Your feet are one of the most important parts of your body. They accept and disperse tremendous forces during standing, walking, and running (e.g., walking 1 mile places 60 tons of stress on each foot), and they possess extraordinary strength, integrity, and endurance. Although your feet are resilient and capable of bearing considerable forces, too much stress can cause pain or discomfort—especially if your foot is held in a deformed or compromised position within your shoe. Foot pain may be located in one or more of three distinct places:
1. Forefoot2. Midfoot3. Rearfoot
1. Forefoot Pain
Your forefoot is approximately the anterior third of your foot and is composed of your metatarsal bones and phalanges and their respective joints. Forefoot pain or discomfort is usually felt toward the end of the foot, either in the ball of the foot or in the toes. The rate of forefoot pain and deformity increases with age, especially in individuals who have worn conventional footwear for many decades. The following conditions are all possible causes of forefoot pain: arthritis, athlete's foot, blisters, broken toes, bunionettes, bunions, capsulitis, corns and calluses, gout, hallux rigidus, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, metatarsal fractures, neuromas, plantar warts, Raynaud's, and sesamoiditis. When a definitive cause of ball of foot pain cannot be determined, the pain is usually referred to as “metatarsalgia.” Forefoot pain can be caused by traumatic injury or from wearing shoes that are too narrow. Shoes that possess wide toe boxes allow your toes and forefoot sufficient room to spread and help reduce your likelihood of experiencing forefoot pain.
2. Midfoot Pain
Your midfoot is approximately the middle third of your foot and is composed of your tarsal bones and their joints. Your midfoot also contains a significant portion of your medial longitudinal arch, your foot's primary arch. The causes of midfoot pain are numerous. A non-exhaustive list of problems associated with the midfoot include: blisters, extensor tendinitis, flat feet, lateral plantar nerve entrapment, peroneal tendinopathy or tendinitis, pes caves, sinus tarsi syndrome, stress fractures, tarsal coalition, tibialis posterior syndrome, tibialis posterior tendinopathy, and various ligament sprains. Because midfoot pain can be severely debilitating and significantly affect your activities of daily living, treatment is often necessary. The type or underlying cause of midfoot pain dictates the kind of treatment you will receive. Most types of midfoot pain can be treated using conservative therapies.
3. Rearfoot Pain
Your rearfoot is approximately the posterior third of your foot and is composed of your calcaneus and talus bones and their associated joints. In shoe-wearing populations, the heel is usually the first part of the foot to strike the ground during gait, which places a significant amount of force on the heel and its associated structures and tissues. Heel pain is one of the most common types of foot pain in adults, and it may occur from the use of inappropriate footwear or as a result of traumatic injury. Rearfoot or heel pain may be caused by the following health problems: Achilles tendinosis, arthritis, blisters, bruised heels, bursitis, calcaneal stress fractures, medial calcaneal nerve entrapment, plantar fasciosis, Sever's disease, and tarsal tunnel syndrome. Heel pain occurs in both heels in less than 30 percent of heel pain cases—an important fact that can help physicians diagnose rearfoot conditions.
The specific location of foot pain is usually where the problem lies, though in some cases, foot pain or other symptoms may be caused by problems in a different part of the foot, lower leg, or even the lower back. It's important to seek the help of a trusted foot care professional to have your problem assessed and treated properly. Because some underlying causes of foot pain may be serious, it's best to seek help in a timely manner to prevent additional problems or complications down the line.