Common Causes of Foot and Ankle Pain
Posted on Mar 25, 2020

We take our feet for granted most of the time. They get us out of bed in the morning, take us on a jog around the neighborhood, and keep us moving all day long. We squeeze them into high heels, pound them on miles of pavement, and ignore their minor aches. Only when foot and ankle pain suddenly stops us in our tracks, literally, do we put our feet up and take notice.

Have you ever seen a reflexology chart of the foot? Reflexologists believe that each part of the foot is connected to another part of the human body. Problems in the body may be felt in the foot and treatment of the foot may help pain in the body according to this theory. We know that the entire human body is interconnected, and that is certainly true with our feet as well. The feet act as the foundation for all motion and function. Pain in one area may be caused by something going on in a completely separate part of the body.

It is important to determine where your foot is coming from and to understand how it can affect the whole body.

For example, someone with ankle pain may also be found to have a dysfunctional hip that is causing them to walk and run poorly. Their hip issue is the root cause of their ankle pain. If the leg and hip are ignored, this will not be discovered and the foot will remain painful.

Based on the location of pain, a diagnosis is usually straightforward and may be corroborated using a simple x-ray or blood test. Dr. Warner treats all of the following common foot and ankle conditions on a daily basis:



Caused by continuous pressure on the sole of the foot, corns are a painful thickening of the skin that often recurs. These are similar in nature to the calluses found on the fingertips of a guitarist.

Conventional treatment includes corn caps and cryosurgery, wearing shoes with insoles and a good fit. However, it is important that your doctor recognize and treat the source of the pressure as well, or the callus will simply return.


Gout is a form of arthritis that deposits uric acid crystals in joint tissues. These crystals are small, sharp spikes of minerals that attack the joint surface. Gout symptoms occur rapidly and frequently start with severe pain in the dead of the night. Often a gout attack will happen after a heavy meal, particularly one with red meat.

Treatment includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, aspirin, and allopurinol therapy to keep the uric acid levels under check and prevent a recurrence. Occasionally, injections or surgery is necessary. Topical pain creams are quite effective for this problem. A natural remedy with good effectiveness is eating tart cherries.

Hammer toes

Chronic use of small, ill-fitted or high-heeled shoes can make toes hurt. The shoes may cause the toes to take on a peculiar bent shape that looks like small hammers. Usually, hammer toes are caused by genetics and shoes simply make them symptomatic.

Treatment options include avoiding shoes that make the hammer toes hurt, stretching and strengthening exercises for the toes, taking oral and topical painkillers, and wearing supportive and relieving insoles. In extreme cases, orthopedic surgery might be required.


Abnormal bony prominences at the joint of the great toe are called bunions. This condition may be very painful and should be remedied before it becomes a permanent deformity.

Bunions are a genetic condition and are typically progressive, meaning that they will increase or become worse over time. This worsening occurs regardless of shoe wear. Causes and treatment are the same as for hammer toes. Treatment starts conservatively, but often surgery is required.


The most common reason for joint pain anywhere in the body, arthritis is joint inflammation that often occurs in adults older than 50. Foot pain may often be caused by arthritis, and treatment is similar to arthritis in the knee or hip.

Painkillers, exercises, weight reduction, calcium, vitamin D can help to manage chronic arthritis. Physical therapy is also a very effective treatment for arthritis.


Any trauma to a joint in the foot can cause a fracture or a ligament tear or sprain. A fracture is a broken bone and treatment changes based on which bone is broken, how it is broken and also on patient characteristics. Fractures, or broken bones, should be evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon. Sprains or ligament tears may occur with trauma as well. Sometimes soft tissue heals faster than broken bones.

Treatment varies but may occasionally require no weight bearing on the affected joint for at least two weeks and some type of compressive wrap along with ice, elevation and physical therapy.


Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is the degeneration of the ligaments and tendons below the heel can cause early morning foot pain. Usually, this pain is due to damage to the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is one of the most important stabilizers of the arch in the foot. The plantar fascia is also important in the function of the foot and in allowing for motion. This condition is extremely painful and can last up to 2 years.

Treatment includes anti-inflammatory drugs, insoles, topical ointments, stretching exercises, rest and ice packs. Treatment may also include surgery, injections or physical therapy and/or acupuncture.

Calcaneal Spur

A bony ridge protruding from the heel bone (i.e. calcaneus) can cause a lot of heel trouble. It arises from the calcaneus (heel bone) near the plantar fascia and can be confirmed by an x-ray.

Treatment options include pain-killers, topical ointments, and orthopedic surgery. Treatment for heel spurs is often the same as treatment for plantar fasciitis. Surgery should be the last resort for this problem.

Fallen Arch

A fallen arch causes compression of the structures that are meant to be preserved by the arch, such as the nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Wedges and insoles are the main lines of treatment, however, surgery is often needed for permanent resolution.

Damage To Tendons

For instance, damage can occur to the posterior tibial tendon which may cause arch pain. If there is damage to this tendon, the arch becomes unstable. The posterior tibial tendon holds the highest point of the arch (apex) and stabilizes it. This tendon also initiates the push-off portion of the gait cycle. Tears or stretching injury to this tendon cause pain. However, damage to this tendon also causes significant instability and collapse of the arch.

Foot and ankle pain can be caused by all of the above conditions, as well as a wide range of others that include nerve damage due to chronic diabetes, vitamin B-12 deficiency, or folic acid deficiency. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan requires the attention of an orthopedic specialist.


Foot and ankle pain can be debilitating and can result from a number of conditions and causes. Take control of your recovery with The Healing Sole, a surgeon-designed alternative to costly or invasive means of treatment.

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