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Common Causes of Foot Pain

person with foot pain

Foot pain can be incredibly frustrating, especially when it affects your ability to walk, exercise, or even stand comfortably. If you're experiencing foot pain, it's essential to identify the potential causes so you can find the right solutions and get back on your feet. In this blog post, we'll explore some common culprits behind foot pain and provide insights to help you better understand your condition. Let's dive in and uncover the reasons behind your achy feet.

foot anatomy including bone, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments

Foot Anatomy

To better understand the common causes of foot pain, let's explore the anatomy of the foot.

  1. Bones: The foot is composed of multiple bones that work together to provide support, stability, and flexibility. These bones include the tarsal bones in the hindfoot, the metatarsals in the midfoot, and the phalanges in the toes.

  2. Joints: Joints are the connections between bones that allow movement. In the foot, there are several joints, including the ankle joint, which connects the lower leg to the foot, and the various joints between the tarsal bones, metatarsals, and phalanges. These joints work together to provide the foot with its wide range of motions.

  3. Ligaments: Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to other bones, providing stability to the joints. In the foot, there are numerous ligaments that support the arches and hold the bones together. These ligaments help maintain the foot's structure and prevent excessive movement that could lead to injury.

  4. Muscles and Tendons: The foot is surrounded by muscles and tendons that control its movements. These structures work together to allow us to walk, run, jump, and perform various activities. The muscles provide strength, while the tendons connect the muscles to the bones, allowing for controlled movement.

  5. Plantar Fascia: The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, from the heel to the toes. It provides support to the arches of the foot and helps absorb shock during walking and running.

Common Causes of Foot Pain

1. Plantar Fasciitis:

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition characterized by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot. It often leads to heel pain, especially when taking the first steps in the morning or after prolonged periods of rest. If you're experiencing stabbing pain in your heel or the bottom of your foot, plantar fasciitis may be the cause. (Read more about plantar fasciitis here).

2. Bunions:

A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe joint. It develops when the big toe pushes against the adjacent toe, causing the joint to protrude. Bunions can be painful, leading to discomfort and difficulty finding shoes that fit properly. If you notice a bony bump at the base of your big toe accompanied by pain, a bunion may be the culprit.

3. Morton's Neuroma:

Morton's neuroma is a painful condition that affects the ball of the foot, typically between the third and fourth toes. It occurs when the tissue surrounding a nerve thickens, causing a sharp, burning pain or the feeling of a pebble in your shoe. If you're experiencing pain, tingling, or numbness in the ball of your foot, Morton's neuroma might be the cause.

4. Achilles Tendonitis:

Achilles tendonitis refers to the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It often develops due to overuse or excessive strain on the tendon, leading to pain, stiffness, and swelling at the back of the heel. If you're experiencing discomfort in this area, especially during physical activity, Achilles tendonitis may be to blame.

5. Stress Fractures:

Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bones of your foot that usually result from repetitive stress or overuse. They can cause pain, tenderness, and swelling, particularly with weight-bearing activities. If you've recently increased your activity level or experienced trauma to your foot and are now experiencing localized pain, a stress fracture could be the cause.

When to Seek Help

If you're experiencing persistent or worsening foot pain, it's crucial to seek professional help. A qualified healthcare provider, such as a physical therapist, can evaluate your condition, determine the underlying cause, and develop a personalized treatment plan to address your specific needs.

Treatment Options

The treatment for foot pain depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Physical therapy may include exercises to improve foot strength, flexibility, and stability. Modalities such as ice, heat, and manual therapy techniques may also be used to reduce pain and promote healing.

Understanding the common causes of foot pain is the first step toward finding relief and getting back to your daily activities. If you're experiencing foot pain that's interfering with your quality of life, don't hesitate to reach out to our team at Nashville Physical Therapy & Performance. We're here to help you overcome foot pain, regain mobility, and get back on your feet.


- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2014). Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs. Retrieved from

- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Bunions. Retrieved from

- American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. (2021). Morton's Neuroma. Retrieved from

- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2014). Achilles Tendinitis and Tendinopathy. Retrieved from

- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (2015). Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle. Retrieved from

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