Practice Plus Group MSK and Diagnostics

Dealing with foot pain

Foot pain affects a range of people and can have a variety of causes.

Some of these may be due to underlying foot problems or other health concerns, whereas others could be caused by something simpler, such as ill-fitting or incorrect shoes or an object lodged in your foot.

Foot problems can obviously have an impact on exercise, as well as general walking and mobility, so it’s important to seek treatment for any problems as soon as they occur rather than waiting and letting them get worse.

If you’re experiencing significant foot pain, a trip to your GP should be your first consideration. Here is some information on some of the potential causes of foot pain.



A bunion occurs when a bony swelling appears at the base of the big toe, meaning it points towards the other toes on the foot. This can become painful and difficult to walk on. The condition can normally be treated with corrective footwear and painkillers, or surgery in extreme cases.



This is a wart like growth that occurs on the sole of the foot, meaning it can be painful to walk on. They normally look like a small and flat white circle of skin with a black dot in the middle. Verrucas and warts can be treated using a variety of methods, such as over the counter treatments, freezing with liquid nitrogen or prescription chemical treatments. If you think you have a verruca, your local pharmacy can offer confidential advice.


Ingrown toenails

When the edge of the toenail grows into the surrounding skin, it can become sore and tender. There’s a risk of infection which can make the toe even more painful. You can help to avoid an ingrown toenail by keeping your feet clean, cutting your nails and wearing proper fitting, comfortable shoes. However, if you do develop a serious ingrown toenail, this is usually treated by removing part or the entire nail – often under a local anaesthetic.



This is when a substance called uric acid forms in the joint of the big toe, which leads to inflammation and pain. Gout can also affect other joints, but will usually appear in the big toe first. Gout is usually treated using medication and can be avoided by controlling your diet and weight.


Sprains and stress fractures

These are common if you take part in high-impact activities, such as sport. A sprain occurs when the tissues of the foot become temporarily stretched and damaged. A stress fracture is more serious, and occurs when a small crack appears in one of the bones of your foot. If this occurs, the area will likely become bruised and tender to the touch.

Other sources of foot pain include nerve problems, metatarsalgia (which is a burning or aching pain which can get worse when you move) or a build-up of fluid in the tissues of the foot.

One other possible cause of foot pain is arthritis, which can particularly affect older people. This is a swelling of the tissues around the joints, such as those of the big toe and heel. This is known as osteoarthritis. Another form of this is rheumatoid arthritis, which is caused by the immune system attacking the joints and making them inflamed. This also affects other joints in the body, so if you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis your symptoms will likely go beyond foot pain.

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