Walking is hailed as one of the most simple, effective, and accessible kinds of exercise, and this is true—as long as you don’t have foot discomfort that makes every step excruciating. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, 77 percent of adults in the United States have had foot difficulties, which implies that going for a walk may be less enticing than staying on the couch for the vast majority of us.

According to Rick Olderman, MSPT, an orthopedic physical therapist in Denver and author of Fixing You: Foot & Ankle Pain, “the foot contains almost as many bones as the hand and wrist, so it’s a difficult piece of real estate.” “Yet we don’t pay attention to our feet until something goes wrong.”

 

This may be especially true for women, as many of them wear shoes that are too small for their feet. What’s the end result? Bunions, hammertoes, and other painful foot deformities—all of these can make you walk with a spring in your step.

 

 

 

So, what’s a walker to do, especially if you’re a self-professed high-heel fan? “Understanding why you’re getting persistent foot pain is the first step in treating it,” adds Olderman. Here are the most prevalent concerns that may prevent you from pounding the pavement, as well as what you can do to reclaim your happy feet.

 

1. Plantar fasciitis

Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM, a podiatrist in Newark, Ohio, says, “This is by far the most common condition I see in my middle-aged patients.” Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammation of the band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot caused by overuse (called the plantar fascia).

 

Plantar fasciitis isn’t common in youngsters because they heal too quickly. And you don’t see it in older people because they aren’t out performing activities that contribute to it,” Dr. Oster explains. However, if you’re between the ages of 40 and 65, you’re more prone to suffer from heel discomfort, especially if you’re overweight.

 

 

 

 

According to Dr. Oster, the impact on your feet is around 120 percent of your weight. “This causes the tissue in the foot to become less elastic over time, resulting in pain,” says the author.

 

Massage and stretch your feet and calves for a quick relief.

According to Rachel Scott, a medical massage therapist in Lynnwood, Washington, not only can massaging and stretching help relieve inflammation by causing a fresh supply of oxygenated blood to rush to the area, but it can also lengthen the plantar flexor muscles, allowing them to move more freely and with less pain.

 

“People tend to focus simply on the bottom of the foot, forgetting that the plantar fascia is part of a system that begins with the calf muscles and ends with the Achilles tendon,” Scott explains. (Take a look at this plantar fasciitis massage.)

 

While changing your shoes or trying different insoles won’t heal your plantar fasciitis, it can make things a lot more comfortable. Below are several podiatrist-approved alternatives with plenty of arch support, a firm but flexible midsole, and front-to-back cushioning:

 

Sport Orthotic Shoes

Sport Orthotics Shoes

Plantar Fasciitis Insoles

Orthotics for Plantar Fasciitis

Insole for heel pain

 

 

2. Bunions
bunions foot pain

Bunions are characterized by a solid, painful lump at the base of the big toe, which might cause that toe to veer diagonally toward the second toe. According to Suzanne C. Fuchs, DPM, a holistic podiatrist and fitness specialist in New Hyde Park, New York, bunions can develop worse if you wear too-tight shoes on a regular basis. She explains, “These joints usually get painful when shoes brush on them, causing inflammation, swelling, and redness.”

 

Foot fix: Choose the correct shoes.

Dr. Fuchs recommends wearing shoes with a bigger toe box to help prevent bunions in the first place. Between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe, there should be about a half-inch of room. (Here are some of our favorite bunions-friendly shoes.) “Your shoes should not put too much pressure on your toes or cause them to crush up,” she advises.

 

According to Dr. Fuchs, you could also add specific cushioning to your shoes to help eliminate calluses (which are created when these enlarged toe joints rub against your shoes) or consult your doctor about adding orthotics to your shoes. She explains that these prescription inserts can assist to enhance the biomechanics of the foot by balancing the muscles and tendons and preventing bunions and hammertoes from deteriorating.

 

 

3. Hammertoes

 

A hammertoe is a foot malformation in which the middle joint of your toe bends abnormally. When the muscles in your foot are out of balance, you have hammertoes.

 

“The top and bottom of your foot have muscles. A hammertoe can develop if one of those muscle groups is stronger than the other, according to Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a podiatric surgeon at City Podiatry in New York City. Because one or more toe muscles become weak, pressure is placed on the tendons and joints of one or more toes, causing the toe to become crooked. The toe will stick up at the joint as a result of this.

 

Wearing poorly constructed shoes that don’t fit your feet, sustaining an injury such as stubbing your toe, and having a family history of hammertoe are all prevalent reasons, according to Dr. Sutera. Corns and calluses are also common in people with hammertoe, she notes.

 

Use non-medicated corn pads to treat your feet.

 

 

Bandages for Corn Cushions

 

Dr. Sutera says, “I recommend non-medicated corn pads to my patients since they provide support and cushion while also helping to ease discomfort and minimize friction.”

 

Medicated corn pads should be avoided in this scenario, she advises, because the acid in the drug can eat away at your skin, causing germs to grow and an infection.

 

Dr. Sutera also suggests that you wear shoes that are the right size and designed for the activity you’re doing. “Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes all day long. Wear commuting shoes to work, but avoid wearing high heels all day,” she advises. Dr. Sutera recommends considering surgery if the problem develops and you’re in a lot of pain. She explains, “It only takes 15 minutes, you’re under local anaesthetic, and it’s covered by insurance.”

 

 

4. Flatfeet

Flatfeet arise when the arch of the foot is completely absent, causing the entire foot to touch the ground when standing. This is more widespread than you might think: over 18 million Americans suffer from the distressing ailment.

Flatfeet are common in children, but they can also occur later in life as a result of direct trauma to the posterior tibial tendon, which connects your calf muscles to the bones on the inside of your feet. “The posterior tibial tendon might become overworked and inflamed if you participate in high-intensity sports or exercise. Flatfeet can result as a result of this, according to Dr. Sutera. Flatfeet are also more likely to develop plantar fasciitis and bunions, according to her.

 

Wear orthotics to help your feet.

Dr. Sutera recommends wearing suitable shoes and orthotics, which force your foot to walk with an arch.

” Orthotics will also aid in the absorption of shock from walking or jogging, as well as the prevention of pain in the ankles, knees, and back, all of which are affected by flatfeet.

 

 

5. Calluses

Calluses are pressure sites that can be painful when walking, according to Dr. Oster. While most of us think of these regions of thick skin as just ugly, they are pressure points that can be uncomfortable when walking. Surprisingly, they’re the body’s way of preventing the formation of painful blisters. Without a callus, the pressure and friction would irritate your skin and cause blisters, which are painful, fluid-filled bubbles.

That won’t help if your calluses—which can appear on the ball of the foot, the heel, or the tops of bunions or hammertoes—make it difficult to walk or run comfortably.

 

Soak and soften your feet.

Soak your feet in warm water and then use a moisturizing lotion containing glycolic acid, lactic acid, or urea to treat calluses at home (like Eucerin Advanced Repair Foot Cream). These substances can aid in the softening of the skin and the reduction of calluses. Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist or dermatologist if your callus is unusually large or painful. They can remove it with a surgical blade or give you a cortisone shot if the discomfort is severe.

 

6. Turf toe

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, turf toe is a sprain of the big toe’s primary joint (AAOS). According to Miguel Cunha, DPM, a podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare, this can happen when the toe is forcibly bent up, such as when you’re sprinting and your toe becomes trapped on the ground.

Melissa Lockwood, DPM, a podiatrist at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates in Bloomington, Ill., and a diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Medicine, explains, “It can happen to any toe, but 90% of the time it’s the big one.” “It commonly occurs when you are attempting to push off your big toe and are pushed down by another force—a person rushing into you, a car collision, or riding a horse. It stretches and sometimes breaks the ligaments that surround the joint. It’s excruciating.”

According to the AAOS, the injury was given the moniker “turf toe” since it became increasingly common in football players after artificial grass became prominent on playing grounds. (Artificial turf is a firmer surface than grass and lacks the suppleness of other surfaces.) Turf toe is a painful condition that causes swelling and stiffness at the base of the big toe.

 

Dr. Cunha explains, “This develops slowly and progresses over time.”

Rest, freeze, compress, and elevate your toe as needed.

RICE is an acronym for rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, rice Dr. Cunha advises, “You want to make sure your injury gets the rest it needs, which can help prevent it from additional harm.” He recommends icing and compressing the area (any wrap would do) to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

 

Finally, to relieve pressure, elevate your foot (say, on top of a cushion). “You want to pay close attention to make sure you’re not further harming yourself because your feet take on pressure that you don’t even realize,” Dr. Cunha explains.

 

 

7. Achilles tendonitis

When your Achilles tendon, which connects your heel bone to the back of your foot, is overworked, it can become irritated and inflamed, according to Dr. Fuchs. Tendonitis is the result, and runners, as well as individuals who wear high heels on a daily basis, are particularly vulnerable, according to her. Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout are other possible reasons, albeit they are less common.

Rest, ice, and repeat for your feet.

Dr. Fuchs recommends avoiding any activities that aggravates your pain for a week to a month to nip this problem in the bud. Ice the area as soon as you feel even a minor discomfort. Your doctor may also recommend that you take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (such as Motrin or Advil) to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

 

 

8. Metatarsalgia

Dr. Cunha explains, “This is a common foot condition that can affect the bones and joints near the ball of the foot.”

 

According to Dr. Cunha, most metatarsal disorders arise when something changes in the way your foot normally works, affecting how your weight is distributed. This might place additional strain on the ball of our foot, causing irritation and pain.

Metatarsalgia can be caused by a single condition, but it is more often caused by a combination of causes, such as rigorous training. “Runners are at risk for metatarsalgia,” adds Dr. Cunha, “because the front of your foot absorbs a lot of stress when you run.” “This ailment is typical when engaging in high-impact sports, particularly if your shoes are ill-fitting or worn out.”

 

Get new shoes, think about orthotics, and take it easy on your feet.

According to Dr. Cunha, your doctor would most likely order an X-ray to ensure that your bones and joints are in good shape and that you aren’t suffering from a stress fracture.

 

If your shoes are worn out, you should replace them. Dr. Cunha explains that footwear with a high, broad toe box and a rocker sole is perfect for treating metatarsalgia. “The rocker sole lessens stress on the ball of the foot while the high, wide toe box allows the foot to extend out.” Orthotics developed to relieve pain in the ball of the foot can also help, according to him.

 

Resting, icing, and using oral and topical anti-inflammatories can also help, according to Dr. Cunha. If you’ve tried everything and are still in agony, your doctor may suggest surgery. (However, according to Dr. Cunha, it’s unusual that it’s required.)

 

 

9. Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a foot-specific version of carpal tunnel syndrome. “Mechanics ‘pinching’ the nerve causes it, similar to carpal tunnel,” adds Dr. Lockwood.

Because of a past ankle injury or flatfeet, this might cause discomfort, numbness, and tingling. According to Dr. Cunha, “people with flatfeet are more prone to tarsal tunnel syndrome because the outward tilting of the heel that happens with falling arches causes strain and tension on the nerve.”

 

Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories are the best ways to treat a sore foot.

RICE is a good solution, according to Dr. Cunha, who adds that “you can take anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation.” Physical therapy may also help relieve pain, and orthotics that support your foot’s arch and relieve stress on your tibial nerve (a major nerve in your lower body) aren’t a bad idea, either.

 

10. Morton’s neuroma

According to Dr. Fuchs, this ailment causes pain in the ball of your foot that usually radiates to your third and fourth toes. She describes it as “feeling like you’re standing on a stone caught in your shoe.”

 

Morton’s neuroma is frequently caused by women wearing high heels or sharp, narrow shoes, according to Dr. Sutera. “When you wear tight shoes, your metatarsals, which are the bones in your foot, are squeezed. She says that they put pressure on the nerves around them, generating a sharp, stabbing pain.

 

Morton’s neuroma can also be caused by high-impact activities like tennis and running. The nerves that lead to your toes might be injured by hammering on hard surfaces repeatedly. Morton’s neuroma is more common in people who have bunions, hammertoes, high arches, or flatfeet.

 

New shoes, bespoke orthotics, and possibly cortisone injections are all options for your feet.

Dr. Sutera recommends massaging the region between your metatarsals for immediate relief. “Massage the top of your foot with your thumbs, and apply pressure to the bottom with your other fingers. “Massage the crevices between your toes where the nerves are located,” she recommends.

 

Schedule an X-ray with your doctor to rule out any other issues, and then follow up with an ultrasound or MRI, which are stronger diagnostic techniques for detecting soft tissue abnormalities. Then, according to Dr. Fuchs, you might be in for a new shoe shopping trip, as ill-fitting shoes add to your problem and make the pain worse.

 

“You might try arch supports, foot pads, or custom orthotics to assist curve and cushion your foot when walking,” she explains. Dr. Sutera also suggests switching up your footwear and discarding shoes with uneven or damaged soles. If these more conservative measures fail, cortisone injections or even surgery to relieve nerve compression may be necessary.

 

 

11. Arthritis

Arthritis develops when the cartilage in your joints wears away, causing inflammation. It mainly affects the big toe joint in the feet, but it can also affect other joints, according to Dr. Cunha.

 

Arthritis is often linked to previous accidents and traumas such as broken bones and sprains, but one of the most important reasons is age, as cartilage wears down with time, he notes.

 

Tenderness and soreness, stiff and swollen joints, and difficulty walking or bearing weight are common symptoms.

 

Take anti-inflammatories, wear orthotics, and get physical therapy for your feet.

When it comes to arthritis treatment, there are a variety of alternatives, according to Dr. Cunha, and a lot relies on where the arthritis is located and how severe it is. Here are a few to think about:

 

Anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving drugs, both oral and topical

Injections of steroid

Orthotics made to order

An ankle-foot orthosis is a form of brace.

Physical therapy is a type of treatment that is used

Keeping a healthy weight is important.

If your arthritis doesn’t improve with further conservative therapies, your doctor may consider surgery, according to Dr. Cunha.

 

When should I go to the doctor about my foot pain?

 

Overall, Dr. Cunha advises that if you have persistent foot discomfort that is disturbing you, you should consult your doctor. This is especially true if it is affecting your quality of life and does not appear to be improving. Dr. Lockwood continues, “We have a number of conservative, non-surgical options to manage all of these conditions.”

 

 

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