my feet hurt

AUTHOR: Marc Mitnick DPM

REVIEWED BY: Podiatric Medical Review Board

--> My feet hurt


This is the most common statement that patients make to me. It then becomes my job to determine why their feet hurt. Unlike most other sites on the internet who seem to have a "one cure fits all" philosophy such as wearing an orthotic for any type of pain regardless of its source, the purpose of this page is an attempt by me to give you, the reader, a means to narrow down the causes of why your feet hurt.

We as foot specialists break down the foot into four systems.

VASCULAR conditions of the feet

This is the circulation coming down into the foot, known as arterial circulation and the circulation leaving the foot going back up to the heart known as venous circulation. Can circulation cause foot pain? Most definately. If too little blood is getting into the foot it will cause pain and discoloration usually most noticeable when the foot is elevated such as during rest. Putting the feet in a dependant position (standing up) will reduce the symptoms somewhat. Poor venous return on the other hand will generally cause pain, swelling and sometimes breakdown of the skin (skin ulcers) when standing too long. If sitting down and elevating your feet seems to make the pain less intense, then there is a possibility that your foot pain is from lack of adequate blood flow back to the heart.

This of course is a very broad description of circulation as the source of why your feet hurt as there are many other presentations to the feet and lower leg that will be circulatory related and need to evaluated by your doctor. Circulatory problems, unlike most bone, joint or skin problems have the potential to become very serious problems with serious implications. In general if your feet change color and swell depending on whether you are standing, sleeping or sitting, you should be evaluated for poor circulation.

See also: peripheral circulation

See also: blue toe syndrome

See also: cold feet

See also: compartment syndrome

See also: edema

See also: gangrene

DERMATOLOGICAL conditions of the feet

As the name implies are skin and nail conditions. These types of problems are probably the easiest for the patient to diagnose as there will be some kind of localized skin discoloration either in the form of redness, some sort of oozing, formation of scaling, crustiness, open wound, etc. There may also be nail issues such as thick discolored nails or ingrown nails either with or without infection.

In many cases these skin and nail problems will be the result of some sort of trauma, but in many cases the origin will be insidious either occurring very quickly or developing over time. I find that most patients will attempt to remedy the problem on their own, either by performing "bathroom surgery" where they attempt to cut away something, or by visiting the local drug store and applying some kind of ointment or cream in an effort to rid themselves of the problem. I guess I probably end up seeing those people that cannot rid themselves of their skin or nail irritation.

Some of the more serious skin and nail problems that may be present include ulcers, infections and skin cancers including melanoma. Any open wound should not be self treated but instead should be under the care of a doctor familiar with wound care. Infections as well should be medically treated as many simple infections have the potential to become very serious if improperly treated by the individual. A skin growth that does not look normal, even though there may not be any pain associated with it, should be examined by a doctor who may perform a biopsy (both skin and nail biopsies) if he or she thinks the growth is suspicious.

One of my big concerns is those individuals who have a thick dark nail and just attribute it to nail fungus. In most cases that is all it is, but in rare cases it may also indicate a melanoma of the nail bed or nail growth plate and if left untreated can have catastrophic consequences.

See also: athletes foot

See also: blisters

See also: cellulitis

See also: decubitus ulcer

See also: eczema

See also: heel fissure

See also: ingrown nail

See also: melanoma

See also: nail fungus

See also: puncture wounds

See also: venous stasis ulcer

See also: warts

ORTHOPEDIC conditions of the feet

This is the section that deals with musculo-skeletal pain either the result of injury, overuse where a particular foot structure is being over worked and eventually starts to break down. There are also metabolic diseases that can affect the joints of the body and the feet are no exception. There are numerous reasons that a foot will start to hurt and in many cases the pain can occur for no apparent reason at all.

We all get aches and pains for one reason or another and in the majority cases these pains will subside in a reasonable period of time and we then forget about them. Foot pain that persists regardless of all attempts to remedy it either by oral or topical medication, rest, change of shoes, change in activity, etc. will more than likely require medical attention. A lot of the pain seen in the foot can be simply part of the aging process as the feet tend to show arthritic changes before other parts of the body. This type of pain can be intermittant or can be an ongoing issue.

Other types of musculo-skeletal pain may be the result of trauma. Simple sprains and strains will tend to improve on their own; sometimes they will linger and they too will require medical attention. In most cases of trauma, no matter how small, if pain persists beyond a couple of days, a precautionary x-ray is always indicated as there is always the chance of a broken bone. In cases of simple fractures you cannot just look at the foot to determine if it is fractured. You would be amazed how many people have asked me that over the years.

Musculo-skeletal pain is probably the most common type of pain that brings a patient into the podiatrist's office. It is very likely that your musculo-skeletal pain, once identified, will not follow the same course of remedy as your friend, co-worker, or relative who suffered from the same problem. There are just too many variables involved, one of which is patient compliance. I have found over the years that those patients who took my advice seriously tended to get better quicker. The problem with musculo-skeletal pain in the foot, as I have mentioned numerous times on this site, is that it is very difficult to rest a foot (for minor injuries), so every time a person walks, they basically re-injure the foot and that is why foot problems can take so long to heal.

If your foot has started to hurt and there is no history of trauma, in an effort to avoid a visit to the doctor, first take a look at the shoes you are wearing. Is there one pair of shoes that seems to aggravate the problem more? Did the problem begin when wearing a certain pair of shoes? Have you been doing an activity that you are not accustomed to doing, like perhaps a new job where you are required to stand long hourts. In other words, try and think about what caused your pain in the first place; perhaps by eliminating the "cause" you will be able remedy the "problem".

Some musculo-skeletal problems cannot be remedied by conservative measures and many times it takes surgical intervention to fix the problem. Just keep in mind that surgery is not a panacea for all problems. Most foot surgery are elective procedures meaning you technically can live with your problem. I bother to mention this because sometimes surgery, although it looks and sounds good on the drawing board, does not always end with the anticipated results. The last thing you want to get involved in is then having multiple surgeries for the same problem, because no matter how good the surgeon and the surgery, mankind cannot do the same job that mother nature did.

As a closing thought many people attempt to cope with their musculo-skeletal pain by living on aspirin and other inflammation reducing, over the counter, pain medication. This type of treatment is fine for short term reduction of pain, but it is not a solution. The chronic use of this type of medication can cause stomach problems, kidney problems and liver problems all of which can have devastating affects. Just because a medication is sold without a prescription, does not make it safe to abuse.

See also: ankle pain

See also: arthritis

See also: bone spur

See also: bunion

See also: bursitis

See also: capsulitis

See also: cavus foot type

See also: flat feet

See also: fracture

See also: ganglion cyst

See also: hammertoes

See also: heel pain

See also: metatarsalgia

See also: midtarsal fault

See also: sesamoiditis

See also: surgical consideration

See also: tendonitis

NEUROLOGICAL conditions of the feet

This refers to abnormal sensations occurring in the feet as well as loss of muscle strength. Neurological problems are divided into two basic types, sensory and motor loss. In sensory deficit you may be experiencing things like numbness, tingling, burning or even hyper-sensitivity or a heightened sense of feeling in the feet. This is usually caused by damage to a sensory nerve. The damage can be any where from the lower back down to one of the local nerves in the foot. If the damage to a sensory nerve is coming from the lower back, often times it will affect both feet in similar locations. Local nerve irritation of a sensory nerve will usually only occur on one foot and it will be limited to a very specific location, which is usually the affected nerve innervates.

Motor nerve abnormalities will generally adversely affect the ability of the muscles in the foot and leg to function properly. This will result in an abnormal gait because of loss of muscle strength.

Nerve abnormalities in many instances can be of a worsening nature. This is a cause for concern when the neurolgical deficit affects a good portion of the feet and extends to the legs. Local nerve irritation also has the propensity to worsen, but the damage done is generally local and with the exception of the pain it may cause, generally will not lead to permanent disability.

See also: tarsal tunnel

See also: Mortons neuroma

See also: neuropathy

Want more information? CLICK HERE

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ORTHOTICS for heel and arch pain for those who must wear dress shoes
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I've been doing some aggressive research lately (it's how I found your incredible website) and realize now that my symptoms are not consistant with the diagnosis. Jennifer

Hunterville, NC
….after reviewing your amazing site (great for the avg. jill). So thank you very much!!!


I am really, really impressed with your plain-speak explanations for the various conditions.


This was an extremely helpful site. I have an appointment on the 18th and your info. Was right on target…..


A well organized site containing much information written in a manner that the average reader can comprehend.


Ontario, Canada
I found your website and articles most interesting.


Thank you for a quick response. I think your site is the best information site on foot pain and I have viewed many.


(location unknown)
I came to your website, via www.foot-pain explained .com which I think is also your website? I thought explanations for different types of problems were well addressed and thoughtfully stated for the patient in mind.


New York
You have an amazing and extremely informative site. I enjoyed looking through all of the data and stats.


Memphis, TN
Thanks again so much for the information in the article. Very interesting.


Great article. I have had plantar fasciitis since I was in high school……..

J. Simmons

(location unknown)
Dear Dr. Mitnick, The orthotics arrived four days ago and I slipped them into my shoes immediately. I was skeptical as to the usefulness of the item, they really didn't look very exotic. I have to say though, after using them for just four days, I have experienced grand relief from my foot pain. Even the very first day, I was able to do a lot of work while on my feet with at least a 75% reduction of pain. It has only gotten better every day, and I go nowhere without my shoes with the orthotics. I had been experiencing extreme heel and sole pain for about six months and had to take extended breaks off my feet many times a day as well as regular doses of Ibuprofen. Since getting the orthotics, my life has returned to normal and I feel good again. Just wanted to say thanks for the recommendation for a very effective item, I had no idea what a change this item could affect.

Yours truly,

J.C. Forbes

Thanks for the Response, you hit it on the head.


Redondo Beach, CA
Thank you for your time and expertise in answering my question…..


(location unknown)
First, thanks for putting together this website. Its the most informative site I have found dealing with foot problems. Last June I started having pain and swelling at …….


(location unknown)
First of all, thank you for having all this useful information available in one place. I've been through most of your website and based on my research, pain and evaluations I think I've narrowed things down quite a bit.

Pete M.

(location unknown)
Thank you for the best site I have found when researching foot pain.

Glenda B.

Madison, Alabama
Thanks for replying so quickly. I was a bit concerned. I think your website is great, and chock full of info.....


Denison, TX
Dr. Marc, Thank you so much for your reply which seemed to be right on. I have researched many sites but you put me on the right path to the possible answer. My foot pain may not rule the rest of my life after all! I believe I'll make a sign that reads, "THE END IS NEAR!" Thanks Very Much,


West lafayette, IN
Dear doubt you get positive comments re your site...May I please be added to the list of your admirers. In all of my years of web surfing I would say your site is right there with the very best. Thank you for taking the time to write the terrific info you provide and for putting things into laymen terms for us mere mortals. I pray you have much on going success and thank you again for a deed well done. As for me I did not find much help for my symptoms and will continue on my quest. Were you anywhere in the South I would make and appointment...Thanks again dear sir...m.e.

Michael E.

Tampa, Florida 33624
Hi. This is a great site! I'm a healthy middle aged woman who is in good health, but.....


Just a wee word of thanks for your wonderful website...It is a terrific service...Thank you for providing your knowledge and help...With highest regards, m ebeling

Michael D. Ebeling

Tampa, Florida 33624

Thanks for a most interesting website, which has helped a lot.



Dear Dr.Mitnick

I usually do my research on the Mayo clinic website. I think your website is the most informative site I have found when researching foot pain.

I thank you for putting together this incredible website.


Dragica W.


....I have been told that it is not hard enough to be cut off. Please help, I am not sure what to do now! THANKS FOR A WONDERFUL AND VERY HELPFUL SITE!


South Africa

You have an unusually clear, informative and well-written website for laypersons. Thank you for that.

Matthew W.

Mansfield Ctr, CT

First, I'd like to thank you for all the information that you provide on your website and the opportunity to write to you.


Placentia, California

First, I want to let you know that you have the best web site I've found related to foot issues. (The only thing I had difficulty finding was the "ask a question" page.)


Unknown location

I received the orthotics Monday afternoon and began wearing them Tuesday. After two days I would say that I have noticed a huge improvement in the discomfort I have been experiencing. My foot feels better than it has in months.

Ric J.

Unknown location

I greatly admire someone like you who would donate and dedicate so much time and effort to helping strangers with no compensation. Truly, it is uncommonly kind. And your site is so intelligently arranged.

Ron R.

Pacific Grove, CA

I used to work for a podiatrist (front desk) back during summers in college years ago, so I know the benefits of good care. Again, I want to thank you for an EXCELLENT website. It was so great to get to your site (top of google search) and actually find all the answers I needed EASILY and QUICKLY! Clearly you put a ton of work into it and I really appreciate it.

All the best,


Alameda, California

By the way, millions of websites could use yours as a guideline on how to organize information and make the site user-friendly. Kudos to you!


Thank you for your very interesting and informative site!


Hi. I come to your site often looking for information. It is really informative and I appreciate it very much. I have RA and have been having considerable amount of foot pain...... Dee RN

Thanks very much for the wonderful informative site.


New Zealand

Thank You for my answer! I have been schedule for a bone density scan, allingment, and I am in the process of getting orthotics made, and checking out the natural remedies. Thank again! What a great web site!



Yes I want both pair of orthotics. You don't have an option of ordering 2 at one time so I had to place the order twice. Thanks. My husband likes these and wants to put them in all of his shoes. (referring to Superstep orthotics)

Cindy H.

I searched the internet everywhere for a clear description and illustration of my symptoms/problem. was where I ended my search with answers. If I lived in Jersey (left 30 years ago) and didn't live in Florida I would definetly make an appointment with Dr. Mitnick.

Thanks, Kathy

1st of all THANKS A LOT for your great site......


Thank you so much for your response. I will let you know how I am doing if you would like. Your website is awesome!


South Carolina
Hello! I want to thank you for such an informative website! I found you based on my ankle pain search and am happy to realize that there may be a relatively simple cause and solution....


unknown location

...Thanks for your fantastic service.


Arlington, VA

Thank you so very much, that would be much appreciated. I love those insoles, by the way. (referring to Superstep orthotics)

Kelly W.

San Clemente, CA

Dr Marc is fantastic...He seems to know exactly what you are feeling with the problems you are having. I wish he was in my home town so I could go to him with my problems!!!!!!!!!!!!!


location unknown

Great insights! Thanks Doc, you're the best.


location unknown

I have been experiencing foot pain of various sorts and am working to figure out what it is. I found this site and can only say BRAVO!! What an excellent site! The time it must have taken to put all this together must've been a daunting task! I am sure it has helped so many people. Thank you so very much for doing this.


location unknown

Dr. Mitnick, Thank you so much for your reply. I did let my physician know and they took an x-ray - all is well! Also, thank you for providing this wonderful site, it is very helpful with lots of useful information! I appreciate your gift of time! God bless.


Dr. Mitnick, Thank you, you were 100% correct. The pain finally brought me to the ER. I spent 8 days in the hospital. The Doppler you spoke of was able to show that there was no pulse in that foot. This was an arterial clot that split and traveled throughout my leg. My leg was almost amputated. I am in rough shape but have all my parts intact!! You certainly know what you are talking about. Thank you for taking the time to answer. Yours Truly!


Staying at home after hallux surgery I spend quite a lot of time seaching info useful for avoiding problems which might come back. Today I found your site and I am .... delighted it happened. It's one of the best site I found last days.



Thanks for taking time to read and answer so many questions. It is truly a public service!


Seattle, WA

I just wanted to say that I am very greatful for this website!!


location unknown

Also, and importantly, just want to praise this web site. Thorough and thoughtfully presented, it certainly must be of considerable assistance to anyone with a foot problem. Terrific -- and very interesting.I trust the address comes up easily for those seeking information.


New Jersey

Thanks so much for answering my question. You've been more help to me than my own Dr. has been lately. Thanks again....I hope to be able to walk without pain someday.


location unknown

Wow, that is exactly the information needed!!! thank you thank you thank you!!! I appreciate this help so very much from Marc Mitnick DPM. Excellent information and help to improve One's life.


location unknown

Thanks so much for this website Dr. Marc! It is so nice that you have this ask the doctor feature..I'm sure I'ts been helpful for alot of people. I will try what you suggested and see if it helps...thanks again!


Evansville, IA

Dear Marc

I just want to say thank you for the quick response and the good info. I find it amazing and a super nice thing that you do here by answering medical questions at no charge.

Russ W.

location unknown

Your website is full of a lot of helpful information, and I am very impressed with the time in which you responded to my post. Thank you again for your time and consideration in your response.


location unknown

Thank you very much for the information, I will consider it. Excellent web site.


San Diego, CA

Dr. Mitnick, Just want to say thank you so very much for your quick response and very informative reply! After reading what you had to say, I called the doctor's office and was able to get in and see him the same day as my injury. Toe was x-rayed and luckily, it is not broken or fractured. Very badly bruised and will probably lose the toe nail. And although my toe and toe nail are still very black and blue and very sore, they ARE both starting to feel a little better. So again, thank you! I am so very happy that I came across your website. The service you provide is outstanding and immeasurable!


Albany, NY

Thank you so much for all of your advice. In searching the web for people dealing with this same issue i can tell you that you are a Knight In shining Armor! If I lived in Jersey I would gladly be your Spokesperson. Hopefully next time you hear from me it will be good news. God Bless,

Jill S.

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Whichita, KS

thanks again, this site is very helpful.


Boston, MA

Like others have stated...This site is amazing and I am so thankful that it was created.

....Keep up what your doing. Your a life saver.



Thanks again for the information provided on your site. It's easy for non-medical folk to understand your writing, and helps provide better communication between patient and doctor.



Wonderful advice

by: Anonymous

This is the best site for foot problem info.

Thank you for this information. This description fits my pain and inflammation behind my 2nd toe perfectly.

by: Max

location unknown
Again, I really appreciate that you responded to my inquiry, and that your mention of Parkinson's helped me to find my way to a diagnosis of this difficult to diagnose disease. Most patients see on average 16 doctors before they are diagnosed. I hope that you can help other people that ask for your expertise in the future.

Barb D.

I just wanted to say that I am very greatful for this website!! I have had a fusion in my rt foot and am finally getting a little bit better......


location unknown
Again, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to answer my question....your an angel!


Thank you for your response. You have provided some great insight (to my question)....


location unknown
Thank-you so very much for responding so quickly and in such detail to my question!! I will give my surgeon a call today!! This website is terrific!!!! Thank-you again!


North Carolina
Many Thanks Dr Marc!
Thank you for your response. It sounds like a good plan to me. He did not cut the wart out first ...


location unknown

Thanks again doc for having this website and we STILL need qualified Podiatrists in beautiful sunny Tampa Bay (Bradenton) Florida.

Bessie Mae

Dear Dr. Mitnick, Thank you so very much for taking your time to answer my question. You have greatly relieved my anxiety related to the continual tingly I feel in my feet. I will share your response with my podiatrist next week. God bless you for having this question and answer page on your website! Most gratefully,

Lynne T.

location unknown
Your webpage is excellent, I commend you on sharing your knowledge to the public.


New Jersey

Thank you. you were more detailed than what others have told me they finally called from the last xrays and my son is now in a cast for 2 weeks he did have a fracture that was not noticeable.

a mom

location unknown

I have read your website and I have to admit that I am amazed at all the information that is on here. I have learned more than the three years I have been going to several doctors that I have seen!!


Lenoir, NC

Thank you so much Doc for a quick and thorough response!


Bellevue, WA

I cannot thank you enough for your response, opinion, and suggestions! I want you to know how much it means to me, and I'm sure everyone else who has ever asked you a question! I feel like you're a lifesaver and have empowered me to take a stronger role and stand up for myself and my feet!


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