Health practitioners say foot problems are becoming more rampant, especially as the population ages. Unfortunately, most people fail to give due attention to their feet until an obvious malfunction arises. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, three-quarter of the world’s population will have a foot related problem at one point or the other in their lives. What most people don’t know is that foot ailments are the first sign of an underlying serious medical condition.
It is for this reason that we came up with a comprehensive list (in an alphabetical order) of 60 most typical foot problems to help in early diagnosis and treatment of the conditions.
1. Ankle Pain
Ankle pain is mostly caused by an ankle sprain although it can also be due to arthritis, nerve compression, ankle instability or poor structural alignment of the leg or foot. It is often associated with stiffness, redness and swelling in the affected area. The pain itself is typically described as a dull twinge that occurs due to weight bearing pressure and motion.
2. Antalgic Gait
An antalgic gait is a form of gait abnormality which occurs when a patient tries to reduce the amount of heaviness transferred to one leg when walking or running. When there is pain in the knee, ankle, leg or foot, the patient will typically shorten their stride on the injured side causing an alteration of the normal gait cycle. Antalgic gait usually comes on as a result of a disease or damage to a nerve or the musculoskeletal system.
3. Arch Pain
Pain that occurs at the bottom of the foot or between the heel and ball of the foot is referred to as arch pain. Although the definition is generic, most arch pain occurs due to strain or inflammation of plantar fascia. The inflammation caused often leads to a condition known as plantar fasciitis which is characterised by pain in the heel and arch areas. In other cases, arch pain develops from overuse, weight gain or unsupportive shoes.
4. Athlete’s Foot
Also known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection that mostly affects the skin at the toes or on the bottom of feet. Affected areas may be dry and flaky, white and soggy, cracked and itchy or sore and with blisters. In severe cases, the damaged skin can become infected with bacteria leading to a condition known as cellulitis, which causes the skin to become red, hot and swollen.
5. Black Toenail
Abnormal colour change is usually a warning sign of an underlying problem. Sometimes, the problem is relatively normal, like a light bruise under the nail. Typically, this can be due to repeated bumping of the toe against the shoe or sudden traumatic injury when a toe bumps against a hard object. Other times, a black toenail warns of dramatic problems that range from fungal infections to malignant tumours.
6. Blisters on Feet
Most people are familiar with blisters from wearing uncomfortable shoes for long. This common cause of blistering is caused by friction between the skin and shoe causing layers of skin to detach and fill with fluid. Occasionally, blisters can be caused by contact dermatitis (allergic skin reaction), impetigo (bacterial infection), allergic eczema and burns.
7. Big Toe Pain
Pain in the big toe can arise as a result of abnormalities or injuries to the skin, tissues, nerves and blood vessels of the toe. The most common causes include ingrown toenail, cuts, scrapes or bunions, other injuries, corns and calluses or blisters. Some types of pain can be accompanied by warmth, burning or numbness.
8. Broken Ankle
A broken ankle is a common injury caused by twisting of the ankle, falling or sporting accidents. When an ankle is broken, one might experience pain and tenderness, swelling and significant bruising, ankle being an abnormal shape due to dislocation or bone protruding out of the skin. An X-ray is usually needed as it can be difficult to tell whether the ankle is broken or fractured.
9. Broken Toe
Broken toes are caused by trauma or injury especially when something heavy drops on the foot or when the toe is stubbed. In most cases, a painful, swollen toe should be nursed at home regardless of whether the toe is broken or not. This is done by fastening it to a neighbouring toe to ensure immobility for rapid healing. It usually takes around 4-6 weeks to heal completely.
A bunion is an abnormal bony lump that forms at the base of the big toe. It often causes the big toe to deviate towards the other toes. Because bunions typically occur at the joint where the toe bends when walking, the total body weight rests on the bunion at every step. This makes them horribly painful. Studies show that people with bunions are more likely to experience pain in other areas such as the knees, hips or feet.
11. Burning Feet
Burning feet is a sensation that occurs when your feet are painfully hot. When it happens for a short time, it may be simply because you are tired or have an irritation such as athlete’s foot. Progressive burning, however, can be a sign of nerve damage, conceivably due to diabetes, exposure to toxins, extreme alcohol consumption, vitamin B deficiency or HIV.
12. Calluses on Feet
Calluses are tough, thickened areas of the skin that usually form around the heel or underneath the ball of the foot due to repeated friction. Although most people confuse calluses with corns, calluses are generally larger corns with undefined edges. Other less common causes of calluses include dry skin and reduced foot padding (elderly people have less tissue on their skin surfaces).
13. Charcot Foot
Charcot’s foot is a condition that arises as a result of significant nerve damage or diabetes complications. It causes bones to weaken to a point where they can fracture. The rocker-bottom foot malformation is a late stage condition that should be avoided by timely recognition and control.
Clubfoot is a congenital deformity that describes a range of strange positions of the foot. It may vary from mild to severe and may involve one foot or both. Each of the following conditions may be present: the foot being smaller than usual, the foot pointing downwards, the front of the foot being rotated toward the other foot, the bottom of the foot may point up.
15. Cold Feet
Having cold feet is often a normal condition which occurs in response to cold temperatures or anxiety. Rarely, cold feet can be a sign of a serious condition. However, in some cases, it can be an indication of nerve damage (neuropathy), diabetes, excessive alcohol use or vitamin deficiency. Other times, cold feet can be a sign of poor blood circulation to the distant areas of your body.
16. Compartment Syndrome
Compartment syndrome is an acute condition caused by excessive bleeding or swelling in an enclosed group of muscles. It usually results from pressure build up after an injury. The dangerously high pressure hinders the flow of blood to and fro the affected tissues resulting in cellular loss of oxygen. Usually, it requires emergency surgery to prevent permanent injury.
17. Corns on Feet
Corns are hard, thickened areas of dead skin on the top and sides of toes. A hard corn is characterized by a thickened surface with a plug-like centre. A soft corn has a much thinner surface usually at the 4th and 5th toes. A seed corn is a tiny tender callous that often forms on weight-bearing points on the foot.
18. Cracked Heels
Also known as heel fissures, cracked heels are a common problem mostly caused by lack of moisture. There are no oil glands on the feet. This makes them extremely vulnerable to drying. Sometimes, feet can crack to a point where they are so painful. Other common causes include exposure to water, wearing improper shoes, using harsh detergents and being overweight.
19. Diabetic Foot
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing foot complications due to the damage caused by increased blood sugar levels in their blood. If left untreated, one may develop sensation and circulation problems as well as foot ulcers and infections. Amputations may also occur in case the condition worsens. The good news is that all these can be avoided through regular foot care.
20. Dry Feet
Dry, cracked and peeling feet can be a source of great discomfort. This is often a problem for people who do not moisturize their feet regularly or have medical conditions such as diabetes or athlete’s foot. Any person can have dry feet, but it is more prevalent with the older generation.
21. Flat Feet
You have flat feet when the entire sole of your foot comes into contact with the ground when you stand up. This common and typically painless condition occurs when the arches on the inside of the feet are flattened. Many people with flat feet experience no problems and therefore require no treatment. However, if your feet tire easily, you have painful arches or difficulty walking and standing, you should consider seeing a specialist.
22. Foot Cramps
Foot cramps are sudden and painful spasms that occur on either one or a bundle of muscles due to dehydration or dietary imbalance. The involuntary contractions cause a lot of pain. They can last for minutes or continue for several days. The inner arch and the toe, especially the big toe, are the most common culprits.
23. Foot Fungus
Foot fungus is a very common infection that causes peeling, itching, burning and sometimes blisters on feet. Other symptoms include yellowing of toenails, inward curling of toenails and thickening of toenails. The fungus multiplies best in warm, moist places like shoes and socks. Although it might not seem like a serious condition, it can quickly spread from the toes to the entire foot if left untreated.
24. Foot Gout
Foot Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by a sudden attack of severe pain and numbness in one or more joints. It is caused by a build-up of uric acid in the joints. If left untreated, the attacks can happen over and over again. Ultimately, they can cause damage to the joints and tendons.
25. Foot Neuroma
Foot Neuroma is a severely painful condition which affects the ball of your foot, especially between the third and fourth toes. Its particular cause is not defined. Some of the symptoms include pain, numbness, burning and tingling. Most people require simple treatments, though surgery may be needed for chronic cases.
26. Foot Odour
Foot odour is a common problem that is caused by excessive sweating and multiplication of bacteria. Each foot has over 250,000 sweat glands that produce a pint of sweat daily. This excessive perspiration provides an ideal condition for the growth of bacteria. The bacteria, in turn, produce gases which smell bad thus causing foot odour.
27. Ganglion Cyst Foot
A ganglion cyst is a swelling on top of a joint or tendon. On the surface, it looks like a firm sac filled with fluid. Inside is a clear, thick, jellylike material. The cause of ganglion cysts is unknown. Treatment involves draining the fluid and introducing a steroid medication into the sac.
28. Hallux Rigidus
Hallux rigidus, simply translated as stiff big toe, is a common arthritic condition that affects the toes. It is commonly characterized by pain in the big toe when walking, swelling and stiffness or inability to twist the big toe up or down. Sometimes, a bump may develop on the joint of the big toe and can be worsened by friction.
29. Hallux Limitus
Hallux limitus is another arthritic condition that arises as a result of limited motion of the hallux at the big toe joint. It limits the upward motion of the big toe and can lead to a hallux rigidus or no movement of the big toe at all.
A hammertoe is a type of deformity that causes the toes to curve downward instead of pointing forward. It is most common on the second and third toe although it can affect any other toe. Hammertoe is often seen at birth but may also develop due to wearing tight shoes. In most cases, it is treatable.
31. Heel Pain
Heel pain is a relatively common problem that occurs under or behind the heel. It is mostly linked to plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis. Even though it can be a source of great pain and discomfort, it is rarely a health threat.
32. Heel Spurs
A heel spur is a protruding outgrowth at the bone of the heel. It is commonly associated with local inflammation at the tissues in the heel area or plantar fasciitis. Treatments include exercise, medications and cortisone injections. If non-invasive treatments fail, surgery may be required.
33. Ingrown Toenail
Ingrown toenails occur when a sharp edge of the toenail overgrows at the end and tries to dig into the side of the toe. Pain comes at the spot where the nail curves and enters the skin. If left unattended, it can lead to an infection or an abscess which may require surgery.
34. Itchy Feet
The two most common causes of itchy feet are skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis or fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. Other causes include irritants, allergies, foot rash, sweaty feet or poor hygiene.
Metatarsalgia is a condition that affects the metatarsals- the bones connecting the toes to the ankle. It usually causes pain and inflammation at the ball of the foot. Metatarsalgia is caused by a number of different reasons, the main one being overuse. Others include improper footwear and arthritis.
36. Neuropathy in Feet
Neuropathy is a complex, painful condition that occurs when peripheral nerves become damaged. Three types of nerves can be involved- sensory nerves, autonomic nerves or motor nerves. Physical trauma, infection, repetitive injury, exposure to toxins or certain medication can all lead to neuropathy. Most cases are reported in people with diabetes.
Overpronation is a common problem that occurs in the process of walking or running. When in motion, over pronation is said to occur when a person’s arch collapses upon weight bearing. This collapsing can cause extreme stress on the plantar fascia, leading to a lot of discomfort and other foot problems.
38. Pes Cavus
Pes cavus is a condition which occurs when the arch of the foot does not collapse upon weight bearing. It happens when the agonist and antagonist muscles in the foot have an imbalance. People with Pes cavus often complain of pain in the metatarsals, instability of the ankle and general difficulty when walking or running.
39. Pigeon Toed
Pigeon toe is a condition which causes one’s toes to point inwards when in motion. It is common in children under the age of two years as a result of weak muscles. Usually, it starts from a twisted shin bone or extreme anteversion leading to twisting of the thigh bone. Other names used to describe it are in-toe gait, in-toeing, metatarsus varus or false clubfoot.
40. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the main culprit behind a wide range of heel related issues. It comes about as a result of excessive strain on the ligament supporting the arch. It is a painful condition that can cause swelling. You are likely to experience it if you have high arches, are overweight, have tight Achilles tendons or if your feet roll inwards when walking.
41. Plantar Warts
Plantar warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They are hard, rough skin growths that appear on the heels and balls of your foot. Plantar warts is not a serious condition and therefore no medical treatment is usually required – see also the best verruca treatments.
42. Poor Circulation
Poor circulation in the feet results from a variety of health issues such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and arterial problems. The most common indicators of poor circulation include numbness, throbbing, muscle cramps, tingling and even pain. Management of the causative factors is an essential part of treatment.
43. Sore Feet
Sore feet are a very common problem for many people. Usually, feet become sore due to overuse, obesity, pregnancy, age, improper footwear or due to conditions such as plantar fasciitis and bunions. Pinpointing the exact cause will enable one to minimise or eliminate the soreness.
44. Sprained Ankle
An ankle sprain is an injury that affects the ligaments that surround and connect the bones of the foot due to twisting or turning the ankle in an awkward way. If you sprain an ankle, it is important to seek immediate medical attention to access the severity of the injury and recommend proper treatment.
Supination refers to the outward rolling of the foot when walking or running. Excessive supination places a significant amount of pressure on the muscles and tendons that support the ankle, and can eventually lead to the ankle rolling over thus causing a sprain or rupture. It is one of the topmost causes of ankle sprains and injuries.
46. Sweaty Feet
Also known as hyperhidrosis, sweaty feet is a condition that causes excessive sweating on the soles of feet. This excessive sweating has a lot to do with the availability of numerous sweat glands on the feet. The exact cause is uncertain but due mainly by overactive sweat glands. Possible other causes include strenuous exercises such as standing or running for extended periods.
47. Swollen Ankles
Sometimes, diseases such as heart disease and liver or kidney failure, can result in an excessive build-up of fluid that is concentrated in the legs and feet leading to swollen ankles. Occasionally, swollen ankles may be due to medications, injuries, infections and lymphedema. Complications usually vary according to the diagnosis and some people may require treatment while others may not.
48. Swollen Feet
Swollen feet is generally no cause for concern, especially if you have been standing all day. But feet that stay swollen and are accompanied by symptoms such as abdominal pain, headache, vision changes and nausea, could signal a serious health problem. Other common causes of swelling of feet include foot injury, pregnancy, lymphedema or venous insufficiency.
49. Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is an unusual condition caused by damage to the tibial nerve, due to compression as it goes through the tarsal tunnel. Symptoms vary from one person to another and may include a sharp, shooting sensation along the tibial nerve. In addition to pain, one may also experience a burning or tingling sensation which is often described as a searing pain that cannot be localised to one particular area.
50. Thick Toenails
There are a variety of reasons why one might have thick toenails, the main one being a fungal infection. Other than a fungal infection, thick toenails can also be caused by trauma, especially tight footwear. Diabetes can also cause thick toenails due to reduced blood flow to the toes; therefore, the nails do not get nutrients and thus won’t grow well.
51. Tingling Feet
In most cases, tingling feet is no cause for worry, although it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition. The unusual prickling sensations can be due to sleeping with crossed legs or falling asleep on an arm. Sometimes, the tingling can be accompanied by accompanied by numbness, itching and muscle wasting. It is advisable to seek medical attention if the tingling becomes chronic.
52. Toe Cramps
Toe cramps are usually harmless, but it doesn’t mean they are painless. If you have ever experienced it, then you know how a sharp tightening can be unpleasant. We use our toes every day when walking, so they get quite a considerable workout. Common causes of cramping include physical exercise, age, diabetes or mineral deficiency. Luckily, toe cramps can be treated at home by doing simple stretches.
53. Toe Fungus
Toe fungus might not appear like a serious condition, but it can be. If left untreated, the fungus can spread from your toes to your entire foot. It causes the skin to dry up and crack causing deep, painful sores. Knowing how to deal with fungal infections is crucial in keeping toe fungus at bay.
54. Toenail Falling Off
The falling off of toenails can essentially be blamed on two culprits- fungus and injury. If a nail falls off due to fungal infection, it will grow back, but the new one will probably get infected too. And since the condition doesn’t go away on its own, it is advisable to see a healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis and treatment. If a toenail falls off due to trauma, a new one will replace the old one after a few weeks.
55. Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is an infection that occurs underneath the nail surface due to fungi. It often makes the toenail change in colour, thicken and smell foul. Sometimes, it can also hurt. If left unattended, it can spread to other toenails and cause major havoc.
56. Top of Foot Pain
Top of foot pain can range from minor to major, intermittent or chronic. You may experience the pain alone or a combination of other symptoms including redness, swelling or tenderness. There are various reasons why you could be having top of foot pain, the common ones being: bone spurs, nerve entrapment, metatarsalgia, tendonitis or stress fractures.
57. Trench Foot
Trench foot is a medical disorder that arises as a result of prolonged exposure of the feet to wet and cold environments. The foot becomes numb, changes blue and may begin to produce a rotting odour if tissues start to die. As the cold worsens, the feet may start swelling. Immediate treatment is needed to prevent amputation of the feet.
58. Turf Toe
Turf toe is simply defined as a sprain of the central joint of the big toe. The injury may involve damage to the tendons, ligaments, or bone alone or in combination. It happens when the big toe is bent up forcibly, such as when getting ready for a sprint and having the toe get stuck on the ground to a point of damage.
59. Webbed Toes
Scientifically referred to as syndactyly, webbed toes is a condition characterised by the fusion of two or more toes. Most commonly, the third and the fourth toes are joined by skin or flexible tissue. While it is normal in many birds, it is considered unusual in humans. The exact cause is uncertain although in some cases, close family members share the condition.
60. Yellow Toenails
One of the most common reasons for yellow toenails, is wearing dark nail polish for an extended period. This is because most polishes contain a chemical which reacts with keratin causing yellowing. However, yellowing of toenails can also be due to fungal infection, chronic liver disease or excessive smoking.