Foot pain is one of the main reasons why someone might refer themselves to a podiatrist. Causes of pain might be obvious, for example ingrowing toe nails, verrucae, corns and callus, or the cause might be less obvious requiring a more detailed assessment.
Foot pain can occur in just about any part of your foot, from your toes to the back of your heel, on the top or bottom of one or both of your feet. Some foot pain is mild and temporary, while other foot pain is chronic and persistent throughout one’s lifetime. Our feet support our weight, act as shock absorbers, propel our legs forward, and help us keep our balance on uneven surfaces.
The average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day. With such important and constant duties to perform, our feet are susceptible to pain.
A staggering 72 percent of people say they do not exercise because foot pain prevents them from doing so. Minor foot pain can usually be taken care of at home, while severe pain should receive medical attention. If you leave foot pain untreated, it can lead to long-term disabilities or damage. Identifying the underlying problem that is causing the foot pain is key to treating and avoiding future pain or discomfort.
Almost 75 percent of people have had foot pain at some point in their life. There are four grades of foot pain:
- During activity
- Before and after, not affecting the performance
- Before, during and after activity, affecting the performance
- Pain that prevents performance
Foot pain symptoms to watch for
Other than the initial pain in the foot, there are additional symptoms that may accompany the foot pain, including:
- Tenderness when the foot is touched
- Increased pain when mobile and decrease in pain when resting
- Pain when the foot is moved
- Loss of function
- Weakness in the foot
- Numbness in the foot
- Change the way you walk to avoid pain
- Change in skin or nail colour
- You feel ill or are running a fever
- Stiffness in foot
Although all these causes are common, the most common causes of foot pain are the three at the top of the list. Poorly fitting shoes, whether too loose, too small, or too big, can cause pain in various places throughout the foot, ankle, leg, or even the lower back.
Injuring your foot can also cause enormous pain, depending on the severity of the damage. Excessive walking, running, jogging, climbing, or other activities that require you to stand or move around can lead to painful feet.
Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or arthritis can also cause foot pain, as blood circulation slows in the lower regions of the body.
When should I see a podiatrist?
Foot pain can be brought on by several causes; injuries, underlying conditions, or disorders.
Because of the many kinds of problems that can cause pain in your feet, it can sometimes be difficult to decide when it is best to seek medical attention. Here are some indicators that may suggest you should see your podiatrist:
- Pain is interfering with normal daily activities
- You cannot perform desired activities without pain
- Pain worsens when mobile
- Your foot is beginning to look deformed or misshapen
- You have a loss of function
- Changes in sensation occur- for example, you cannot feel heat from concrete on a hot day
- Severe swelling
- Changes in your skin colour or nail colour
- Heat in the painful area of the foot
- Your foot is tender to the touch
- If you are forcing yourself to walk or run a different way to avoid pain
What we do
Your podiatrist can diagnose your foot pain based on your activities, your medical history, the intensity of pain and obvious signs and symptoms.
X-rays and other imaging tests (ultra-sound, MRIs) may be requested if there are not obvious signs of an underlying cause, or if you are unable to put weight on your foot. Physical examinations may also reveal where the problem is in the foot. Your podiatrist may also refer to GPs for blood tests and onward referrals to other healthcare professionals if deemed necessary. I believe in inter-professional working to the benefit of my patients.