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Learn about your foot pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your foot pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Foot Pain Checker

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Your Foot Pain May Also be Known as:
Aches and pains in foot
Aches and pains in leg
Foot ache
Foot discomfort
Foot hurts
Foot is painful
Foot soreness
He hurt his foot
He hurt his leg

Foot Pain Symptoms

Our feet take a beating day in and day out, and most of the time, we don't even notice. That impressive feat is thanks to the body's natural structure and padding that cushions each step. Feet are much more complex than just five toes. A complex network of 26 bones and even more joints, ligaments and muscles work together to allow for an impressive range of motion. Still, lots of parts means there's plenty to break down, and most of us will experience foot pain symptoms at some point.

As we get older, the padding in our feet breaks down and we become more vulnerable to injury. In some cases, there is obvious irritation on the outside of the foot, while other times, the damage is deeper within. Medical conditions like diabetes can have a particularly severe impact on the feet.

Foot pain symptoms are often associated with:

Foot Pain Causes Overview

Most people first think of trauma as a cause of foot pain, and indeed, feet are particularly vulnerable to injury. There are many moving parts with dozens of bones and joints that form a complex arch. However, foot pain symptoms can also come from wear-and-tear or skin and nail concerns, for instance. Systemic illnesses may show up as foot pain as well.

Trauma:

  • Bone fracture: The many bones in the foot can be broken by direct force, such as in a fall or crush injury, or by stress and overuse.
  • Bone dislocation: There are many joints in the foot, and trauma may force a bone out of its proper position.
  • Tendon/ligament injury: Tendons and ligaments are connective tissue that maintains the structure of the foot. They can become worn out or injured by extreme movements.
  • Friction: Repeated rubbing against irritating surfaces such as ill-fitting footwear may lead to painful blisters and calluses.
  • Bruising: A direct blow to the foot may damage superficial nerves and blood vessels, leading to an injury that is painful to touch.

Joint issues:

  • Arthritis: Inflammation in the joints is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear or overuse, but systemic conditions like gout can also be to blame.
  • Misalignment: Over time, toe joints sometimes become misaligned, push painfully on surrounding structures and make walking difficult.

Nerve issues:

  • Neuropathy: Diabetes and other conditions damage nerves across the body, but those in the feet are particularly vulnerable. Nerve damage leads to painful numbness and tingling.
  • Compression: Just like carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist, nerves in the ankle and foot can become compressed, leading to uncomfortable nerve pain.

Infection:

  • Skin and soft tissue: Bacteria can enter through small breaks in the skin, leading to painful redness and swelling. Warts are caused by a viral infection.
  • Bone and joint: More serious infections penetrate deeper and may lead to amputations if not treated effective. Those with diabetes are most at risk for this problem.

Other foot pain causes:

  • Nail disease: Inflammation, infection and deformed or ingrown toenails can all be extremely painful.
  • Footwear: Shoes that are too loose or too tight are a prime setup for foot pain.
  • Obesity: Carrying extra weight cause feet to deal with extra stress even during everyday activities.

Top 10 Foot Pain Causes

  1. 1.Irritant Contact Dermatitis

    Contact dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes red, sore, or inflamed after direct contact with a substance. This condition may occur after repeated and prolonged exposure to substances such as water, detergents (soaps, bleach), solvents (gasoline), acids, powders, dust, and soil. The onset of the skin reaction is usually within 48 hours of contact with the substance.

    You can safely treat this condition on your own. The main treatment for this disease is to avoid the substance that triggers the skin inflammation. Moisturizer can also be helpful to provide relief for your inflamed skin.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot redness, thickened skin on the foot, rough skin on the foot
    Symptoms that always occur with irritant contact dermatitis:
    foot redness
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Skin Infection of the Foot

    Cellulitis is a common and possibly dangerous skin infection if left untreated. It is typically caused by bacteria living on the skin getting into the skin itself.

    You should visit your primary care doctor as soon as possible for a sick visit. He or she will examine the infection and possibly provide antibiotics.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, foot pain, foot redness, warm red foot swelling, swollen ankle
    Symptoms that always occur with skin infection of the foot:
    foot redness, foot pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Friction Blister on the Foot

    Friction blisters are very common among both men and women of all ages. They most commonly affect the feet due to lifting heavy loads, repetitive overuse, or ill-fitting shoes. The layers of skin become separated from mechanical force, and the body fills the gap with fluid.

    Friction blisters will heal on their own, however they can become infected if not properly cleaned. Soap and water followed by topical antibiotics will help to prevent infection. Additionally, a bandage will both keep the blister clean and help with discomfort. Do not attempt to pop a friction blister.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot blister, blister likely from friction, constant skin changes, rash
    Symptoms that always occur with friction blister on the foot:
    foot blister, blister likely from friction
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Foreign Body in Foot

    A foreign body in foot occurs when something like a splinter, nail, or glass becomes lodged in the skin.

    You should seek prompt care at an urgent care clinic. Gently clean the area with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage. Tetanus prophylaxis may be needed.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot stepping on an object
    Symptoms that always occur with foreign body in foot:
    foot pain, foot stepping on an object
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  5. 5.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate care with a specialist. RA is a complex disease, which can require prescription medication to help slow down the damage to your joints, as well as pain killers such as ibuprofen (Advil), or naproxen (Anaprox and Naprosyn). Exercise, especially swimming, can also help with pain and stiffness.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, muscle aches, joint pain, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.Severe Frostbite of the Lower Limbs

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    Those with suspected frostbite should have wet clothing removed. Rubbing affected areas worsens damage to the tissue. You should go to the ER by car, immediately. If rewarming can occur without chance of refreezing, it can be tried in the field. There, the doctors will guide you in gently re-warming the wounded area in 98-102F (37C-39C) water. Further, ibuprofen, antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and possibly surgery will be done to treat the pain and dead tissue. IV fluids will also be started. Hydrotherapy will be done daily to help with the wounded area.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot numbness, swollen foot, limping, toe numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with severe frostbite of the lower limbs:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  7. 7.Frostnip of the Lower Limbs

    Frostnip is damage of the outermost layers of the skin caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports.

    Those with suspected frostnip should have wet clothing removed. Rubbing affected areas worsens damage to the tissue. You should go to an urgent care. If rewarming can occur without chance of refreezing, it can be tried in the field. At urgent care, the doctors will guide you in gently re-warming the wounded area in 98-102F (37C-39C) water. Further, ibuprofen, antibiotics, and a tetanus shot may be necessary

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot numbness, swollen foot, limping, toe numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with frostnip of the lower limbs:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  8. 8.Mild Frostbite of the Lower Leg

    Frostbite is tissue damage caused by exposure to the cold (at or below 32F or 0C). It is most commonly found in people doing leisurely activities like camping, hunting, or snow sports. It is also more likely in those who are intoxicated or have a mental disorder.

    Those with suspected frostbite should have wet clothing removed. Rubbing affected areas worsens damage to the tissue. You should go to the ER by car, immediately. If rewarming can occur without chance of refreezing, it can be tried in the field. There, the doctors will guide you in gently re-warming the wounded area in 98-102F (37C-39C) water. Further, ibuprofen, antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and possibly surgery will be done to treat the pain and dead tissue. IV fluids will also be started. Hydrotherapy will be done daily to help with the wounded area.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    foot pain, foot numbness, swollen foot, limping, toe numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with mild frostbite of the lower leg:
    cold toe
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Diabetic Neuropathy

    Diabetic neuropathy is a condition where pain, numbness, weakness, and motor loss occur in the limbs due to the effects of diabetes on the nerves.

    You should visit your primary care physician when convenient, a diagnosis can be made with testing. If diagnosed, your physician can create a treatment plan to manage the pain and motor restrictions that come with this condition.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, depressed mood, trouble sleeping, diarrhea
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Skeletal Tuberculosis

    Skeletal tuberculosis is an infectious (bacterial) disease caused most often by a the human tubercular baccilus known as mycobacterium tuberculosis. This type of tuberculosis spreads through the blood, and has the capacity to affect most joints in the body (except perhaps the jaw bone).

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a specialist. Skeletal tuberculosis is an infectious disease which should be treated with prescription antibiotics.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    joint pain, back pain, fever, spontaneous bone pain, shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Foot Pain Treatments and Relief

No one should resort to ignoring their foot pain symptoms, especially if it interferes with everyday activities. There are easy steps you can take to address the problem at home, and if they don't work, a primary care doctor or podiatrist (foot specialist) may be able to help. Even those with no foot pain symptoms should get in the habit of regular foot maintenance, especially people with underlying medical conditions like diabetes.

Foot maintenance:

  • Wear properly fitting shoes: Though high heels may be pretty to look at, they're not great for your feet. Your shoes should be comfortable the first time you wear them, with just enough room for the widest part of your foot and your longest toe. Shoes should not chafe, and your heel should not pop out when walking.
  • Wash regularly: Wash your feet with warm (not hot) water and a mild soap. Be sure to dry thoroughly, especially between the toes. If you wish, apply lotion too.
  • Trim your toenails: Be sure to cut straight across, avoiding the corners to prevent ingrown nails.

At-home foot pain treatments:

  • Rest: Sometimes you have to put your feet up for a bit, especially if you've recently done a lot of physical activity.
  • Over-the-counter insoles: This extra padding can redirect the stress on your feet away from painful areas.
  • Ice: This is an old-fashioned but still effective method of reducing foot pain and swelling in your feet.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Painkillers like NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) reduce the severity of foot pain symptoms.

Professional foot pain treatments:

  • Immobilization: A split, cast or boot will promote healing of injured areas and reduce foot pain while the body mends.
  • Prescription medications: Anti-inflammatory drugs treat systemic conditions such as gout.
  • Referral: Your doctor may recommend a specialist like a rheumatologist if an underlying medical condition is to blame for your foot pain symptoms.
  • Surgery: Procedures range in complexity from corn and bunion removal to bone repair and fusion.

You should seek help without delay if you have:

  • A cold or pulseless foot
  • Dark colored toes or feet
  • Sudden loss of sensation or movement
  • Serious injury

FAQs About Foot Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about foot pain.

Can foot pain be caused by back problems?

Yes, spine and hip problems can alter an individual's style of walking or gait and can cause foot pain. More commonly, spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal, can place pressure on a nerve which may lead to foot pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in the foot. Spinal stenosis is normally a benign condition but can become worse with time.

What foot pain does diabetes cause?

Diabetes can cause foot damage by causing a loss of the ability to sense the pressure placed on a food from standing. The inability to sense pressure placed on a foot from standing pressure leaves an individual unable to shift to avoid pressure placed on a foot and can lead to damage of the bones of the foot. This is called a Charcot joint. Additionally, elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia) over a long period of time can cause damage to blood vessels which can decrease the ability of a an individual to heal injuries to the foot causing a "diabetic ulcer." All of these things can cause foot pain. Diabetics should get routine annual podiatry care in addition to their other providers.

Does foot pain indicate heart problems?

Foot pain can be caused as a symptom of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a disease in which the arteries of the foot are blocked and insufficient blood reaches the foot. A lack of blood flow to the foot may cause pain and then numbness and lack of function. If blood flow is not restored within an adequate amount of time the foot or some toes may need to be amputated.

What are the differences between diabetic foot pain and gout?

Gout is a disease caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals within the joint and the immune system activating as a response to the buildup of those crystals. It commonly affects the big toe, at which point it is called podagra. It can be treated with dietary changes or drugs that reduce the amount of uric acid within the blood or treat the inflammation. Diabetic foot pain is caused because of injury to the bones following loss of adequate sensation via nerve damage or loss of adequate blood flow via blood vessel damage.

Why does my foot pain get better with walking?

Plantar fasciitis may get better with walking as the plantar fascia — the connective tissue just under the skin — is stretched with walking and fluid that has accumulated in the plantar fascia is pushed out during the day as one walks.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Foot Pain

  • Q.Is your foot pain getting better or worse?
  • Q.How severe is your foot pain?
  • Q.Have you ever been told you have flat feet?
  • Q.Is the pain affecting:

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our foot pain symptom checker.

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Foot Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced foot pain have also experienced:

    • 7% Lower Leg Pain
    • 5% Upper Leg Pain
    • 5% Knee Pain
  • People who have experienced foot pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 39% Over a Month
    • 22% Less Than a Week
    • 20% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced foot pain were most often matched with:

    • 3% Skin Infection of the Foot
    • 3% Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Foot Pain Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having foot pain.

Take a quiz