The bottoms of the feet might not get as much respect as they deserve. Every day we’re sending them out to scout ahead with every step we take, either crammed into shoes or completely naked and unarmed.
They might get a nice massage once in a while, but that seems barely any compensation for all the stresses we put them through. And when these stresses become too much, we definitely feel it.
From aches at the base of the toes to shooting morning pains in the heel, pain along the bottom of the foot can really make one start to think twice about getting out of bed, let alone moving along with the day!
There are several potential causes of such problems—and we will be going into them a little further here—but one thing is for certain: any persistent pain you feel in your feet that doesn’t clear up after a couple days is not something you should just endure without seeking professional help! Not only will you be miserable, but you may also be risking further complications and extended pain in the future.
And the bottoms of your feet deserve more respect than that, right?
Now, when we say “the bottom of the foot,” there are at least a couple areas we could be referring to. Let’s take them one at a time.
Pain in the Heel Area
Heel pain is one of the most frequent complaints we hear about from folks coming into our office, so you are far from alone if you suffer from it as well.
One of the most frequent causes of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. This involves the thick band of tissue that runs from the base of your toes to your heel bone, called the plantar fascia. It helps form the arch and redistributes a lot of stress by flexing as you walk. However, too much strain or repetitive stress can cause micro-tears to form in the plantar fascia, leading to pain.
One of the most telling indications of plantar fasciitis is pain that worst as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, or when you start moving after any long period of inactivity. This is because you are making the plantar fascia stretch after resting, and it often takes some time for it to “warm up” again.
Another common cause of heel pain is Achilles tendinitis, the inflammation of the Achilles tendon that connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel bone. While sometimes this pain is felt farther up the leg, it can also be present where the tendon attaches to the heel bone (aka insertional Achilles tendinitis).
While Achilles tendinitis can also cause some pain and stiffness in the morning, the pain also tends to worsen after activity and becomes really bad the day after activity. If you suspect you have Achilles tendinitis, that’s your cue to stop the activity that’s causing it until you can come in to see us!
Pain in the Arch Area
This is pain right in the center of the foot, between the heel and the ball of the foot.
Plantar fasciitis can also be a prime suspect here, as it is a significant part of the arch. It is also possible for tendons in the area to become inflamed—in this case, it would likely be the posterior tibial tendon or the peroneal tendon.
In many cases of foot pain, and arch pain especially, it is important to look for structural abnormalities such as flat feet/fallen arches. Such abnormalities can shift the way that weight is distributed across the feet, creating excess strain and stress in certain areas.
Pain in the Ball of the Foot
This is the area right at the base of your toes, or what you stand on when you “tiptoe.”
There is a general term for pain in the ball of the foot: metatarsalgia. This is in relation to the metatarsals, or the longer bones that make up the structure of the toes.
Metatarsalgia is an encompassing term that can be related to a number of causes, including overuse injuries (i.e. too much stress or impact against the area), structural abnormalities, excess weight, and other factors.
A condition more specific to this area is Morton’s neuroma, which is a benign growth of tissue around a nerve, often as a response to stress or irritation against that nerve. The pain from a neuroma can be burning or tingling, and it can also feel like you have a small pebble in your shoe when you step on it.
What to Do About Your Foot Pain
Although there are different potential problems that can be responsible for pain along the bottom of the foot, they also tend to have a number of similarities. And we didn’t even get into problems that can affect just about anywhere, like stress fractures!
Many conditions can be the result of overuse, while others are centered more in structural abnormalities. Some may be a mixture of both, and even additional factors, too.
The good news, however, is that most forms of pain along the bottom of the foot can be treated well, and through conservative methods.
Treatment methods may include:
- Rest from certain activities (and we will work with you to find alternative, lower-impact activities during this time).
- Custom orthotics to help redistribute excess pressure away from injured areas.
- Laser therapy to promote pain relief and accelerated recovery of soft tissue injuries.
- Stretches, exercises, and other forms of physical therapy to strengthen and condition specific areas of the foot.
- Medications to reduce pain and inflammation.
However, to determine the best, most effective plan for your specific situation, we must get to the root of the problem. That requires you to come in and receive a thorough examination. No two causes of pain are exactly alike, and no one treatment plan will be a cure-all for everyone. That’s why we pride ourselves on working closely with patients to find the best ways to meet their individual needs.
Give us a call at (208) 731-6321 to schedule an appointment at our offices in Twin Falls or Burley. If you have additional questions, or would prefer to contact us electronically, please fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will respond to you.