We stand on our feet every day and when it comes to our health, our feet are usually the last parts of our body that we think about.
Supporting our entire body weight, our feet take quite a beating after a long and tiring day and it’s no surprise that many of us experience odd pains in our feet, knees, and calves.
Our feet do more than just provide a platform for us to walk, run or stand on. They are what supports us and our entire body so it is important to maintain good foot health if you want to be healthy.
One-quarter of the bones in our body are found in our feet. Damaging our feet can affect our entire body. Pain in your feet can be caused by a variety of things that may not even be related to your feet so it is important that you do not ignore your foot pain.
The foot is quite complex and we’ve glossed over some of the important parts of the foot.
Understanding the anatomy of the foot helps us to learn how the foot functions normally and thus to figure out what is happening when the foot is not functioning properly and is causing pain.
Your feet are typically divided into 3 sections: the forefoot, midfoot and hindfoot.
The forefoot consists of your toes and the longer bones which connect to these toes, which are called metatarsals.
The midfoot consists of the bones which form the arches of your feet.
Each foot has 3 arches (unlike the one arch that the majority of people think we have!). There’s one arch on the inside of the foot, which is the one that everyone immediately thinks of.
The other two arches are on the outside of the foot and also across the ball of the foot.
The arches help the foot to support your body weight with the least amount of effort possible.
The hindfoot is made of the heel and the ankle.
Of course, the foot is more than just bones. Muscles allow for the flexible movements of your feet while the tendons and ligaments attach the muscles to your bone or attach the bones to other bones together, respectively.
The most important tendon which you may have heard of is the Achilles tendon. This tendon connects the heel and calf muscle and so it is important for walking, running and standing on your tippy toes.
Foot pain is a pain in the foot caused by injury, overuse of the feet or other conditions and diseases which may cause inflammation of the bones, tendons or ligaments of your foot.
Chronic foot pain is a long-lasting pain in the foot caused by long-term or permanent injuries. Given that we spend so much of our time awake and on our feet, it is important to address foot pain as soon as possible so that it doesn’t interfere with our life.
Symptoms of foot pain vary between different conditions but as the name suggests, all of them involve feelings of pain and discomfort in your feet.
These feelings of discomfort can be felt when you’re standing, walking, running or just 24/7. Or maybe you can only feel pain when performing a particular task, such as standing on tip toe. Other forms of foot pain may only reveal themselves when you apply pressure to the area.
Foot pain is usually caused by either our habits or it may be a medical issue.
The biggest culprit of foot pain is wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. This can include wearing shoes that don’t support your feet or wearing poorly designed shoes when doing vigorous exercise such as running.
Another common problem with shoes causing foot pain is the use of high heels. High heels place a lot of pressure on your toes as your entire body weight is now being supported by your toes instead of your whole foot.
Many medical conditions are associated foot pain. Since there are a lot of bones and joints in your feet, the most common medical condition that your feet are susceptible to is arthritis.
A foot pain map is a diagram of your foot. By identifying the area of your foot that is in pain and then matching it up with the correct area on the foot pain map, it is possible to identify the cause of your pain.
There are several types of foot pain, depending on the part of the foot that hurts.
Corns and calluses are areas of thick skin on your feet. They form when there is a lot of pressure, friction or rubbing on the skin and can make walking painful.
Corns are typically found on the top and sides of your toes. Calluses are much larger areas of skin that are rough and hard.
Most corns and calluses disappear when you stop putting friction or pressure on that area. You can also rub off the dead skin with a brush or pumice stone.
Joints that are used often, including your toes, are prone to developing bursitis.
A bursa is a small fluid-filled sac which protects areas by preventing friction caused by direct rubbing against the bone, thus preventing irritation or damage in the area. Bursae also help to absorb shock.
So, it’s normal to have a few healthy bursae.
However, when too much pressure or friction is applied to the area, then these bursae will develop in large amounts and this will lead to bursitis. This will cause swelling, pain, and tenderness in the area of the bursae, which can limit the amount of movement you have in that joint.
Bursitis in the toes is quite common from repetitive use or overuse of your feet, such as standing for a long period of time or running.
Bursitis is caused by too much friction in the area, so a little extra rest and comfy shoes which are wide at the front can help to reduce and eliminate bursitis.
For more serious cases which require a trip to the doctors, orthotics or padding in your shoes may be recommended to help treat bursitis.
A bunion is a bony bulge that occurs at the base of your big toe due to the first joint not being properly aligned.
The occurrence of bunions tends to run in the family so if you have a family history of bunions, then you have a higher risk of developing them.
Many things contribute to the development of bunions such as:
Pain relief can be achieved by reducing pressure on the bunion, such as wearing shoes that fit correctly and arch supports.
A hammertoe is when your middle toes (second, third and fourth toes) are bent at the middle joint, causing your toes to bend downwards instead of pointing forward like normal.
Hammertoe usually develops from wearing shoes that do not fit properly, wearing tight or pointed shoes, and arthritis.
Mild forms of hammertoe can be easily treated by wearing shoes which are wider at the toes. Adding padding to your shoes can also help correct your toes.
If simple fixes cannot realign your toes, then surgery may be required.
A neuroma is a growth of nerve tissue. A particular type called Morton’s neuroma typically occurs between the third and fourth toes when your toes are squeezed together too much. This causes the nerves to swell up and cause pain when you walk.
The pain is described as sharp or burning and it can be reduced by wearing shoes that give your toes more room. Rest and an ice pack can also help to reduce the swelling and the pain.
The sesamoids are two small bones that are found in the ball of your foot just underneath your big toe.
Sesamoiditis is the inflammation of the tendons which surround these bones.
The sesamoids experience a lot of pressure each time you use your big toe to push yourself forward.
Thus, this condition occurs commonly among runners and ballet dancers.
Sesamoiditis can be treated with rest and strapping the big toe to allow the joint to heal. Foot pads and orthotics can also help to relieve some of the pressure. Steroid injections or surgery may be considered in more serious cases.
Metatarsalgia is a pain on the ball of your foot from an overuse injury. The pain is typically worse when walking.
The common causes of metatarsalgia are high levels of activity, sports injuries and tight muscles and tendons.
The usual fixes for metatarsalgia are to wear shoes that are a proper fit and to ease up on strenuous exercises such as running and jumping.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when the posterior tibial nerve is being pinched within the tarsal tunnel. This results in numbness on the bottom of the foot and burning pain over the heel.
Some causes of tarsal tunnel syndrome include:
Treatment is usually with anti-inflammatory medications to decrease the amount of swelling. Orthotics and shoes with better support can also help.
Surgery can also be performed to decrease the pressure on the posterior tibial nerve.
Pronation helps with shock absorption in the foot, by rolling the foot inwards every time your feet touches the ground. While pronation is a normal part of walking, the size of the arches of your feet can affect your foot’s ability to roll properly.
People with flat feet tend to overpronate, meaning the foot rolls inwards more than usual. This means shock absorption is not as efficient and the big toe has to do more work to push off the ground.
People with high arches tend to under-pronate, so their foot rolls inwards less than normal. This puts all the pressure on the outside of the foot, making your little toes work harder when you push off the ground.
This all causes extra stress to your muscles and can lead to other injuries of your foot. Running shoes with motion control, stability and supportive arch supports can assist with correct pronation.
When the tissues that support the arch of your feet and the muscles are stressed and over-stretched, this can cause tiny tears which result in inflammation and pain in the heel and the arch of the foot. The pain is typically worse in the morning but eases up as the day progresses.
Your risk of developing plantar fasciitis is increased if you’re standing on your feet for extended periods of time, or wearing shoes without proper arch support. Tight Achilles tendons can also lead to plantar fasciitis.
To treat it requires rest and shoes with good arch support. Muscle stretches for the calves and the feet are also recommended to help loosen up the tight tendons and muscles.
Heel spurs are bone growths on the bottom of the heel. This can be as much as an extra half inch! Heel spurs cause heel pain when walking or standing, though some people have heel spurs and don’t feel any pain at all.
Walking abnormalities which place stress on the heels, obesity and running on hard surfaces can increase your risk of developing heel spurs.
They can be treated with orthotics, shock absorbing shoes or surgery.
Haglund’s deformity occurs when there is a bony lump on the back of the heel near the Achilles tendon. This large bony bump rubs against your shoes, and this constant pressure causes irritation of the heel and leading to bursitis.
People who wear shoes with stiff heels are at greater risk of developing Haglund’s deformity. Placing ice on the area, wearing open back shoes and using inserts for your shoes can help treat Haglund’s deformity.
Achilles tendinopathy affects your Achilles tendon, which connects your heel to your calf muscles. The condition causes pain, swelling, and stiffness of the tendon but it is not thought to cause inflammation of the tendon.
This can make walking very difficult, especially in the morning when you’ve just woken up.
Achilles tendinopathy can occur due to a tight Achilles tendon and overuse injury, such as in runners and people who do lots of jumping.
Lots of tiny tears occur in your Achilles tendon over a long period of time. These do not heal up properly and over time, the damage builds up and leads to Achilles tendinopathy.
Rest, ice, stretching the calf muscles and painkillers can help to strengthen the Achilles tendon and ease the pain.
The tendons in your feet work together to form the arch of your feet. When the tendons are not working, and pulling properly, the arch collapses and the result is flat feet i.e. feet without the appearance of an arch.
Flat feet can be present from birth or be caused by stretched or torn tendons. Age, overweight and pregnancy also contribute to your risk of developing flat feet. Other conditions which can cause flat feet include rheumatoid arthritis.
Flat feet can cause your feet to tire easily since they’re working harder to support your weight. It can also cause pain in the arches and heels and maybe even throughout your leg and back.
The usual treatment for flat feet is orthotics to provide some arch support. Stretches, physiotherapy, and painkillers can also help to reduce the pain and swelling.
It seems that most common cause of foot pain comes from wearing shoes that don’t fit us properly. Buying a new pair of shoes that are comfortable and have all the supporting features for your feet is a quick and easy fix for most conditions.
However, injuries and pain do take a while to heal and the process can be sped up with some treatments. Foot pain treatments are also great for preventing future damage to your feet so you won’t experience horrible foot pain again.
While the best short term treatment for foot pain is to rest, too much rest is actually harmful since it puts you at greater risk of re-injury.
By exercising your feet and legs, it will strengthen your muscles and thus reduce foot pain in the long term.
Performing stretches to stretch out the muscles in your feet and calves can also help loosen up the muscles and tendons. This will ease the pain and help prevent injury due to tightness.
Massages are well known to help reduce stress and relieve tension. Plus, they feel great on your feet!
Massaging can help to enhance the blood flow to your feet, reducing the swelling that causes pain, and stretching and soothing your aching muscles.
Insoles, or orthotics, are placed into your shoes to provide extra cushioning for your feet. They are uniquely shaped to provide support for your arch, allowing you to redistribute your weight properly on your feet and relieve pressure on sensitive areas.
Orthotics can also help to fix your gait or other walking abnormalities, which will decrease foot pain in the long term.
Water treatments are a cheap and easy way to provide relief from foot pain. The most effective one is the hot and cold water treatment.
You dip your feet alternately into hot and cold water 2 to 3 times, each time for about a minute. The hot water promotes blood flow to your feet while the cold water reduces inflammation.
An alternative to using buckets or tubs of hot and cold water is to roll your feet alternately on a heat pad and an ice pack for 15 minutes.
There are various home remedies for foot pain, from soaking your feet in vinegar to rubbing your feet with clove oil.
Another option for soothing your sore feet is to use essential oils.
Mix 4 drops of eucalyptus oil and rosemary oil with 2 drops of peppermint oil in hot water.
Soak your feet for 10 minutes.
Of course, home remedies are not a substitute for visiting your doctor and receiving proper medical advice if your foot pain is intolerable or persistent.
The knee is the most complex joint in our body. The joint is made up of four bones: the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone), fibula (smaller bone on the outside of the shin) and the patella (kneecap).
The knee joint is lined with cartilage. Cartilage reduces friction as you are moving your knee, preventing knee pain. Cartilage also acts as shock absorbers.
The whole knee joint is encased inside a joint capsule which contains synovial fluid. The synovial fluid is a lubricant which helps the joints move without friction, kind of like when you oil the hinges of your door.
Knee pain is pain or discomfort experienced in the knee region. If this pain is long term, then it is called chronic knee pain.
The knee experiences many forces throughout the day, so most of us will suffer from temporary knee pain every once in a while.
But with chronic knee pain, it is usually caused by an injury and will often require treatment in order for the knee to heal.
Symptoms vary a bit depending on the cause of your knee pain. Some common symptoms of knee pain include:
The cause of knee pain can be either physical injury or a result of disease. Common causes include dislocation of the knee, arthritis, and injuries to the tendons, ligaments or muscles attached to the knee.
Factors which can increase your chances of developing knee pain include:
Anterior knee pain is a result of injuries which causes pain on the front of the knee.
In patellofemoral pain syndrome, the cartilage underneath your kneecap is damaged or irritated. This can be caused by injury or overuse of the knee and is the most common type of knee pain seen in young adults, especially people who play sports or exercise.
The most common symptoms are pain when using the stairs, squatting, or sitting with your knees bent for a long period of time.
To reduce the pain, rest is the most common treatment. Physiotherapy and painkillers can also help with knee pain relief.
Jumper’s knee, also known as patellar tendonitis, is caused by inflammation of the patellar tendon. This tendon joins the kneecap to your shin bone. This injury is due to overuse of your knee.
The name “Jumper’s knee” stems from the fact that this type of injury is very common in athletes who jump a lot, such as when playing basketball.
Treatment involves stretching the surrounding muscles of the knee and hips. The use of ice after exercising can help to decrease pain after using your knee. Not to mention some rest and reducing the amount of activity and stress on your knee will help with managing knee pain.
Posterior knee pain is pain on the back of the knee.
The biceps femoris tendon is one of the hamstring tendons. In biceps femoris tendonitis, there is inflammation at the point where the tendon meets the bone. This leads to pain and swelling. Pain will be present when you try to bend the knee, and your knee will feel quite stiff.
People who have this condition usually also have tight hamstring muscles. Biceps femoris tendonitis can be caused commonly by activities which involve accelerating and decelerating fast and often, such as running.
Treatment involves placing ice over the area and wearing an elastic support to provide support for the joint.
A Baker’s cyst is a large swelling on the back of the knee. The swollen lump is filled with fluid and the lump exerts a pressure on the back of the knee which can feel uncomfortable and can make bending the knee difficult.
Baker’s cysts usually form as a result of another underlying injury to your knee. This can be a torn cartilage meniscus, causing the synovial fluid to fill up the bursa on the back of your knee and cause them to swell. In older people, arthritis is a common cause of Baker’s cyst.
Wearing a compressive wrap on the knee can provide support and help reduce swelling.
Medial knee pain is pain on the inner side of the knee. It is quite common to get pain on the inner side of the knee due to muscle tightness.
This causes the force of our weight to travel through the side of the knee instead of being distributed over the whole knee, leading to damage and pain on the inner side of the knee.
Pain develops gradually over time. If there has been an injury, then pain may develop suddenly.
A knee brace, exercise, ice and stretches can all help to reduce medial knee pain.
Lateral knee pain is pain on the outer side of the knee.
This is the least common place for knee pain to develop.
A few causes for lateral knee pain include:
Sudden twisting of the knee which forces the lower half of the leg to bend inwards.
These causes can result in the ligaments or cartilage on the outer side of the knee being torn. It can also cause irritation of the fibrous tissue which runs along the outer side of the knee.
Again, treatments involve ice on the area, rest, a knee brace and exercise.
Pain relief methods for your knee focuses on reducing pain, swelling and weakness of the knee joint. Effective methods for knee pain relief are easy and can be performed in your own home.
Muscle weakness is a major cause of knee problems so performing exercises to strengthen your leg muscles is the best way to get knee pain relief.
Strengthening exercises improve the stability of your knee so that force travels through your knee properly, helping with almost any knee pain you may have.
Tight muscles also cause a lot of grief so stretching your legs properly can help to reduce knee pain by reducing the amount of tension in your knee.
Ice helps to reduce the initial swelling and numb the pain in your knee. It is a good idea to use ice straight after your injury.
Heat is better for the long term. The heat helps the muscles to relax and promotes blood flow to the area, allowing for faster healing.
A knee brace provides protection and support for your knee while reducing the amount of knee pain. It can make playing sports or walking easier on your knee joint while it is still healing.
Calf pain is pain on the back of the lower half of your leg. Calf pain is quite common during physical activity and can range from just a mild problem to something very major.
Symptoms of calf pain vary depending on the cause. Common symptoms of calf pain include:
Calf pain can be caused by a variety of things. The most common cause of calf pain is calf strain. Cramps and torn calf muscles can also cause calf pain.
Calf strain occurs when the muscle fibers of the calf are torn. The amount of damage can range from a minor injury that will heal in a couple of weeks to a major injury that requires medical attention and can take months to heal.
Calf strain usually happens from overstretching the calf muscles and also from suddenly changing directions while you are running.
Calf strain is treated with rest, ice, compression wrap and keeping your leg elevated. This will help to stop internal bleeding and reduce swelling.
Heel pads can also be added into shoes to shorten the calf muscle to take some of the pressure of it.
Leg cramps are painful involuntary muscle contractions which commonly occur in your calves. These are quite common if you’re a runner. Even if you don’t do much physical exercise, you’ll still experience leg cramps from sitting in a position for too long and then suddenly changing your posture.
It’s not quite known what causes leg cramps but it may be due to dehydration or low salt levels.
Cramps come and go and so there is no single “treatment” you can have prepared for them. When you feel a wave of cramp seizing your calf, stretch the muscles which are cramping and gently massage them.
Without proper stretching, your calf muscles will tighten up. These tight and shortened calf muscles prevent you from flexing your foot, making it difficult when it comes to walking.
So, the muscles in your foot and your shin have to work extra hard to compensate for the lack of flexibility in your foot, leading to pain in your shin and your calves.
Stretching your calves every day can help to loosen up your tight calf muscles. Rolling your foot on something hard – such as a smooth rock or a golf ball – can also help.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the formation of a blood clot in your veins, commonly in the calf area. It is an extremely serious condition as it can lead to death if the blood clot is not broken up.
Common causes of DVT are during long plane trips and also after surgery. People at greater risk of developing DVT include overweight or people with poor blood circulation.
People who have a DVT experience constant calf pain. The area will feel tender and swollen and may be hot to the touch and appear slightly red.
DVT can be deadly because part of the blood clot may come loose and travel to other areas of the body. If it travels into some small blood vessels, such as in your brain, the blood clot can clog up the vessel, stopping blood and oxygen from reaching vital organs, leading to death.
Your method of treating your calf pain will depend on the cause of the pain. Here are some common calf pain treatments which you can use. While they may not work for all conditions that result in calf pain, they may offer some relief.
Allowing the muscles to rest and the inflammation to go away is the best step (and sometimes the only step) to do if you want to calf pain to go away.
Remember, it’s not possible to rest forever! After the pain goes away, it is a good idea to start up exercising again, to build up strength in your calves.
Stretching the muscles and tendons of your calves before and after exercising will help. Stretches help to relax your muscles and increase blood flow to the area, preventing any soreness from developing later.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can be used to reduce calf pain. These medications work by reducing inflammation, thus decreasing pain.
The complexity of our feet and legs means there is a much wider range of things that can go wrong. Many conditions can be treated with a little rest and ice, while other more serious conditions may require a trip to the doctor’s.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce foot, knee or calf pain, you may need to buy new shoes or invest in a foot brace, ice packs and a multitude of other things to maintain good foot health.
We’ve also got a few pointers on what to look out for when purchasing the best shoes for running and also important features that your braces and compression sleeves should have. So, don’t forget to check out our buying guides for more information on those.