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Conditions InDepth: Foot Pain

The foot is a complex structure of 26 bones, 33 joints, and many muscles, ligaments, and nerves. Only a small number of Americans are born with foot problems. Most problems develop due to neglect and poor care, including ill-fitting shoes. Some disorders begin early in life and are affected by heredity, walking patterns, and geography. However, most foot pain occurs as feet change with age or diseases develop over time. Most Americans will have foot pain at some point in their lives.

Normal Anatomy of the Left Foot

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Common causes of foot pain include:

  • Poor-fitting shoes
  • High-heeled shoes
  • Poor posture
  • High impact exercise, such as running

Foot pain may also be caused by systemic diseases. Examples include:

  • Arthritis ( osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)—Arthritis can cause stiffness and reduced range of motion.
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)—This condition affects the legs and feet by causing reduced blood flow, swelling, and increased risk of infection.
  • Diabetes —A common complication of diabetes is reduced blood flow, which causes a number of problems in the legs and feet, including abnormal sensation, swelling, and increased risk of infection.
  • Gout —Gout is a build up of uric acid crystals in one or several joints that causes pain and inflammation. The most common joint affected is the big toe.
REFERENCES:

Foot care. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/foot-care.html. Updated October 10, 2014. Accessed February 7, 2018.

Foot care 101. American Podiatric Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.apma.org/files/FileDownloads/myFEETFootCare101.pdf. Accessed February 7, 2018.

Foot care basics: preventing and treating common foot conditions. Harvard Medical School website. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/special_health_reports/Foot_Care_Basics. Accessed February 7, 2018.

Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM  Last Updated: 3/15/2015