What causes foot pain?
Injury or damage to any of the structures in the foot can cause foot pain. Diseases that affect the entire body, such as diabetes, arthritis, or vascular disease, are more complex processes that can lead to foot pain.
Traumatic causes of foot pain
A number of common injuries can cause foot pain including:
Inflammatory causes of foot pain
Inflammation can cause foot pain that is restricted to one foot or even a specific location on one foot. Examples include:
- Bursitis (inflammation of a bursa sac that cushions a joint)
- Gout (type of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in the joints)
- Peripheral neuropathy (disorder of the peripheral nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord)
- Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the thick, fibrous tissue on the bottom of the foot)
- Skin ulceration
- Tendonitis (inflammation of a tendon)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)
- Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)
Infectious causes of foot pain
Infectious processes can also cause foot pain including:
- Cellulitis (skin and soft tissue infection)
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- Plantar warts (caused by papillomavirus infection)
Other causes of foot pain
Foot pain can also be caused by problems that affect multiple body systems including:
- Alcohol abuse
- Benign or malignant tumors
- Blood clots
- Bone spurs
- Buerger’s disease (acute inflammation and clotting of arteries and veins)
- Congenital deformities
- Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease, or PVD, which is a narrowing of arteries due to a buildup of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls, which limits blood flow to the extremities)
- Raynaud’s disease (spasms of small blood vessels of the fingers and toes, reducing blood circulation; has no known cause)
Serious or life-threatening causes of foot pain
Although life-threatening causes of foot pain are rare, all serious injuries, including foot injuries, should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.
Questions for diagnosing the cause of foot pain
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your foot pain including:
- How long has your foot pain been present?
- Is your pain constant or does it come and go?
- What other symptoms are you experiencing?
- When do your symptoms occur?
- Are your symptoms worsened or relieved by movement or specific activities?
What are the potential complications of foot pain?
Managing the underlying causes of foot pain can, in many cases, prevent the development of serious complications such as joint deformity, widespread infection, gangrene, or even amputation. Left untreated, long-term complications, such as infection throughout the body or gangrene of the feet, can be life threatening. Possible complications of untreated foot pain include:
- Difficulty walking
- Sepsis (life-threatening bacterial blood infection)
What is foot pain?
Pain in the foot can arise from a number of different causes. Foot pain may develop as a result of conditions affecting any of the structures in the foot, including the skin, nerves, muscles, joints, tendons, bones, ligaments, blood vessels, and connective tissue. Trauma or injury is a common cause of foot pain. Even everyday situations, such as overuse or poorly fitting shoes can lead to temporary, acute pain in the feet.... Read more about foot pain introduction
What other symptoms might occur with foot pain?
Foot pain may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on its cause and any underlying diseases or conditions. Some conditions that frequently affect the feet, such as peripheral vascular disease or diabetic neuropathy, can cause symptoms in other body systems.... Read more about foot pain symptoms