Feet hurt from walking

Why Are My Feet Hurting When I Walk?

Q1. My feet have started to hurt a lot — so much that when I wake up in the morning I cannot walk barefoot for at least the first 20 minutes. I can’t be on my feet too much anymore without pain. What might be causing this, and what can I do to get some relief?

— Cinthia, California

What you are describing sounds like a painful condition known as plantar fasciitis. This is a situation where there is inflammation of the soft tissue along the sole of your foot, all the way from your heel to your toes. It may be caused by high-impact exercise, structural problems such as being flat-footed, arthritis, or ill-fitting shoes. It is also more common in people with diabetes. The most characteristic symptom of plantar fasciitis is severe shooting or burning pain in the feet in the morning. The pain typically improves after some movement (approximately 20 minutes), only to recur after periods of prolonged rest or intense activity.

Preventive measures include always wearing shoes that fit well, stretching in the morning and before any exercise, limiting high-impact exercises, and maintaining ideal body weight, as obesity does predispose to plantar fasciitis. The key is to exercise carefully rather than eliminating exercise altogether. Treatment includes surgical and nonsurgical approaches, though surgery is a last resort and is rarely necessary. Splints, orthotics, and physical therapy may hasten your recovery, but if the condition is left untreated, it can take as long as a year to totally resolve. In severe cases, injections with steroids or treatment with ultrasound may be warranted.

Q2. I have intense pain and swelling in my feet. When I get up, it feels as though I cannot support my body. I am in my mid 60s and do not have diabetes. What could this be?

Swelling of the feet, referred to medically as edema, can arise for a number of reasons ranging from simple matters, like improperly fitting shoes or stockings that are too tight, to congestive heart failure or an obstructive tumor in the pelvis. Swelling feet may also be a sign of liver or kidney problems. Though swelling is a common issue for patients with congenital lymphedema, the likelihood of this being the culprit is very slim. Obviously, this is an issue that requires careful medical evaluation. I suggest that you see a good internist for an evaluation of your symptoms.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Foot Health Center.

Foot fix: Choose the right shoes.

To help prevent bunions in the first place, make sure you’re wearing shoes with a wider toe box, says Dr. Fuchs. There should be about a half-inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. (Check out our favorite shoes for bunions here.) “Your shoes shouldn’t cause too much pressure on your feet and toes or cause them to crunch up,” she says.

You might also add specific padding to help alleviate calluses (caused when these enlarged toe joints rub against your shoes) or talk to your doctor about adding orthotics to your shoes, says Dr. Fuchs. These prescribed inserts “can improve the biomechanics of the foot, helping to balance the muscles and tendons and stop bunions and hammertoes from worsening,” she explains.

3. Hammertoes

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A hammertoe is a foot deformity in which there’s an abnormal bend in the middle joint of your toe. Hammertoes happen when there’s an imbalance in the muscles of your foot.

“You have muscles at the top and bottom of your feet. If one of those muscle groups is stronger than the other, it may result in a hammertoe,” explains Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, a podiatric surgeon at City Podiatry in New York City. The toe becomes crooked because one of the toe muscles becomes weak, which puts pressure on the tendons and joints in one or more toes. This causes the toe to stick up at the joint.

Dr. Sutera says that wearing poorly designed shoes that don’t fit your feet, incurring an injury such as stubbing your toe, and having a family history of hammertoe are common causes. People with hammertoe are also prone to developing corns and calluses, she adds.

Foot fix: Use non-medicated corn pads.

Hydro Seal Corn Cushion Bandages Band-Aid amazon.com $3.97

“I recommend my patients to use non-medicated corn pads because they provide support and cushion while helping to relieve pain and prevent friction,” Dr. Sutera says.

Medicated corn pads should be avoided in this case “because the acid in the medication can eat away at your skin and cause bacteria to form, which leads to an infection,” she says.

Dr. Sutera also recommends using shoes that are appropriately sized and are designed for the activity you’re doing. “Avoid wearing the same kind of shoe throughout the day. Wear commuter shoes on your way to work, but don’t wear your high heels all day,” she says. If the issue worsens and you’re experiencing a lot of discomfort, Dr. Sutera says to consider surgery. “It takes 15 minutes, you’re under local anesthesia, and it’s covered by insurance,” she says.

4. Flatfeet

Flatfeet occurs when the foot completely lacks an arch, meaning your entire foot touches the floor when standing. This is more common than you may think: About 18 million Americans deal with the uncomfortable condition.

Many people are born with flatfeet, but you can also develop it later in life due to direct trauma to the posterior tibial tendon, which is the tendon that attaches your calf muscles to the bones on the inside of your feet. “If you do high-intensity sports or exercise, the posterior tibial tendon can be overused and inflamed. You can develop flatfeet because of this,” Dr. Sutera says. She also says people with flatfeet are prone to developing plantar fasciitis and bunions.

Foot fix: Wear orthotics.

“The best thing to do is to wear appropriate shoes and orthotics, which forces your foot to walk with an arch,” Dr. Sutera says.” Orthotics will also help absorb shock from walking or running and help prevent pain in the ankles, knees, and back, which are affected with flatfeet.

5. Calluses

While most of us think of these areas of thick skin as simply unsightly, calluses are pressure spots that can be painful when you walk, says Dr. Oster. Interestingly, they’re actually the body’s way of preventing painful blisters from developing. Without a callus, the pressure and friction would irritate your skin to the point of creating those painful, fluid-filled bubbles you know as blisters.

Eucerin Advanced Repair Foot Cream walmart.com $5.07

However, that doesn’t help if your calluses—oftentimes on the ball of the foot, the heel, or the top of bunions or hammertoes—keep you from walking or running around comfortably.

Foot fix: Soak, then soften.

To treat calluses at home, soak your feet in warm water and then apply a moisturizing lotion that’s loaded with glycolic acid, lactic acid, or urea (like Eucerin Advanced Repair Foot Cream). These ingredients can help soften the skin and minimize the callus. If your callus is especially large or painful, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist or dermatologist who can remove it with a surgical blade or give you a shot of cortisone if your pain is particularly bad.

ArveBettumGetty Images

6. Turf toe

Turf toe is a sprain of the main joint of the big toe, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). This can happen when the toe is forcibly bent up, like when you’re pushing off into a sprint and the toe gets stuck on the ground, says Miguel Cunha, DPM, a podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare.

“It can happen to any toe, but 90 percent of the time it’s the big one,” explains Melissa Lockwood, DPM, a podiatrist at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates in Bloomington, Ill., and a diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Medicine. “It usually happens when you are trying to push off the big toe and another force—a person running into you, a car accident, riding a horse—pushes you down. It causes the ligaments around the joint to stretch and sometimes break. It is very painful.”

The injury actually got the name “turf toe” because it became more common in football players after artificial turf became popular on playing fields, the AAOS says. (Artificial turf is a harder surface than grass and it doesn’t have as much give as other surfaces.) Turf toe can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness at the base of the big toe. “This develops slowly and progresses over time,” Dr. Cunha says.

Foot fix: Rest, ice, compress, and elevate your toe.

It’s an acronym known as RICE. “You want to make sure that your injury gets the rest it deserves, which also can protect it from further injury,” Dr. Cunha says. Icing it and compressing the injury (any wrap will do) can help tamp down on swelling and ease your pain, he says.

Finally, you want to elevate your foot (say, on top of a pillow) to ease the pressure. “Because your feet take on pressure that you don’t even realize, you want to pay close attention to making sure that you’re not further injuring yourself,” Dr. Cunha says.

7. Achilles tendonitis

Your Achilles tendon, which attaches to your heel bone at the back of your foot, can become irritated and inflamed when it’s overused, says Dr. Fuchs. The result is tendonitis, and runners are particularly susceptible, she says, as are those who regularly wear high heels. Other potential, though not as common, causes include inflammatory illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Foot fix: Rest, ice, repeat.

The sooner you nip this problem in the bud, the better, Dr. Fuchs says, which is why she recommends avoiding any activity that aggravates your pain for a week to a month. When you feel even a little twinge, ice the area ASAP. Your doctor may also suggest you take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (like Motrin or Advil) to ease your discomfort and quiet the inflammation.

8. Metatarsalgia

“This is a common foot disorder that can affect the bones and joints at the ball of the foot,” Dr. Cunha says.

Most metatarsal issues happen when something changes in the way your foot normally works, impacting how your weight is distributed, Dr. Cunha says. This can put extra pressure on the ball of our foot, leading to inflammation and pain.

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Sometimes one thing can cause metatarsalgia, but usually several factors play a role, like doing intense training. “Runners are at risk of metatarsalgia, primarily because the front of your foot absorbs significant force when you run,” Dr. Cunha says. “This condition commonly occurs when performing high impact activities, especially if your shoes are ill-fitting or are worn out.”

Foot fix: Get new shoes, consider orthotics, and rest up.

Your doctor will likely want to do an X-ray first to make sure your bones and joints look okay, and that you’re not actually dealing with a stress fracture, Dr. Cunha says.

If your shoes are worn out, it’s best to get a new pair. “Footwear designed with a high, wide toe box and a rocker sole is ideal for treating metatarsalgia,” Dr. Cunha says. “The high, wide toe box allows the foot to spread out while the rocker sole reduces stress on the ball of the foot.” Orthotics that are designed to reduce pain on the ball of your foot can also help, he says.

Other than that, resting, icing, and using oral and topical anti-inflammatories can help, Dr. Cunha says. If you do all of this and you’re still in pain, your doctor might recommend surgery. (It’s rare that it’s needed, though, Dr. Cunha says.)

9. Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Tarsal tunnel syndrome is actually similar to carpal tunnel syndrome—just in your feet. “Similar to carpel tunnel, it is caused by mechanics ‘pinching’ the nerve,” says Dr. Lockwood.

This can result in pain, numbness, and tingling, often due to a previous ankle injury or having flatfeet. “People with flatfeet are more susceptible to tarsal tunnel syndrome because the outward tilting of the heel that occurs with fallen arches produces strain and tension on the nerve,” Dr. Cunha says.

Foot fix: Rest, ice, and take anti-inflammatories.

RICE is a good solution, Dr. Cunha says, adding that “you can take anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation.” Physical therapy may also help reduce your pain, and it also doesn’t hurt to get orthotics that can help support your foot’s arch and take the stress off of your tibial nerve (a major nerve of your lower body), Dr. Cunha says.

AntonioGuillemGetty Images

10. Morton’s neuroma

This condition causes pain in the ball of your foot that commonly radiates toward your third and fourth toes, says Dr. Fuchs. “It can feel as if you’re standing on a pebble that’s stuck in your shoe,” she says.

Dr. Sutera says Morton’s neuroma is often the result of women wearing high heels or pointy, narrow shoes. “Your metatarsals, which are the bones in your feet, are compressed when you’re wearing tight shoes. They put pressure on the nerves around them, causing a sharp, stabbing pain,” she explains.

High-impact sports like tennis and running can also cause Morton’s neuroma. The repetitive pounding on hard surfaces can cause trauma to the nerves that lead to your toes. People who have bunions, hammertoes, high arches, or flatfeet are also at higher risk for Morton’s neuroma.

Foot fix: Try new shoes, custom orthotics, and possibly cortisone injections.

One thing you can do for quick relief is to massage the space between the metatarsals, Dr. Sutera says. “Take your thumbs and use them to massage the top of your foot and use your other fingers to put pressure at the bottom. Massage spaces in between your toes where the nerves live,” she says.

Make an appointment with your doc to do an X-ray to rule out other problems, and follow up with an ultrasound or MRI, which are better diagnostic tools for revealing soft tissue abnormalities. Then, you may be in for a new-shoe shopping spree, as ill-fitting shoes contribute to your problem and make the pain worse, says Dr. Fuchs.

“You might be able to try arch supports, foot pads, or custom orthotics, which will help contour and cushion your foot while you walk,” she says. Dr. Sutera also recommends wearing a variety of shoes and tossing out shoes with uneven or damaged soles. If these more conservative tactics don’t work, cortisone injections or even surgery to relieve the compression on the nerve could be options.

11. Arthritis

Arthritis happens when the cartilage in your joints begins to wear down and cause inflammation. When it comes to feet, it usually impacts the big toe joint, but it can also crop up in other joints, Dr. Cunha says.

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Arthritis can usually be traced back to former injuries and traumas like broken bones and sprains, but one of the biggest factors is age, since your cartilage wears down over time, he explains.

Symptoms usually include tenderness and pain, stiff and swollen joints, and trouble walking or bearing weight.

Foot fix: Take anti-inflammatories, use orthotics, and undergo physical therapy.

There are a bunch of different treatment options when it comes to arthritis, and Dr. Cunha says a lot depends on where the arthritis is and how severe it is. Here are just a few to consider:

  • Oral and topical anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving medications
  • Steroid injections
  • Custom molded orthotics
  • A type of brace called an ankle-foot orthosis
  • Physical therapy
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

If you have arthritis and it doesn’t get better with more conservative treatments, Dr. Cunha says your doctor might recommend surgery.

❗When should I see a doctor for foot pain?

Overall, if you have foot pain that persists and it’s bothering you, Dr. Cunha says you should at least talk to your doctor. That’s especially true if it’s impacting your quality of life, and doesn’t seem to be getting better. “We have lots of conservative, non-surgical ways to treat all of these problems,” Dr. Lockwood adds.

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Korin Miller Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more.

Causes of Pain in the Arch of the Foot and Stretches and Treatments to Improve Recovery

Arch pain can occur if you injure the muscles, bones, ligaments, or tendons that form the arch of your foot. It can also occur due to structural issues, especially if those structural issues become aggravated by:

  • weight gain
  • aging
  • overuse
  • neurological conditions
  • physical stress

Flat feet and high arches are examples of structural issues that may lead to arch pain.

The following are common conditions that can cause arch pain:

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of arch pain and one of the most common orthopedic complaints reported. It’s caused by inflammation, overuse, or injury to the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects the front of your foot to your heel. It’s often seen in runners, but it can also occur in nonrunners.

If you have plantar fasciitis, you may feel pain and stiffness in the heel and arch. Pain is typically worse upon awakening and becomes more painful after prolonged standing or activities where you’re on your feet.

If you frequently experience plantar fasciitis, you may need to wear a different type of shoe or get inserts to provide additional comfort and support to your foot. Stretches can also help relieve pain from plantar fasciitis.

Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD)

PTTD, also known as adult-acquired flatfoot, occurs when you have an injury or inflammation to the posterior tibial tendon. The posterior tibial tendon connects the inner foot to a muscle in the calf. PTTD can cause arch pain if the posterior tibial tendon is no longer able to support the arch.

With PTTD, arch pain is likely to extend along the back of the calf and inner aspect of the ankle. You may also have ankle swelling. Pain typically occurs during activities, such as running, not afterward.

You may need to wear an ankle brace or custom shoe insert to treat PTTD. Physical therapy may also help. In some cases, you may need surgery to treat the condition.

Overpronation

Overpronation is used to describe the way your foot moves when you walk. In people who overpronate, the outer edge of the heel hits the ground first, and then the foot rolls inward onto the arch. This overly flattens the foot. Over time, overpronation can damage muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and cause problems that lead to arch pain.

If you overpronate, you may also experience:

  • knee, hip, or back pain
  • corns or calluses
  • hammer toe

You may also notice extra wear on the inside part of the bottom of your shoe, specifically on the inside of the heel and the ball of the foot.

If you overpronate, you may want to consider stability shoes. These shoes help correct your step when you walk. Inserts may also help. Ask a store associate at a local shoe store for recommendations, or talk to a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon. A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in foot health. Exercises and stretches may also help.

Cavus foot

Cavus foot is a condition where the foot has a very high arch. It may be an inherited structural abnormality, or it could be caused by neurological conditions, like cerebral palsy, stroke, or Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Pain is most commonly felt in people with cavus foot when walking or standing. Other symptoms may include:

  • hammer toe
  • claw toe
  • calluses

You may also be more prone to ankle sprains because of foot instability.

As with other arch conditions, special orthotic shoe inserts may help relieve your pain. You may also want to wear shoes with extra ankle support, especially when participating in sports. Look for high-topped shoes. In some cases, you may need surgery.

Moderator: Can you please tell us more about orthotic devices? What are they, and what are they designed to do?

Dr. Mauser: Orthotic devices are usually a custom made device inserted into the shoe that is made from a mold of a patient’s foot, that will control abnormal motion, provide support, and accommodate specific problems. There are various different devices that could be made, and there are devices for different activities. The specific device would be at the discretion of your physician. In my office I use a computer, and a force plate which a patient walks over and it records the force of the foot, and them I’m able to generate a fabricated device from the computer generated image.

Moderator: David_Cheri asks: “What is the best way to keep feet from getting the hard, dry skin on them – especially the heels?”

Dr. Mauser: I’d like to talk about calluses in general. A callous is the build up of superficial layers of skin. This occurs in areas with increased pressure, or frictional forces. Commonly these form on the front of the foot, underneath a metatarsal head that has dropped down or is too large. This results in increased pressure, increasing callous formation. Calluses that occur around the back of the heels are generally due to the lack of elasticity of the skin, and moisture content in the skin, and when one puts pressure on the heel, the fat pad of the heel displaces outward causing increased pressure around the periphery of the heel, resulting in increased calluses and perhaps cracking of the skin. For those heel calluses, one needs to moisturize their skin really well. There are some very good prescription moisturizers out there. Additionally, shoes that have a good sturdy heel counter, that can hold the heel in place will help. Calluses on the front part of the foot are often treated by trimming them down and reducing the thickness of the skin, but the continued pressure will result in the recurrence of the callous. Sometimes it’s necessary to look at the cause of the callous, and if a specific metatarsal bone is the problem, perhaps surgery is performed to alleviate the pressure in that area.

Moderator: bmaxwell asks: “What causes feet to feel like they are burning?”

Dr. Mauser: There are many different causes for burning feet. Usually they are of a neuropathic ideology. This means that there is a problem with the nerves, and the signal sense of the brains. This can be a symptom of long-standing diabetes, vascular problems, MS (multiple sclerosis), and other diseases. There is also what we call idiopathic neuropathy, in where there is no obvious cause of the burning. There is a good book on the subject called Aching Souls and Painful Toes, and the author is a layperson who has peripheral neuropathy, and does a great job of talking about the different causes and treatment options available for this condition. Some of the treatment options for this consist of oral medications, such as Tricyclic antidepressants and Neurontin (gabapentin). There are also topical medications that can be applied to the soles of the feet. Keep in mind that each and every case of burning feet, or neuropathy, is different, and responds to different treatment in different ways. One should consult their podiatrist, family physician, or a neurologist for a complete treatment plan.

I would like to talk about some common foot problems. We have already talked about ingrown toenails, I’d like to talk about fungal toenails. Fungal toenails are thick, dystrophic, discolored nails that can be an isolated nail, or all ten toenails. Usually they are painful, and cause problems with shoes. The toenail has become infected with a fungus. The fungus is in our environment, is opportunistic, and when given the opportunity to get up into the nail, does so quite readily. Usually there is a trauma associated with the fungus getting under the toenail. The trauma doesn’t have to be anything more than your shoes rubbing your nail. Once fungus is under the toenail, it’s in a nice dark, warm, moist environment, and continues to grow. It can spread to the other nails easily. The fungus is essentially a disease of the nail, and should be treated as a disease. There are medications that can be taken orally that will be incorporated into the nail and kill the fungus as the nail grows out. Topical medication can be useful by helping this process and reducing the amount of fungus around the nail plate. Occasionally it is necessary, when the nails are nonresponsive to medication or severely deformed, to remove them permanently. This is a fairly simple process done in an office under local anesthesia. The important thing to remember is that this is a disease process; it can be cured by oral medication. But it is not effective in every instance. medications need to be taken for a period of about three months. The effectiveness of medication will need to be evaluated over the next six to 12 months. Medicare, in our elderly population, will pay for these nails to be reduced in size and trimmed, if they are painful.

Another common foot problem is plantar warts. Plantar warts are a virus that specifically infects the superficial layer of skin. When the virus is given the opportunity through some type of mechanical breakdown of the skin, it will infect the skin and grow there. When one gets a wart on their hand, that virus will grow above the level of skin, but when it occurs on the bottom of the foot, because you walk on it, the virus will grow within the layer of skin. It won’t grow deep into the deep layers. Because this is a virus, there’s no medication that can be given orally to eradicate the virus. The virus would have to be treated locally at the site of infection. This is done with topical acid preparations, freezing, injectable medications, and removal. Removal of the wart can be done in several different ways, utilizing cautery agents, and/or laser techniques. Keep in mind whichever way your wart is removed, they can reoccur, they can spread, they can reinfect. Warts are usually found in the younger population, and not in the elderly. Important things to do to prevent this problem is generally good foot hygiene, and disinfecting areas of the home, such as the bathroom and shower. It is not possible to totally eradicate the virus, and usually most people who are susceptible to the virus will contract it.

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Causes and treatments for pain in the arch of the foot

Share on PinterestAging, overuse, and weight gain may cause pain in the arch of the foot.

The two most common causes of pain in the arch of the foot involve injury and structural issues.

Structural issues typically refer to high or low arches or other abnormalities in the foot and surrounding area.

In both cases, several factors can trigger or aggravate these issues, including:

  • aging
  • overuse
  • weight gain
  • physical stress
  • neurological conditions

Causes of pain in the arch of the foot include:

Overpronation

Overpronation refers to how a person’s foot moves while walking, running, or jogging.

A person who overpronates strikes the ground with the outer portion of the heel first. As the person completes the step, the foot rolls too far onto the arch. The extra pressure causes the arch to flatten.

Long term, overpronation can damage the tendons, muscles, and ligaments. This damage can lead to pain in the arch, knee, hip, or back. It may also cause hammertoe and calluses.

A person who overpronates often benefits from extra support when walking. Support can include stability shoes and prescription arch supports.

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a degenerative condition of the plantar fascia and a common causes of heel pain. The plantar fascia is a ligament that connects the back of the foot to the front.

Common causes of plantar fasciitis include:

  • injury
  • overuse
  • inflammation

Anyone can get plantar fasciitis, but activities such as running can increase the risk.

If a person has plantar fasciitis, they often feel pain when waking up. The pain typically gets worse throughout the day with walking and standing. In addition to arch pain, a person may feel stiffness in the heel or ball of their foot.

People with plantar fasciitis may need to stop doing activities such as running to let the foot heal. They can also consider wearing support shoes or using inserts to help take pressure off the arch.

Cavus foot

Cavus foot is a structural abnormality that causes a high arch. Causes of cavus foot include:

  • genetics
  • stroke
  • cerebral palsy
  • Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease

If a person has cavus foot, they may feel pain when walking or standing. They may also have reduced stability, which can lead to ankle sprains and injuries.

A person may have other issues related to cavus foot, including:

  • claw toe
  • hammertoe
  • calluses

People with cavus foot can consider support shoes or inserts to help stabilize their feet and avoid pain and possible injury.

Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction

The posterior tibial tendon connects one of the calf muscles to the inner part of the foot. Posterior tibial tendon dysfunction (PTTD) occurs when this tendon is injured or inflamed. If the posterior tibial tendon cannot support the arch, a person may feel pain there as a result.

PTTD pain typically occurs in the inner part of the ankle and back of the calf. The pain usually occurs while running or walking briskly and goes away once a person stops.

An ankle brace or specially designed inserts can help correct PTTD.

Flat feet

Flat feet can occur in children or adults. In many cases, flat feet cause no issues, but they can also cause a person to experience pain in the arch, other areas of the foot, legs, ankles, and back.

A person may not realize they have flat feet until symptoms occur. A doctor may recommend using supportive shoes or inserts to help provide additional support for the arch.

If you’re dealing with chronic heel pain, one likely culprit is plantar fasciitis. It’s a common foot injury that can cause a stabbing pain in the bottom of your foot near the heel. It sometimes resolves on its own, but there are a few simple home treatments that also can help.

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The plantar fascia is a band of deep tissue that runs from your heel bone to your toes. Plantar fasciitis is deformation or a tear of that tissue. It causes irritation, inflammation, and, eventually, pain.

Sports chiropractor Thomas Torzok, DC, says the problem typically develops over time. It also can take some time to heal — anywhere from months to a year, he says.

“The plantar fascia is not a tissue with great blood supply or high metabolic activity,” he notes. “It probably takes years for plantar fasciitis to form to the point where you start to notice it. And, as a result, it takes some time for it to heal. Once it’s irritated, it’s pretty stubborn.”

Despite this, he says there are some simple things you can do at home to combat the problem. But first, you need to understand why it’s happening.

Why does my heel hurt?

Plantar fasciitis is often an overuse injury, typically from sports-related activities that involve running or jumping. It also may trace back to abnormal foot mechanics or poor footwear choices, Dr. Torzok explains.

“Usually, you’ll feel pain upon initial weight-bearing in the bottom of your foot,” he says. “Sometimes that will occur first thing in the morning when you wake up.”

Other factors that can increase your risk of developing plantar fasciitis include:

  • Age. It’s more common between the ages of 30 and 60.
  • Obesity. Additional weight can put undue stress on the plantar fascia.
  • Prolonged standing. Standing on hard surfaces for several hours or longer can damage the tissue.

What can you do for plantar fasciitis?

Simple home treatments can often resolve plantar fasciitis, especially if you catch it early. But it may take longer to heal if it has worsened over time.

“Plantar fasciitis may go away after you stretch your foot out and walk around for a while,” Dr. Torzok says. “But for some people, prolonged standing or sitting may aggravate it again. It’s bearing the entire amount of your body weight, and that can lead to delayed recovery.”

Try these tips for relief:

  1. Rest and stretch. If overuse is the likely cause of your pain, rest is one key to recovery. And, it’s a good idea to couple that with daily stretching exercises. Foot exercises allow you to keep the plantar fascia from pulling and tightening up, so it’s better able to bear your weight when you get moving again.
  2. Wear proper footwear. Make sure you get a good fit and avoid flat shoes that lack support. “Find proper shoes to match your actual foot and biomechanics,” Dr. Torzok says. “Arch supports might help some people.” He also advises people not to walk barefoot around the house. “This can stress the tissue in the bottom of the foot even more. Instead, wear running shoes or sneakers — something with natural arch support — so they don’t deform that tissue and chronically stretch and irritate it,” he says.
  3. Ice your feet. Roll your foot over a frozen water bottle for 5 minutes, or hold an ice pack over the bottom of your foot for 15 minutes, three times a day. Also use the ice treatment after any strenuous activity or extended periods of standing or sitting, Dr. Torzok says.
  4. Wear a splint. For more severe cases, a night splint can brace your foot and ankle in the proper position as you sleep. “Night splints will help stretch the plantar fascia and alleviate the pain,” he says.

If the pain continues, talk to your doctor

If home treatment isn’t working, get help, Dr. Torzok says. Your doctor can make sure the pain you’re feeling is from plantar fasciitis — and further advise you if it isn’t.

“That’s the tricky thing, because other factors can cause pain in the bottom of your feet,” he says. “So if you’re still in pain after working on relieving it for a few days, call your doctor.”

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