Healthy feet often travel miles each day. You use them to get up and down supermarket aisles, climb stairs, and walk on the treadmill, among other things. Any pain or discomfort in your feet can really slow you down and impact your life. Let's talk about foot pain, and what to do if you have it.
A lot of different things can cause foot pain, including those stiletto heels you couldn't resist passing by the shoe store window at the mall. Wearing poorly fitting or high-heeled shoes day after day can squeeze and pinch your feet until they start to hurt.
For example, shoes that are too narrow can cause bunions, swollen bumps at the base of your big toe. Wearing shoes that are too tight can curl your toes until they look like a claw. That's called a hammer toe. When your feet rub against your shoes, you can get areas of thickened skin called calluses or corns. And too much pressure from your shoes on the soles of your feet can create an opening for a viral infection called plantar warts.
If your shoes aren't a problem, you may have one of several conditions that cause foot pain. Arthritis, a fractured or broken bone, gout, tendinitis, plantar fasciitis can all make your feet hurt. You're more likely to have foot problems as you get older and your joints wear down. Being overweight puts extra pressure on your feet, which can also lead to pain.
So, what do you do if your feet hurt?
That depends on what's causing your pain. Sometimes you can treat foot pain at home. For example, you can hold ice to your foot to bring down swelling, and take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Try to keep off the painful foot as much as you can. Sit with your feet raised until they start to feel at least a bit better. Wearing foot pads and other shoe inserts may also help your feet heal and prevent future pain.
Sometimes you'll need to see a doctor, especially if the pain is due to an injury, or it's severe, or it hasn't improved after a couple of weeks of treatment at home. Your podiatrist can examine your feet, diagnose the problem, and remove any growths like warts, corns, or calluses. A foot doctor can also treat a broken or fractured bone. Depending on how serious the problem is, you may even need surgery to treat it.
There are ways to prevent foot pain before it can start-like being careful when you exercise. Working out is great, but you never want to run or jump hard enough to damage your feet. Losing weight can also help take some of the pressure off of your feet.
Probably the kindest thing you can do for your feet is to wear comfortable shoes. Your shoes should fit properly, supporting and cushioning your feet while leaving plenty of room for your toes to wiggle around. So, when you're shoe shopping, leave the stilettos on the shelf, and reach for a comfortable, attractive option instead. Your feet will thank you by not causing you pain.
Review Date: 2/19/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.