out of your hard foot lump, it may be the result of an infectious abscess. Abscesses can arise from a cut or disruption of the skin such as a blister or insect bite and even from a retained foreign body such as a splinter or piece of glass.
Are there ways to prevent hard foot lumps?
There are many things you can do to prevent hard foot lumps that develop due to pressure and friction. For example, wearing roomy shoes that are not too tight can help prevent rubbing or pinching that can result in corns and calluses. It is also very important to regularly inspect the feet for cuts or lesions so that they do not worsen.
Is my hard foot lump chronic or temporary?
A hard bump on the foot may be temporary or chronic depending on the cause. Acute injuries that result in bumps such as fractures and infections are often temporary; however, if they are not treated appropriately they can become chronic bumps that are difficult to treat.
Why does my foot feel numb in the setting of my hard lump?
Your numbness may be due to the lump causing injury, compression or irritation to a nerve or branch of one of the nerves in the foot. However, metabolic dysfunction, such as in diabetes, can result in peripheral neuropathy that can cause numbness, making it more difficult for some people to feel cuts and lesions that develop into hard lumps.
Dr. Gambrah-Lyles is a resident pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (2019). She graduated cum laude and received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis (2013). Her research explores the intersections between neurology, public health, and infectious disease. She has investigated nutrition and cerebral palsy in Botswana, and completed a year-long project in Brazil, researching growth and developmental outcomes of Zika virus infection in pediatric patients as a Doris Duke International Scholar. Dr. Gambrah-Lyles speaks four languages, loves staying active, and enjoys sharing her love for medicine through teaching and writing.
- Feldman E. Patient education: Diabetic neuropathy (beyond the basics). UpToDate. Updated September 21, 2017. UpToDate Link
- Ralph JW. Evaluation of polyneuropathy. BMJ Best Practice. Updated June 2018. BMJ Link
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- Houghton KM. Review for the generalist: Evaluation of pediatric foot and ankle pain. Pediatr Rheumatol Online J. 2008;6:6. NCBI Link