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What Causes Chronic Foot Pain?

chronic foot pain

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Prolonged foot discomfort can really slow you down, and its cause isn't always clear, but figuring that out is necessary to know which kind of treatment will work for you.

There are several common sources of chronic foot pain, so it might be helpful to ask yourself a couple of questions to narrow down what's wrong. ShoeBuy's here to help you head in the right direction, but, of course, always ask your physician for help diagnosing and treating foot pain.

Where Does It Hurt?

Try to isolate the area of your foot that hurts most. We've outlined the most common conditions, excluding more urgent ones like sprains and broken bones – stay off your feet and seek medical attention right away if your pain is sudden and/or serious.

heel pain

If you answered heel, it's possible you're suffering from plantar fasciitis, an inflammation caused by excessive stretching of the plantar fascia.

Another possibility is you could have a heel spur, which is an abnormal growth of bone on the bottom of the heel bone.

ball of your foot pain

Ball of Your Foot
If you answered the ball of your foot, you're likely experiencing metatarsalgia, or pain and inflammation due to excessive activity or ill-fitting shoes.

Another possibility is you may be suffering from Morton's neuroma, which is characterized by foot pain, odd sensations, or numbness over the ball of the foot. Morton's neuroma is more commonly found in women and is the result of tissue thickening around the nerve between the bases of the toes, often caused by high heels or tight shoes. Some say pain is beauty (not ShoeBuy!), but if you're experiencing this kind of discomfort, it might be time to put away the stilettos! Early diagnosis of and care for a Morton's neuroma can greatly reduce the need for invasive treatments (possibly including surgery), so be sure to talk to your doctor if you suspect this may be the culprit.

arch pain

If you answered the arch of your foot, it's very possible you're suffering from plantar fasciitis.

Another possible explanation for pain in the ball of the foot is over-pronation, often also referred to as fallen arches or flat feet. The foot pronates, as weight is transferred from the heel to the forefoot, causing the foot to roll inwards and the arch to flatten. This is a completely natural and necessary motion that allows us to walk and run properly. If your foot over-pronates though, that means it's rolling in more than it should. Over-pronation can lead to shin splints, plantar fasciitis, bunions, and Achilles tendonitis, among other foot-related ailments.

toe pain

If you answered the toes, there are a few common explanations for what might be causing your pain.

If you're experiencing stiffness, you may be suffering from arthritis or gout. Gout is an inflammatory condition where crystals periodically deposit in joints, causing severe pain and swelling, and most commonly occurs in the big toe.

4 Toe Conditions with Visible Signs:

  • Bunion: an unnatural, bony hump that forms at the base of the big toe.
  • Hammer toe: one or more of the small toes bends at the joint between the first and second toe segments so that the tip of the toe turns downward, making it look like a hammer or claw.
  • Claw toe: joint at the end of a toe is unable to straighten, causing the toe to point down or up.
  • Ingrown toenail: skin on one or both sides of a toenail grows over the nail.

When Does It Hurt?

For some of these conditions, the time of day during which you experience the most pain can be very telling. So if you're still not sure, think about your pain's timing.

morning foot pain

For instance, pain caused by plantar fasciitis is usually worse in the morning or after any prolonged rest, and can also be accompanied by arch pain. If you experience the most pain when walking or standing, however, a heel spur may instead be to blame.

evening foot pain

Episodes of pain caused by gout, on the other hand, are more likely to occur at night as the monosodium urate crystals form in bones, joints, and soft tissues, which experts believe happens at cooler temperatures.

What Do I Do Now?

Ouch! While these ailments may seem minor in comparison to more serious health problems or sudden injuries like sprains and broken bones, they can still cause a lot of discomfort and require some TLC, including rest, switching to comfortable shoes, using orthotics and inserts, as well as stretching and strengthening exercises. Of course, keep your doctor in the loop so you get the correct diagnosis and treatment options. We hope you're back on your feet and feeling your best soon!

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7 Tips to Manage Chronic Foot Pain
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What to Look For in a Shoe if You Have Foot Pain
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Frequently Asked Questions:

  Q. What is Plantar Fasciitis?

A. One of the most common foot ailments, it's helpful to identify what is causing strain to effectively treat plantar fasciitis. Here's what to look for.

Read more here

  Q. What is the Plantar Fascia?

A. Find out why this fibrous tissue is so important to your feet, and how overuse can become a serious pain.

Read more here

  Q. What is the Wet Foot Test?

A. Take this two-step test to find out your arch type!

Read more here

  Q. What is Pronation?

A. Pronation is the natural process that helps to provide shock absorption as you walk or run. Learn how it works.

Read more here

  Q. What is Over-Pronation?

A. A While a certain amount of pronation is necessary, over-pronation can lead to painful injuries, like these...

Read more here

  Q. What is Supination?

A. Supination is a natural process that allows us to walk and run properly. Learn how it works.

Read more here

  Q. What are Shin Splints?

A. While "shin splints" is not a medical diagnosis, the discomfort being experienced is likely indicative of one.

Read more here

  Q. What is a Bunion?

A. We've all heard our grandmothers talk about them before, but what actually is a bunion?

Read more here

  Q. What is Achilles tendonitis?

A. The Achilles tendon is your best friend when it comes to walking, running, and jumping, so inflammation of it can be a real pain. Find out more.

Read more here

  Q. What is Metatarsalgia?

A. Metatarsalgia is a fancy word for pain in the ball of the foot. Find out what causes this discomfort, and how to treat it.

Read more here

  Q. What are Flat Feet?

A. Fallen arches, also knows as flat feet, refers to an abnormal foot arch, and may be the reason for your foot pain.

Read more here

  Q. What is Arthritis?

A. Find out how arthritis, including gout, can cause foot pain, especially in the big toe.

Read more here

  Q. What is Gout?

A. A form of arthritis, gout most commonly occurs in the big toe. Learn more about what causes this inflammatory condition.

Read more here

  Q. What is Hammer Toe?

A. Often caused by wearing tight shoes, a hammer toe is a painful abnormality. Here's what to look for.

Read more here

  Q. What is Claw Toe?

A. Often a result of nerve damage, a claw toe is a painful abnormality. Here's what to look for.

Read more here

  Q. What is an Ingrown Toenail?

A. Ingrown toenails are a pain, and can be caused by injury, ill-fitting shoes, or improper foot care. Learn how to avoid them.

Read more here

  Q. What's a heel counter?

A. The heel counter controls the foot's pronation, and is key to providing foot and ankle support. Find out what to look for.

Read more here

  Q. What's a shoe's sole?

A. Every shoe has a sole, which provides protection from the ground with each step. Learn what to look for to get the support you need.

Read more here

  Q. What's a rocker sole shoe?

A. A rocker sole shoe (aka a rocker bottom shoe) is a type of shoe that has a thicker sole with a rounded heel. Learn more about the two types of rocker soles.

Read more here