The feet have got to be the strangest part of the human body. They look weird, they smell weird and they’re ultra-sensitive and not always in a good way. We’re talking an excess of seven thousand nerve endings. When feet are in pain, it is unbearable.
There are many reasons that your feet could be hurting. The most common is simply overuse. Standing or walking on your feet for too long can cause strain and stress on your feet. It’s a good idea to find out why your feet hurt and then you can better come up with a way to make them stop hurting.
If no normal remedies work, you may have to see a doctor, particularly if there is swelling, an open wound, change in coloration or you are unable to put any weight at all on the foot. If you are diabetic, always seek medical advice before doing anything to your feet.
Table of Contents
Main Causes of Foot Pain
When trying to figure out what is causing your feet to ache, it’s a good idea to first figure out where the worst of the pain is located. Also, take note of when your feet hurt the most. Some of these ailments will go away on their own in time, but some need medical care. Keep any other health problems you may have in mind.
• Heel Pain You may have plantar fasciitis if the pain is localized in your heel. The band of tough tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes can be inflamed or irritated. It tends to hurt the most in the morning right after you wake up and get out of bed. Heel spurs occur when abnormal growths of bone form on the bottom of the heel.
• Stone Bruise The pads of the heel and ball of the foot are susceptible to injury. An impact injury or stepping on a small hard object (like a rock or a Lego) can cause a small but deep bruise to form. It feels like you’re constantly stepping on the said painful object, but it usually goes away on its own.
• Metatarsalgia This fourteen-letter word refers to an inflammation in the ball of your foot. It can be caused by poor-fitting shoes or strenuous activity. It is much like a stone bruise only located entirely on the ball of the foot.
• Morton’s Neuroma The major symptom of Morton’s Neuroma is the thickening of the tissues about the nerves between the bases of the toes. It’s usually worst between the third and fourth toes. Pressure from a too-narrow toe box is generally the culprit.
• Sesamoiditis The sesamoids are two bones near your big toe connected by tendons. Dancers and runners often experience injuries and inflammation in this area.
• Toe Pain Severe pain and swelling in the joints of the big toe could be gout. A bunion is associated with the first toe joint being misaligned. Hammertoes often accompany bunions. Claw toe happens when the toes just won’t straighten. Sprains and fractures are also common.
• Corns and Calluses A thick buildup of tough skin on a foot or toe is corn. A wider area of skin buildup is a callus.
• Pain on the Outer Edge of the Foot This part of the foot gets broken the most often. If you suspect a broken bone, go to a hospital and request an X-Ray.
• The Whole Foot Hurts If the whole foot hurts, you could be suffering nerve damage. This often accompanies diabetes. It could also be tendonitis. Take note of whether the pain is burning, tingling or stabbing.
Things You Can Do to Help your Feet Hurt Less
There are some things you cannot change about your feet. Your basic genetics, congenital illnesses and conditions, age and the size and shape of your feet are examples. It may be difficult to take care of your feet if you have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day, particularly if you walk on hard surfaces. But there are things you can do to take better care of your feet.
• Wear shoes that fit correctly. In order to keep foot pain to a bare minimum, your shoes must be the right size and shape. Always remember that your footwear needs might change as you grow older as your feet often change through the years.
For example, if tendons and ligaments become less elastic and stretch, you might need a larger shoe size. It’s possible that you might develop bunions or hammertoes and need a wider shoe.
Here’s another footwear faux pas, if you’ll pardon the pun. You must not wear shoes that lacking sufficient support and cushioning. This can leave your feet feeling tired and achy.
• Maintain a healthy weight. If you carry around more weight than your muscles, ligaments, and joints can handle, which puts undue stress on your feet. Pregnancy can cause sore feet due to a blend of increased weight and hormones. Eat healthily and your feet, as well as the rest of your body, will feel much better.
• Improve your posture. Poor posture can lead to pain and injury in your knees, heels back and feet. You should stand up straight with your shoulders back and your stomach in. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
Your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders and your arms should hang naturally. Your weight should be born mostly by the balls of your feet. It can take some effort to train your body into proper posture if you’ve already developed some bad habits. Custom insoles may help.
• Stop smoking. A smoker’s feet tend to be thin, shiny and reddish. Smoking impedes circulation throughout the body. The feet even in ideal conditions are so far from the heart that they don’t always get the blood circulation they need. If you are diabetic, smoking can increase the risk of nerve damage to your feet. Poor circulation can trigger foot pain, and you need to consider giving up smoking.
Some Exercises to Soothe Aching Feet
An hour or so before bedtime, if your feet are tired and sore, you can try these exercises to improve circulation and loosen your muscles. Remember that the point here is to relax, so there is no need to rush. Do not make yourself more tired and sore than when you started. You may also try these exercises during the day on your break.
• Alternating Knee Flexion This exercise will aid in loosening up your quadriceps. These are the four major muscles in front of the thighs. Bend your knee and attempt, without going into an unnatural range of motion, to tap your heel to your buttocks with one leg. Repeat with the other.
• Figure Eight Hip Rotation If you circle your hips in a figure-eight motion (Let’s Do The Time Warp Again!) that will stop both hip tightness and stagnation of blood flow in your lower extremities. Any shifting of your balance from one side to the other will work.
• Hacky-Sack Kicks The largest muscle in the human body is the gluteus maximus. That would be the butt, hiney, rear end, tuchus, whatever you want to call it. If you want to loosen the origin connection points of your gluteus maximus, try kicking an imaginary ball with your instep.
The “glutes” can often become tight, particularly where they are attached to your sacroiliac joint. This is true whether you are in a seated or standing. Just a few good kicks from each side can keep glutes from getting too tight.
• Hamstring stretch An active hamstring stretch is an excellent method of activating those hammies while stretching them. You want to do both strengthening and lengthening. All you have to do is stick your buttocks out while keeping your back flat then rock back on your heels.
You should keep your knees somewhat bent. Squeeze the inside of your thighs together. Do this without moving your knees and stretch your chin forward. Unlike the more common passive way to stretch, this active stretch should give you instant relief to your hamstrings.
• Calf stretch It’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a place to do a downward-dog stretch at work but here’s something you can do at any place that has a wall. Put both hands shoulder-width apart and level on a wall. The desk level will also work.
Put one foot forward and flex the knee so that the knee is directly over your ankle. The anterior leg should be straight. You should feel a stretch (not pain) in the rear calf muscles. As with the hamstring stretch, your goal is to isometrically contract your thighs by activating the inner thighs without really moving the knees.
Ways to treat your feet well
Here are some simple remedies you can do at home to soothe tired and aching feet. Do whatever feels the most comfortable for you.
• Ice If you do not have any vascular problems, you might want to try soaking your feet in ice water. Never expose your feet to the ice for more than twenty minutes at a time as any longer risks frostbite. An ice bag can also work.
Here’s a way to chill your feet while gently exercising them. Freeze a plastic bottle of water. Sit down and roll the bottle back and forth on the floor with your foot. Do this while wearing socks so your feet don’t get too chilled.
• Massage This can be done manually or with a machine. You could also roll your foot from heel to toe over a rolling pin, tennis ball. golf ball or baseball. A gentle massage for your feet and arches will stretch out tight foot muscles. This will aid your feet in recovering more quickly.
Here’s how to manually massage a foot. Utilizing both hands, press your thumbs up the centerline of your foot while making little circles. Use firm but gentle pressure. Spend a little more time on any particularly sore pressure points you find.
• Elevate your feet If you prop your feet above the rest of your body, that will aid in decreasing the day’s swelling. You can prop them against a wall or on a stack of pillows. If you have a recliner or even an old-fashioned ottoman, that can help. Once the day is over, stretch out and put those feet up!
• Use horse sense No, really! Consider the horse. A horse is almost always on his hooves, even when he’s not working. Contrary to popular belief, horses don’t always sleep standing up.
They may take short naps while standing, but a deep sleep requires them to find a soft patch of ground or a mound of hay to lie on. (Domestic horses are more likely to do this out in the open than wild ones.
And they like having someone to watch over them.) A horse never stays still for long. He is nearly always moving. Moving those legs keeps the feet circulating. You may also notice that a horse rarely puts all his weight on all four hooves. He will alternate which hoof gets to rest. Try a similar exercise yourself.
• Compression socks and hose Compression socks are celebrated among people who have trouble with leg or foot problems. However, these socks also have benefits that many active persons plus those who stand on their feet all day can enjoy as well.
With the growing public knowledge of compression socks and their many health benefits, modern styles and colors have become popular. A specialist may help you find what’s right for you.
• Epsom salts Epsom salt is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help treat muscle aches. Epsom salt soaks are wonderful for soothing aches and pains. Fill up a shallow bucket, foot bath or your bathtub with enough warm water to cover your feet.
If the feet are hot or swollen, cool water might work better. About one or two tablespoons to the gallon is the best ratio. You may then add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil and soak your feet until the pain goes away.
• Stretch Muscles that are overtaxed have a tendency to contract or spasm. To combat this tightness, you can stretch your feet. An opportune time to stretch is just after you’ve had a warm soak because your muscles will be good and relaxed.
Sit in a position you find comfortable and stretch your ankle and toe joints using either your hands or a strap. If you want to target the calf muscles as well, try doing a runner’s stretch while leaning against a wall. Hold each motion in a comfortable manner for ten to twenty seconds for maximum benefit.
• Trim the calluses and corns This is also something to do after a soak. After your feet are completely dry you can use a pumice stone or emery board on the problem spots. Apply a moisturizing lotion. You can then put on socks in order to seal in the added hydration.
Calluses and corns are hard, dry bits of skin that create pressure on the bottom of your foot. This can lead to cracks which may bleed or lead to infection.
• Wear well-fitting shoes. The worst thing you can wear, even on your day off, is flip-flops. They have no support and you have to scrunch your feet to walk while wearing them. High heels are not much good for feet either. Gentlemen, heeled cowboy boots fit in this category!
What to look for in a pair of well-fitting shoes
A woman standing on a bridge was heard talking to someone. “When I first saw you, I loved you. Your polish and good looks charmed me. But now look what you’ve done to me! You have wrecked the very foundations of my being! My standing is ruined because of you! I can’t even walk down the street anymore with you! You cause me nothing but pain and misery! It’s over!” A splash soon followed. The woman threw her shoes off the bridge.
One major cause of foot pain is shoes that don’t fit properly. When you are buying new shoes there are some considerations you should make before purchase. To start with, try the shoes on in-store. Does your foot feel comfortable in it? Can you walk, run or jump while wearing them? Are they suitable for where you plan to wear them?
The shoes should have good arch and heel support, and conform to the shape of your feet. Your toes should have the ability to wiggle a little and your heel should not slide up and down as you walk. Buy shoes that are adjustable. Those that have laces are a good example.
You need to be able to personalize the fit if your feet are swelling. Some people have feet that are slightly different sizes. If you have trouble finding shoes that fit properly or don’t cause pain, see a podiatrist to figure out if you need custom insoles or footwear.
Not only should your shoes fit but they must be supportive. The sole should bend only at the ball of the foot. The sole should not be too rigid either. It should flex naturally as you walk. With some people, custom arch supports may be the way to go.
And don’t forget, if your shoes have an excessive amount of wear and tear, they may be a contributor to your sore feet. Worn-out soles can alter the dynamics of the way that your feet touch the ground which can severely throw off your biomechanics.
Since shoes that fit too tightly or too loosely can lead to pain and tiredness, have your feet measured the next time you’re at the shoe store. You may be shocked to discover that you were wearing the wrong shoe size all along. If you have hammertoes, bunions or a neuroma, see to it that your shoes are both wide enough and deep enough in the toe box.
Foot pain can be debilitating. No one wants to go through life like Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid who traded her tail for legs, only to constantly feel like she was treading on sharp knives. There are ways to both treat and prevent foot pain, the number one method is to make sure you have well-fitting shoes.
If all else fails, talk to your doctor about a referral to a podiatrist. This is especially true if you are diabetic, have a deficiency in your autoimmune system, cardiovascular disease or the pain is accompanied by a fever. If you feel numbness or a stinging or tingling sensation in the feet or toes it could be nerve damage and you need medical treatment right away.
Aching feet can prevent you from taking part in healthy exercise and physical activity. Take steps to alleviate your pain before it impedes you. At the end of the day, it’s often less expensive to visit a podiatrist and get treatment from a professional than to experiment with over the counter remedies that do not address your particular problem.