Active women like you juggle busy careers, family responsibilities, and fitness goals. Bottom of foot pain can disrupt your routine and prevent you from enjoying the activities you love. If you experience pain in your heel, arch, or the ball of your foot, you're not alone. Millions of people suffer from bottom of foot pain each year.

At Haro Podiatry Center in Clifton, NJ, we help treat foot pain. Dr. Ibrahim Haro helps patients like you find relief. This blog explores nine common causes of bottom of foot pain and explains how to remedy this condition.

1. Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of bottom of foot pain. It occurs when the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue connecting your heel bone to your toes, becomes inflamed. This condition causes intense heel pain, especially when you first get out of bed in the morning. You may also experience pain in the arch of your foot. While the pain might slightly improve with activity, it often worsens after prolonged standing or walking.

Risk Factors

Several factors put you at risk for plantar fasciitis, including being overweight or obese, having flat feet or high arches, and jobs that require standing on hard surfaces for extended periods. Wearing shoes with poor arch support or cushioning and having tight calf muscles also increase your risk.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, most cases of plantar fasciitis improve with self-care measures like rest, ice, wearing supportive shoes, and stretching exercises. For more persistent pain, professional care might be needed. This could involve nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, custom orthotics (shoe inserts), physical therapy, night splints to stretch the plantar fascia while you sleep, and cortisone injections for severe pain. Surgery is a very rare treatment option reserved for the most extreme cases.

2. Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia refers to pain and inflammation in the ball of your foot, the area just behind your toes. This pain often feels like a burning, aching, or sharp sensation that worsens when you stand, walk, run, or flex your feet.

Risk Factors

It's common in people who participate in high-impact sports like running or jumping, as these activities put repetitive stress on the feet. Other risk factors include having high arches, foot deformities like hammertoes, being overweight or obese, and wearing ill-fitting shoes (especially high heels). 

Treatment Options

Treatment often begins with self-care, including resting your feet, applying ice, and wearing comfortable, supportive shoes. If the pain persists, your podiatrist might recommend metatarsal pads to cushion the ball of your foot, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers (NSAIDs), or cortisone injections for severe cases. 

In very rare situations, surgery may be necessary to correct underlying structural problems in the foot.

3. Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy occurs when the nerves outside your brain and spinal cord become damaged. This can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in your feet and hands.  Bottom-of-the-foot pain from peripheral neuropathy often feels like burning, tingling, or shooting pain that worsens with walking or standing.

Risk Factors

Diabetes is one of the most common causes, but risk factors also include alcohol abuse, autoimmune diseases, exposure to toxins, vitamin deficiencies, and certain medications.

Treatment Options

Treatment focuses on addressing the underlying cause of the nerve damage. This might involve managing blood sugar levels for diabetes-related neuropathy. 

Other treatment options include medications for pain management (like anti-seizure drugs or antidepressants), topical creams, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or limiting alcohol. 

See a podiatrist or neurologist if you experience persistent numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your feet, as peripheral neuropathy can be serious.

4. Neuromas

Neuromas are benign (non-cancerous) growths of nerve tissue that often form between the third and fourth toes. They cause symptoms like burning pain in the ball of your foot, numbness or tingling radiating to the toes, and sometimes a sensation of having a pebble in your shoe. 

Risk Factors

Wearing tight, narrow shoes, high heels, and participating in activities with repetitive stress on your feet (like running or dancing) increase your risk for developing neuromas. 

Treatment Options

Treatment initially focuses on self-care measures like choosing wider, more comfortable shoes and using padding to reduce pressure. Cortisone injections can help reduce inflammation and pain. In severe cases, surgical removal of the affected nerve tissue may be necessary.

5. Sesamoiditis

Sesamoiditis refers to the inflammation of the sesamoid bones, two small bones located under the big toe. This condition causes a dull, sometimes sharp pain along with swelling at the base of the big toe.  

Risk Factors

Those who frequently engage in high-impact activities (like running, tennis, etc.), individuals with high arches, and women who wear high heels are more likely to develop sesamoiditis.  

Treatment Options

Treatment often begins with conservative approaches like rest, applying ice, and taping the toe for support. Choosing shoes with good cushioning and arch support is also important. Physical therapy can provide exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles and tendons. For severe, persistent cases, surgical removal of the sesamoid bone may be considered.

6. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Imagine a tingling, burning sensation spreading through the bottom of your foot, sometimes shooting up from your ankle. This could be a sign of tarsal tunnel syndrome, where the main nerve passing through a tight space in your ankle gets pinched.  

Risk Factors

People with flat feet or past ankle injuries are more prone to this, as are people with diabetes and arthritis. 

Treatment Options

Treatment often includes resting your feet from aggravating activities and choosing supportive shoes (your podiatrist may recommend custom orthotics for extra relief). Physical therapy can help improve ankle strength and reduce inflammation.  

Over-the-counter pain relief (NSAIDs) and in some cases, cortisone injections might be advised by your doctor. If other treatments fail, surgery to release pressure on the nerve may be necessary.

7. Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are small, hard growths on the soles of your feet, caused by a virus that enters through tiny breaks in the skin. They often feel painful when you stand or walk, creating a sensation of pressure under your foot. 

Risk Factors

The virus responsible for plantar warts thrives in moist environments, so walking barefoot in public places like locker rooms, showers, or pool areas increases your risk of contracting them. 

Treatment Options

Treatment options include over-the-counter wart removal products containing salicylic acid, which works to gradually dissolve the wart. Your podiatrist may also recommend cryotherapy (freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen),  laser treatment for stubborn cases, or in-office surgical removal.

8. Flat Feet

Flat feet, also known as fallen arches, refer to a lack of the normal arch on the inside of your foot. This can cause pain in your arches or heels, fatigue in your feet and legs, and difficulty standing for prolonged periods.  

Risk Factors

While genetics often play a role in flat feet, obesity, and tight calf muscles can also contribute to arch problems. 

Treatment Options

Treatment primarily focuses on supportive footwear and arch inserts.  Choose shoes with good arch support and consider custom orthotics prescribed by your podiatrist. Physical therapy with specific exercises and stretches can also strengthen the muscles and tendons that support your arches.

9. Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are common injuries affecting the foot and ankle. A sprain occurs when a ligament (which connects bones) is overstretched or torn, while a strain involves the same type of injury to a muscle or tendon (which connects muscle to bone). Both types of injuries cause sharp pain, swelling, bruising, and sometimes limited range of motion. 

Risk Factors

Sports injuries are a frequent cause of sprains and strains due to sudden twisting or overuse. Improper footwear or exercising without warming up can also make you more susceptible. 

Treatment Options

Treatment initially involves the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) along with over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. Physical therapy helps you regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion.  

In rare, severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair badly torn ligaments or tendons.

Take the First Step Towards Pain-Free Feet

Bottom of foot pain has many potential causes, and the type of pain you experience can offer clues. Plantar fasciitis brings sharp heel pain, metatarsalgia often feels like a burning in the ball of your foot, and peripheral neuropathy can cause tingling or burning sensations.

If you're struggling with foot pain, don't ignore it. A podiatrist like Dr. Haro at Haro Podiatry Center in Clifton, NJ will conduct a thorough examination, which may include imaging tests like X-rays, to pinpoint the source of your discomfort.  

Once the cause is identified, Dr. Haro will develop a personalized treatment plan that might include pain relief strategies, lifestyle adjustments, physical therapy, or, in rare cases, surgical intervention.

Ibrahim Haro, DPM
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NJ podiatrist helping Clifton area patients with diabetic foot care, foot pain, flat feet, and neuropathy.
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