Here’s a challenge, find me a region of the body (other than the foot) that contains more than 26 bones, 33 joints and more than a hundred tendons, ligaments and muscles. Okay okay, unfair challenge, because there are none! No wonder foot pain can be such a common and tricky beast.
The foot and it’s vast number of structures allow it to function in the most intricate of ways, making our job as podiatrists exceedingly exciting and interesting. Our feet perform differently when across a range of planes and axes, when weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing, in shoes or out of shoes and with or without orthotics. While this broad number of anatomical structures allows the foot to operate in the complex manner required to provide a stable foundation for the body, lots of structures (bones, joints, tendons etc) can unfortunately lead to lots of different types of foot pain.
Causes of Foot Pain
A lot of our time as podiatrists is spent educating our patients, be it footwear education, exercise and training education or nail care education. One of the most difficult topics to educate patients about is pain. All too often a patient will come into my treatment room, sit on the chair and their opening line will be “it’s probably nothing but…”. If something is sore, it’s sore for a reason, so dismissing your pain as ‘nothing’ is an attitude that will change once you leave my treatment room! Our role is to identify what’s causing the soreness, and put measures in place to achieve improvement.
So, what could be causing your foot pain? Are you experiencing heel pain, ball of foot pain or ankle pain? Do you have gnarly corns and calluses that give you trouble? Here is a guide to some self-assessment before hopping online and booking that much-needed podiatry appointment!
My 3-Step Self-Assessment Tool for Foot Pain
Step 1: The first thing to do is identify where the pain is coming from. Try narrowing it down to an area you can point to with just your index finger.
Step 2: Next, what do YOU think may be causing your pain? Think back over the past few days with the area identified in step 1 in mind. Take 30 seconds now to retrace your steps. Can you recall any incidents or changes that may be contributing? Did you lose balance on some uneven concrete when sprinting towards your bus stop the other day? Have you just purchased a new pair of Tony Bianco heels for that summer work wardrobe? Also consider family history and genetics? Did grandma also experience this kind of discomfort? History taking makes up 50% of a podiatry appointment and developing an understanding of the ‘why?’ is pivotal.
Step 3: What kind of pain are you experiencing? Is it dull and achy, sharp and intense, tingly and burning? Does it come and go, or is it constant all day long? When does this pain occur? First thing in the morning? Does it keep you up at night or prevent you from walking normally?
By now, you should have a pretty detailed history ready for your podiatrist to help you get to the bottom of your pain! Below is a table of a few common causes of foot pain and how they can sometimes be identified using the 3-step tool above:
Foot Pain Causes
|Pathology||Step 1||Step 2||Step 3|
|Morton’s Neuroma||Pain under the ball of the foot. |
Usually under either the 2nd or 3rd toe joints
High impact activity on hard surfaces
|Tingly and burning sensation|
|Bunions or Hallux Abductovalgus (HAV)||Foot pain on the inside of the big toe joint||Genetics|
Can sometimes be asymptomatic
|Heel pain |
|Pain under the arch|
Pain under the heel
Pain under the spot where the arch and heel connect
|Sudden increase or change in training/exercise|
Often first thing in the morning or after long periods of sitting
|Callus or Corn||Usually found in high pressure areas on the sole of the foot||Footwear|
Lack of fat padding under the foot
Protruding bony prominences
|Ingrown Toenails||Usually on the inside or outside nail edges of the big toe|
May sometimes effect the lesser digits
Incorrect trimming of nails
An involuted nail type
Picking at the nails
Night pain can sometimes occur when in contact with bed sheets
As you can see, foot pain can certainly impact your lifestyle by causing all different sorts of pain in all different locations. Presenting to your podiatrist and determining a well-developed history of the pain will be paramount in getting to the bottom of the cause.
Foot pain is certainly not ‘nothing’. If you are experiencing any sort of foot pain that is having even the smallest impact on your lifestyle, please feel free to visit one of the podiatry team at PridePlus Health.
It would be our pleasure to get you back on your feet again.