Foot pain: where it comes from and how to avoid it

Photo: Peter Dazeley / Getty

After summer tourist outings, foot pains can worsen in the fall. They usually receive little attention and most people are unaware of what problems they might signal. Understanding the issue before the season of uncomfortable office shoes.

Causes of pain in the foot

According to the Center for Hygienic Education of the Population of Rospotrebnadzor, among the diseases of the feet, flat feet occupies one of the leading positions [ 1 ]. In a healthy foot, the load is distributed between three support points: the back of the heel, the big toe plus the head of the metatarsal bone, and the outer edge of the foot. When the foot is deformed for one reason or another, there is an imbalance in the load, a change in the structure of the osteo-ligamentous apparatus. As a result, pain occurs, leading to the development of various diseases.

As for people who were not genetically predisposed to flat feet and did not develop it in their youth, noticeable changes begin to occur after 40 years. The body is no longer so resistant to excessive loads, including on the joints, hormonal changes occur, the wear and tear of the osteo-ligamentous apparatus increases, the risk of excess weight gain increases, which adversely affects the feet.

Photo: RunPhoto / Getty

With age, the articular and bone structures cannot fully perform their functions: walking and damping the load. Therefore, the causes of pain in a completely healthy person can be fatigue, prolonged physical activity, improperly selected shoes when playing sports.

Non-mechanical causes of pain in the foot include the presence of the following diseases: metabolic disorder, gout, diabetes mellitus, varicose veins [ 2 ] and other vascular diseases, post-traumatic changes (improperly treated leg subluxation, etc.).

Let’s consider the main situations associated with foot pain:

  • Burning foot and toe pads
  • Joint pain near the fingertips
  • Heel pain
  • Pain in the back of the foot
  • Pain on the outside of the foot
  • Pain over the heel
  • Ankle pain
  • Interdigital calluses and corns

Burning foot and toe pads

The reason, most likely, was uncomfortable shoes. The load is not properly distributed, causing the pads under the metatarsal bones to become inflamed and sore. You can relieve symptoms with a relaxing foot bath and light self-massage. But you need to see a doctor for treatment. Most likely, you will hear the diagnosis “Metatarsalgia”.

The joints in the area of ​​the fingertips hurt.

This symptom is characteristic of Morton’s neuroma [ 3 ]. The unpleasant sensations are associated with irritation of the nerve passing between the heads of the metatarsal bones of the third and fourth fingers.

At the initial stage of the disease, the pain may be mild, later it may be aggravated by a burning sensation, it will begin to “shoot through”, and the foot will be uncomfortable in almost any shoe with a closed nose.

Heel hurts

The most common cause is a bony build-up on the heel or heel spur. It occurs due to inflammation of the plantar fascia [ 4 ] due to mistakenly selected shoes and improper load distribution in them. The spur gives pain when the heel is loaded, which is why a person involuntarily throws the load on other parts of the foot. As a result, posture and balance are disturbed. The formation of a heel spur and the appearance of pain in it speaks of a chronic process. It is not worth postponing treatment.

The back of the foot

The cause of pain is the deformation of the metatarsal bone in the thumb and the development of bursitis. The bone itself does not hurt; the inflamed joint capsule causes unpleasant sensations. Due to the protruding bone, the shoes become tight and chafe, which leads to inflammation.

Fifth metatarsal bone (outer part of the foot)

Pain in this part of the foot indicates the development of a varus deformity [ 5 ] (fifth metatarsal bone). This is the so-called bump on foot next to the little finger. The most common cause of the development of this disorder is flat feet, clubfoot or a change in the shape of the legs (“legs with a wheel”). Due to excessive stress on the outer part, the fifth metatarsal flattened.

Pain over the heel (Achilles tendon pain)

The Achilles tendon is where it most often rubs the heel of the shoe. It is because of the frequent friction and excessive pressure that inflammation occurs. For treatment and prevention, it is recommended to choose the right shoes and protect this weak point by raising the heel higher (with an insole, a heel pad) so that the Achilles tendon does not experience pressure.

Ankle pain

The ankle performs a supporting function. Various subluxations and injuries (including improperly treated ones) can provoke inflammation of both the joint capsule and the ligamentous apparatus.

Photo: Sorrorwoot Chaiyawong / EyeEm / Getty

Interdigital calluses

The main reason for their occurrence is too narrow uncomfortable shoes. Better not to ignore this problem. You can cover up the callus with plaster; this will prevent mechanical damage to the skin. Still, the frequent wearing of uncomfortable shoes will entail more severe disorders in the structure of the foot and the proper functioning of the joints.


We should be alarmed by corns because they have a protective function. The body begins to defend itself and develops keratinization, hyperkeratosis occurs – coarsening of the skin of the feet.

Corns and calluses appear in those parts of the foot on which a large load falls. And if now there are no pain manifestations, there is a high risk of earning them. The pressure on the foot should be adjusted with orthopedic insoles, which can be worn with both sneakers and fashion shoes.

Foot pain treatment

The main advice is to be careful about your feet. If you notice corns, calluses, feel fatigue or burning, the body itself informs you that it needs rest and the load needs to be adjusted. It is also important to promptly respond to pain in the lower leg and knee joints. They often say that the pressure balance is imbalanced. At least an orthopedic examination and selection of individual insoles will help to return the situation to normal.

Do not sit cross-legged and avoid other non-physiological positions of the legs and feet that disrupt the work of the circulatory system.

In case of weight gain (including during pregnancy), wear orthopedic insoles. The foot is not prepared for sudden load increases and needs additional support.

Choose shoes for sports activities. It is essential to take into account the nature of the activity (running or exercising with equipment), as well as systematically change the sneakers since the shock absorbers in them wear out over time.

Reduce the time of wearing uncomfortable shoes: with narrow toes, high heels, flat soles. If uncomfortable shoes are a permanent part of your wardrobe, try to reduce the stress by choosing a comfortable pair for the afternoon.

Walk barefoot on sand, grass, ground. This can be called a natural massage of the reflexogenic points of the feet, due to which muscle tone rises and blood circulation improves.

Do self-massage. You can relieve fatigue and restore blood circulation using self-massage and rolling the feet on a roller (you can use a bottle from available tools).

Stretching: why is it needed and how to do it correctly


To maintain health and beauty, it is enough to do the stretching complex a couple of times a week. We will tell you which exercises are the easiest and most useful to do.

  • Neck stretch
  • Stretching the legs
  • Stretching the buttocks
  • Back (spine) stretch
  • Stretching the arms and shoulders
  • Breast stretch
  • A set of exercises for stretching muscles
  • Stretching for beginners

Why stretch

There is a stereotype that exercises to increase muscle elasticity is the lot of athletes. They need to stretch after a workout to avoid stiffness and adapt to the stress. If in some types of yoga there are complex asanas that are not available for the entry-level, then stretching is a suitable practice for a person at any age, regardless of lifestyle and daily activity. Exercise helps [1] :

  1. Prevent muscle shortening.
  2. Improve elasticity, including ligaments and tendons.
  3. Get rid of muscle fatigue.
  4. Reduce the risk of injury.
  5. Improve flexibility and coordination.
  6. Make your posture beautiful and relieve back pain.
  7. Adapt to higher loads.

Plus stretching, in contrast to strength exercises for certain muscle groups, in variability and the absence of tension. It is necessary to improve elasticity in statics, without an increase in heart rate and sudden movements; therefore, most people without sports skills will cope with stretching [2].

How to stretch properly

You can do it barefoot, in sneakers or socks – whichever is more comfortable. Don’t try to do the exercise correctly right away. At first, the muscles will get used to it, and it is essential to maintain a pleasant feel. Stretching is safer and more effective when the muscles are warmed up. Before the exercises, it is better to do a short warm-up [3]: bend your knees, twist your arms at the elbows, make the body bend back and forth. Joint gymnastics takes about five to seven minutes, which can be replaced with a little cardio workout (running, walking).

To stretch the muscles well, you need to be in the chosen position from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on the sensations. It is convenient to use a timer with a signal to control the execution time. Try to keep static and then perform light, springy movements.

Neck stretch

Relieving tension in the neck has a positive effect on the upper body from the shoulders to the spine. Try tilting your head forward, backward, right, and left. To enhance the effect, place your hand on the back of your head and gently press towards the tilt. During the exercise, a slight tension should be felt on the side opposite to the tilt. To stretch the back of your neck, place one hand on your chin. The exercises can be done while standing or sitting.

Stretching the legs

This exercise can be done while lying or sitting. Bend your knees and place the ankle of one leg over the knee of the other. To deepen the pose and strengthen the stretch, you need to press the lower leg up on the free one. Exercise helps to increase the elasticity of the muscles in the back of the thigh.


To stretch the front of the thigh, pull the heel towards the buttock. You can perform the exercise lying or standing, so coordination of movements is additionally developed. Try not to move your torso while stretching and remember to repeat the exercise with the other leg.


The following exercise is performed while lying on your back and is suitable for completing the session. It allows you to relax and release tension while gently stretching your back to improve posture. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees open and move closer to the floor. Keep them in this position for 30 seconds to two minutes.


Stretching the buttocks

Your glutes also need relaxation, especially if you’ve done squats. Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest with both hands. Do not lift your lower back off the floor. This position helps to stretch the buttocks and lower back well.


Back (spine) stretch

Lie on your stomach with your legs extended straight. Rise up on your elbows. Press your hips to the floor with your shoulders relaxed. Sit down to feel the stretch in your lower back. In this exercise, it is important not to overextend your lower back and stop immediately if you feel discomfort or pain.


A variation of the popular dog pose can be performed both standing and kneeling. Stretch your arms forward and push your hips up and towards your heels. Gradually move your palms to one side and hips to the other to feel the stretch, but avoid pinching in the spine.


Stretching the arms and shoulders

The triceps stretch is essential even if you aren’t doing push-ups or lifting weights. This exercise helps to strengthen the muscles in the back of the arm to maintain its shape. It can be done while standing or kneeling. Keep your feet hip-width apart and extend your arms over your head. Bend your elbow and touch your upper back. With your free hand, pull your bent elbow down and towards your head.


The shoulders withstand a high daily load, especially with a sedentary lifestyle. Posture, gait, proper blood circulation and back health depend on the health of these muscles. Shoulder exercises can be performed while standing, sitting, or lying down depending on the desired intensity and circumstances.

Breast stretch

Exercise allows you to relieve muscle tension after wide grip push-ups quickly. Lie on your stomach and stretch your arms out to the sides in a T-shape. Push off the floor with your left hand and bend your left knee for balance as you begin to twist to the right. You should feel a stretch in your right pectoralis muscle.


A set of stretching exercises

You can alternately stretch each muscle group, or try more complex exercises that involve multiple body parts at once. For example, a stretch called a pretzel. It helps to work out the calf and gluteal muscles, as well as the spine and hip flexors.

Lie on your left side with your hand under your head. Bend your right knee and press your hip against your chest as much as possible, and then let it fall to the floor. Then bend your left knee and take your left foot (use the strap if you can’t reach it) with your right hand. Be sure to keep your leg and torso in a straight line as you gently bring your upper shoulder blade to the floor. To reinforce the twist, turn your head to look over your shoulder.


Stretching for beginners

The exercises described are available to most people. Even if for now, you can only do them at half the amplitude, this will be enough for a positive effect. Gradually, the muscles will get used to the load and become more pliable and soft. After a few days, you will notice that it has become easier to stay in the original adjusted position, which means that you can deepen the stretch. If you’re a beginner, try starting with the simplest:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and relax your knees and hips. Interlace your fingers and extend your arms over your head, palms up. Take ten deep, slow breaths. Relax and repeat.
  2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees. Keeping your hands on your lower back, bend forward, slightly protruding your tailbone back; feel a stretch in your lower back. Take your shoulders away from your head. In this position, take ten deep breaths.
  3. Get on all fours with your palms on the floor just below your shoulders. Tighten your abdominal muscles, arch your back, and lower your head so that you face your stomach. Hold for ten seconds, breathe deeply. Now lower your back while raising your head. Remain in this position for another ten seconds, also taking deep breaths in and out. Repeat the complex four times.

Sudden movements can lead to injury, so it’s important to do flexibility exercises without fuss. Look for complexes for the whole body or target specific muscle groups that require special attention. During the exercise, there should be no sharp pain, pinching and cramps.

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