Blisters 5 min read

Foot and heel pain and problems

Foot and heel pain and problems Foot and heel pain and problems Foot and heel pain and problems

Foot pain can occur as a result of numerous conditions. It could be anything from a blister to something more serious like a fracture or ruptured tendon. Whatever is causing your foot pain, you’ll want to know how you can manage it to carry on enjoying life to the fullest.

  • Foot and heel pain covers a range of complaints
  • If you’re unable to walk, seek medical help
  • Some causes of foot pain include blisters, corns and bunions

In this article:

  • Heel pain – what can cause it?
  • Typical causes of toe pain
  • Other causes of foot pain and problems
  • What to do if you have foot pain
  • Summary

Heel pain – what can cause it?

Heel pain is very common. According to NHS Inform, one in 10 people will experience heel pain at some point in their life. People who run or jog, and people aged 40-60 years, are most likely to be affected by heel pain[1].

You might be able to work out what’s causing your heel pain depending on when it hurts and the type of pain you experience. Different causes, such as impact injuries or poorly fitting shoes, will have specific symptoms. Some common causes include:

Cracked heels

Cracked heels (heel fissures) aren’t usually painful. However, if they’re left untreated, the cracks in your skin can become worse[2]. As they worsen, they may start to cause pain and discomfort when walking or putting weight on your heels[2]. Using a thick moisturizing cream daily can hydrate the skin on your heels and prevent them from cracking further. This may also help heal any existing cracks[2].

Plantar fascia damage

Plantar fascia damage, also known as plantar fasciitis, is one of the most common causes of heel pain[3]. It occurs because of inflammation in the thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes [3].

The condition typically causes sharp, stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot, close to your heel[3]. The pain is usually worse first thing in the morning or after periods of standing still[3]. In most cases, the pain will ease throughout the day. You may also notice the pain resurfacing after long periods of exercise[3].

Achilles tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis develops when you overuse your Achilles tendon [4], which is the tendon that connects your calf to your foot[4]. It’s most common in runners who suddenly increase the intensity, duration, or regularity of their runs[4].

Most cases cause pain in the ankle or lower calf when standing on tiptoes or extending your foot[5]. You might also notice some tenderness or stiffness first thing in the morning or after long stationary periods. This should ease as you move around more[4].

Heel fracture or ruptured Achilles

A heel fracture or ruptured Achilles tendon can be incredibly painful. Both are caused by impact injuries and are usually identified by a sharp pain or popping sound as the injury happens[6]. You’ll also notice some swelling around your ankle and will have difficulty walking[6]. These injuries may need surgery, but many cases can be managed with at-home treatments[6].

Blisters

Blisters on heals are common especially if your shoes pinch or rub[8].

Typical causes of toe pain

Toe pain can have many causes, from blisters to muscle injuries. You can treat and manage most cases of toe pain at home, but if your symptoms persist, you should speak to your doctor[7]. The longer your symptoms last, the more serious the cause of your toe pain could be.

Some of the most common causes of toe pain include:

Blisters

If your shoes pinch or rub around the toe area, you’re likely to develop blisters on your toes[8]. Blisters between your  toes can also develop from rubbing and if you have a fungal infection, like athlete’s foot[8].

COMPEED® Advanced Blister Care Mixed Sizes

COMPEED® Advanced Blister Care Mixed Sizes

  • Provides instant pain relief
  • Provides optimum healing conditions
  • Forms a protective cushion
Buy today

Corns

Corns are hard, thick patches of skin that develop on your feet, toes or hands[9]. They’re not usually serious, but they can be painful. Corns usually look like small, hard lumps with a dome-like shape[9].

Bunions

Bunions typically form on the sides of your feet, near the base of your big toe[10]. You may find that a bunion causes your big toe to push towards your other toes or that it looks red and swollen at the base[10].

Calluses

Calluses, like corns, are hard, thick patches of skin[9]. But they usually look more like flat patches of dry or dead skin instead of having the raised appearance of corns[9]. Despite their differences, corns and calluses can often be treated in similar ways[9].

Bone conditions

Certain bone conditions can affect the toes and cause pain. Examples include Freiberg’s disease and sesamoiditis.

Freiberg’s disease is generally caused by repetitive stress on the plates between your toes[11]. Sesamoiditis, which typically affects dancers, is caused by inflammation in the bones at the balls of your feet [12].

Muscle injuries

Muscle injuries, like plantar plate tears, can also lead to pain in your toes[13]. It can develop from untreated bunions, impact or repetitive stress injuries[13]. The condition affects the plantar plate, which sits below your second toe, but it can impact any toe[13].

Nerve pain

Morton’s neuroma is a condition where a nerve between your third and fourth toes is damaged[14]. It’s most likely caused by wearing tight or pointy-toed shoes and usually gets worse over time[14].

Other causes of foot pain and problems

The above causes aren’t a definitive list of reasons your feet might hurt. Other foot problems which could cause foot pain include:

Tarsal tunnel

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure damage to the tibial nerve near your ankle[15]. People with tarsal tunnel syndrome may have pain, numbness, or tingling along their tibial nerve[15]. It’s also common for people with the condition to experience pain in the sole of their foot or inner ankle[15].

For some people, symptoms progress gradually, whereas others experience a sudden surge of pain[15]. In most cases, the pain is often made worse by physical activity[15].

Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is identified by pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot[16]. You’re more likely to develop the condition if you participate in activities that involve lots of running and jumping[16].

While it usually isn’t severe, metatarsalgia can hold you back from certain activities[16]. At-home treatments often relieve symptoms, such as using ice packs and getting plenty of rest[16]. Wearing shoes with shock-absorbing insoles or arch supports might also help minimize symptoms[16].

Fallen arches / Flat feet

If your feet press flat on the ground, you have what’s known as flat feet, or ‘fallen arches’[17]. While they’re usually nothing to worry about and generally cause no symptoms, some people do experience some pain in their heel or foot arch[18]. Other rare symptoms include swelling around the ankle[18].

Gout

Gout is a form of arthritis that typically runs in families[19]. It is not an injury to the foot, but actually an aggregation of urate crystals due to diet and lifestyle. It can cause ‘attacks’ of sudden, severe joint pain which usually last between five to seven days[19]. Most cases don’t cause any lasting damage to your joints, especially if you speak to your doctor about how best to manage the condition[19]. You should seek immediate help if you[19]:

  • Notice the pain increasing
  • Also have a fever
  • Have a feeling of sickness
  • Are unable to eat.

These symptoms could mean you have an infection and need urgent medical attention[19].

What to do if you have foot pain

You can manage most of the conditions we’ve mentioned at home until they improve. Some, like flat feet and bunions, may need surgery if they seriously affect your ability to walk.

Compeed provides a range of products to help tackle blisters and corns.

If you find that your foot pain is causing you difficulties in getting around or doing the things you love, it’s always best to speak to a doctor. They will be able to advise you on how best to manage your pain and treat the condition.

Summary

Most conditions causing foot pain should sort themselves out in a matter of weeks and can be eased by a range of simple treatments and good foot care practices. If your condition doesn’t improve, or gets worse, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor. They may be able to recommend further treatment to help alleviate the problem or manage your symptoms.

Rita Wanser
Rita Wanser
Medical Affairs Consultant
Rita is a Medical Affairs consultant and has worked with HRA for 3 years. She has been in the industry for over 40 years, building medical materials and claims substantiation for hundreds of cosmetic, personal care and consumer healthcare products. She has an extensive background in medical devices for wound and lip care, and has worked for several major Consumer Healthcare companies prior to beginning her consulting business in 2017.

Sources

2

Healthline. What Are Heel Fissures. 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-are-heel-fissures

8

Healthline. Blister Between Toes. 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/blister-between-toes

9

NHS. Corns and Calluses. 2018. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/corns-and-calluses/

11

Patient.info. Freiberg’s Disease. 2020 https://patient.info/doctor/freibergs-disease

12

Cleveland Clinic.org. Sesamoiditis. 2021. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21671-sesamoiditis

13

Cleveland Clinic.org. Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Ball of Foot Pain. 2019. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-shouldnt-ignore-ball-of-foot-pain/

14

NHS. Morton’s Neuroma. 2018. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/mortons-neuroma/

15

Healthline. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome. 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/tarsal-tunnel-syndrome

17

NHS. Flat Feet. 2018. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flat-feet/

18

Mayo Clinic.org. Flat Feet Causes and Symptoms. 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flatfeet/symptoms-causes/syc-20372604