What Are the Different Types of Foot Pain?

Reviewed on 8/31/2021

Many conditions can cause foot pain, including plantar fasciitis, fractures/stress fractures, heel spurs, corns, bunions, metatarsalgia, arthritis (inflammation of the joints), Morton's neuroma, hammertoes, posterior tibial tendonitis, turf toe (hyperextended great toe), and tarsal tunnel syndrome.
Many conditions can cause foot pain, including plantar fasciitis, fractures/stress fractures, heel spurs, corns, bunions, metatarsalgia, arthritis (inflammation of the joints), Morton’s neuroma, hammertoes, posterior tibial tendonitis, turf toe (hyperextended great toe), and tarsal tunnel syndrome.

The foot is made up of 26 bones, which are connected by numerous tendons, ligaments, joints, and muscles.

When the foot is injured, it can result in different types of foot pain and inflammation, which may cause reduced mobility and movement. 

Because there are so many different types and causes of foot pain, it is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment. 

There are numerous causes of foot pain, which are mentioned in the table below.

Causes of Foot Pain Chart
Foot Problem/Condition Symptoms
Plantar fasciitis
  • Pain is felt beneath the heel and sole of the foot
  • Is a result of strain on a ligament that extends from the heel bone and fans out along the bottom of the foot to the toes. 
  • The fascia provides support to the arch of the foot and acts as a shock absorber
  • Caused by repetitive impact to the heel and plantar fascia by activities such as running, jumping, dancing, and standing for long periods 
Fractures/stress fractures
  • A break in a bone that may be caused by direct injury to the foot, twisting of the foot, and other conditions that make the bones weak such as osteoporosis and certain medications
  • A type of overuse injury in which the repetitive stress of the foot striking the ground causes trauma
  • Commonly occurs in people who participate in sports such as tennis, gymnastics, running, and basketball
Heel spurs
  • Bone growth on the heel bone that causes pain in the heel
  • Yellowish, callus growths that develop on top of the toes due to stress or abuse on that area, such as where a shoe rubs against a toe
  • A protrusion of bone or tissue around a joint that occur at the base of the big toe or little toe
  • Frequently occur when the joint is stressed over a period of time
  • Happens more often in women due to wearing tight, pointed, confining shoes
  • May also result from arthritis
  • Pain is felt in the ball of the foot
  • Results from inflammation of the foot bones closest to the toes (metatarsals)
  • Caused by running and other activities that put a lot of pressure on the feet, frequently wearing tight-fitting shoes, and certain foot problems
Arthritis (inflammation of the joints)
  • Causes pain and stiffness in the small joints of the foot and ankle 
  • There are more than 100 forms of arthritis
Morton’s neuroma
  • A buildup of benign (noncancerous) tissue in the nerves running between the long bones of the foot due to two bones rubbing together and compressing the nerve between them
  • Usually causes pain, swelling, and tenderness between the bones leading to the third and fourth toes
  • The toe buckles, causing the middle joint of the affected toe to poke out
  • May be aggravated by tight-fitting shoes that put pressure on the hammertoe
Posterior tibial tendonitis
  • Pain is felt just under the inner ankle
  • The posterior tibial tendon attaches the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the foot, holds up the arch, and supports the foot when walking
  • Acute injury, such as a fall, causes posterior tibial tendon inflammation
  • Inflammation can occur from high-impact sports, such as basketball, tennis, or soccer
Turf toe (hyperextended great toe)
  • Pain is felt in the big toe area and the big toe joint
  • A sprain of the main joint of the big toe that is caused by forced hyperextension of the great toe as it strikes the ground or another player
  • Common in American football running backs and quarterbacks, especially from playing on artificial turf
Tarsal tunnel syndrome
  • Causes aching, burning, numbness, and tingling that is felt in the sole of the foot, toes, and heel
  • The foot equivalent of “carpal tunnel syndrome” 
  • Results from compression of the tibial nerve in the region of the ankles 
  • Often caused by a fracture or dislocation involving the bones of the rear foot or ankle (talus, calcaneus, or medial malleolus)
  • Can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, other causes of inflammation, and tumors

What Is the Treatment for Foot Pain?

Treatment for foot pain depends on the cause. 

For many causes of foot pain, the RICE method is used:

  • Rest and stay off your feet as much as possible
  • Ice the affected area
    • Use a cold pack or ice wrapped in a towel
    • Ice 20 minutes at a time, several times a day
  • Compression with a compression bandage or stocking
  • Elevate the affected foot

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) may be used for pain. 

  • Plantar fasciitis
    • Stretching
    • Shoe inserts
    • Tape support 
    • Protective footwear
    • Steroid injections for pain, though the effects usually only last a few weeks
    • Walking cast 
    • Shockwave therapy
    • Surgery (usually the last resort)
  • Fractures/stress fractures
    • Fractures are treated with immobilization of the injured area with a cast, walking cast, splint, brace, or healing boot 
    • Stress fractures are treated with rest and shoe inserts or braces 
  • Heel spurs
    • Proper stretching before activity
    • Appropriate footwear or shoe inserts
    • Steroid injections
    • Surgery for severe, prolonged conditions
  • Corns 
    • Wearing shoes that fit properly or larger shoes that don’t rub
    • Using pads around the corn
    • Shaving the layers of dead skin to trim the corn
    • Surgery
  • Bunions
    • Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes that do not cause pressure areas
    • Apply pads to the affected area
    • Surgery for pain
  • Metatarsalgia
    • Wear arch supports or orthotics 
    • Wear sturdy shoes with a metatarsal insert 
    • Surgery to correct the position of the foot bones
  • Arthritis
    • Minimize or avoid activities that cause or worsen pain
    • Low impact exercises such as swimming or cycling are preferred over high impact activities such as running
    • Physical therapy
    • Weight loss if overweight
    • Assistive devices such as braces, shoe inserts (orthotics), or custom-made shoes with stiff soles and rocker bottoms 
    • Steroid injections for pain (effects usually only last a few weeks)
    • Surgery, for cases that do not respond to non-surgical treatment
  • Morton’s neuroma
    • Wear shoes that do not restrict the foot
    • Cortisone injections 
    • Surgery if the problem persists
  • Hammertoes
    • Apply a toe pad specially positioned over the bony protrusion
    • Change footwear to accommodate the deformed toe
    • Surgical removal
  • Posterior tibial tendonitis
    • Immobilization with a short leg cast or walking boot for 6 to 8 weeks
    • Orthotics
    • Braces
    • Physical therapy
    • Steroid injection
    • Surgery, only if pain does not resolve after 6 months of non-surgical treatment
  • Turf toe
    • Taping the big toe to the smaller toes to restrict motion (“buddy taping”)
    • Immobilization for several weeks with a walking boot or cast
    • Physical therapy 
    • Surgery, if symptoms persist or the level of athletic play is affected
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome
    • Orthotics
    • Shoe modification
    • Corticosteroid injections 
    • Surgery to decompress the tibial nerve at the ankle for those who do not respond to conservative therapy


All ___________ have flat feet. See Answer

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Reviewed on 8/31/2021