Foot pain can make normal things like standing, walking, exercising, and wearing shoes unbearable. The good news is that a lot of foot pain can be easily fixed as long as you identify it correctly.
But identifying it is where things can get tricky. Many different conditions present pain in various places of the foot, and sometimes it’s not quite what you expect.
This is why we’ve put together this foot pain chart. It’s easy to navigate to possible causes for your foot pain based on where your pain is.
Once you’re pretty sure you’ve identified the condition behind your foot pain, you can then move on to getting it treated properly. This gives you the highest chance of successful treatment and pain-free exercise, walking, and standing!
If foot pain is a reality in your life, don’t waste another day! Check out our foot pain chart and see what your foot problem will likely be so you can fix it. Here’s to happier feet and happier life!
Why Do I Have Foot Pain?
In most cases, foot pain develops as a result of overuse. The feet take a huge amount of strain every day, every time you stand up, walk, run, jump, or even just stand still.
In some cases, foot pain can occur as a result of a trauma or injury to the foot, such as a broken bone due to a twist, a fall, or a car accident.
If you aren’t taking care of your feet, this foot pain can quickly develop into something that affects your everyday life. By that stage, treating the condition and reducing your pain can be more difficult, although it’s not impossible.
Where Your Foot Hurts
One of the best ways to tell what your foot condition is is to start by identifying the location of the pain. This will give you a good foundation to figure out exactly what’s causing your pain and how to treat it.
Here’s a quick overview of what conditions affect which parts of the foot. We’ll go into more detail below.
Top of Foot: Extensor tendonitis
Toes: Bunions, gout, hammer toes, mallet toes
Ball of Foot: Metatarsalgia, Morton’s neuroma, fat pad atrophy, metatarsal fracture
Arch: Plantar fasciitis, posterior tibial tendonitis
Heel: Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, fat pad atrophy, heel spurs
Ankle: Posterior tibial tendonitis, peroneal tendonitis
Top of Foot
1. Extensor Tendonitis
This occurs when the tendons that lie across the top of the foot become inflamed, leading to pain in the area on top of the foot—anywhere from near the ankle to just before the toes.
The most obvious sign is that as the tendon gets more inflamed, it contracts, leading to your toes being pulled upwards a little. You’ll find that the pain increases when you try to lower or straighten your toes.
A bunion is when the big toe joint becomes inflamed and develops a bony growth that sticks out the side. It often happens due to misalignment of the joint that forces the big toe to move out of place—inward towards the other toes.
You may notice this happening to your feet until the bump is pronounced enough to chafe against your shoes and cause pain. You may also develop a bunion on the opposite side—the joint of the little toe.
Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can occur in other joints but most commonly affects the big toe joint. It’s caused by a build-up of uric acid within the joint.
It presents a sudden, sharp pain that can feel hot, swelling, and red. The pain can be severe enough to wake you from a dead sleep.
4. Hammer Toes
Hammer toes most often occur on the second, third, or fourth toes. The middle joint lifts up as the tip of the toe bends downwards, causing an upside-down V-shape.
You should be able to tell that you have this condition just by looking at your toe. There may also be pain where your toe touches the upper of your shoe, stiffness and swelling in the joint, and corn or callus on the top of the toe.
5. Mallet Toes
Mallet toes are very similar to hammer toes, but the toe bends at the very first joint instead of the middle one. The symptoms are the same as hammer toe as well.
Ball of Foot
Metatarsalgia is a common cause of pain in the ball of the foot and is usually caused by excess pressure on the forefoot over an extended period of time.
Most often, you’ll feel pain and tenderness in the ball of the foot under the second toe, but it can also occur under the third or fourth toe. It’s often worse with activity and eases with rest.
7. Morton’s Neuroma
Morton’s neuroma is a condition in which the nerve between the third and fourth metatarsal bones become thick, inflamed, and painful.
The symptoms appear gradually. You may feel a slight tingling or discomfort at first, but over time it will develop into a painful spot that feels like a stone in your shoe in one specific area. It often gets better with rest.
8. Fat Pad Atrophy
This occurs when the layer of fat that protects the metatarsal bones begins to wear away. This could be due to age, overuse, or injury.
In this case, there’s no longer protection for the metatarsals, so they may become painful if you walk barefoot or in uncushioned shoes.
9. Metatarsal Fracture
A fracture of one of the metatarsal bones can happen either due to overuse—a stress fracture—or as a result of trauma to the foot.
The pain will increase noticeably when you place weight on the foot. You may also notice bruising, redness, swelling, or a lump where the fracture is.
10. Plantar Fibroma
A plantar fibroma is a fibrous lump of tissue—often scar tissue—that develops in the medial longitudinal arch—right underneath your arch.
As well as pain, every time the nodule presses on a nerve, there may be a hard knot that you can feel under the arch. You can develop this in one foot or both feet at the same time.
11. Posterior Tibial Tendon Dysfunction
This is also called adult-acquired flat foot. It happens when the posterior tibial tendon becomes injured or inflamed and can no longer support the arch adequately.
In addition to arch pain, you may experience pain in the calf, inner ankle and swelling along the ankle.
12. Achilles Tendonitis
Inflammation in the Achilles tendon—the thick tendon that connects the calf muscle to the heel—is usually a result of overuse of the tendon.
Pain and swelling at the back of the heel are the most common symptoms. You may also feel pain in the arch as the Achilles tendon tightens and places tension on the plantar fascia.
13. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is when the thick band of tissue that runs underneath your arch becomes inflamed.
Although the main purpose of this tissue is to support the arch, the main symptom is a sharp, shooting pain in the heel when you first get up in the morning or after resting your feet. You may feel stretching pain in the arch as well as heel pain.
14. Fat Pad Atrophy
Both the ball of the foot and the heel have a protective fat pad. When it begins to wear away, it’s known as fat pad atrophy.
You’ll feel a deep, aching pain in the middle of your heel that worsens with activity or when you walk barefoot or on a hard surface. You may also notice that the bone of your heel feels “closer to the surface”.
15. Heel Spurs
A heel spur—also called a plantar calcaneal spur—is a bony, hook-like protrusion that develops on the heel. It’s often a result of the body producing repair cells—osteoblasts—to heal other foot problems.
If there’s excess pressure or repeated trauma—overuse—to the foot when these repair cells are active, they can cause calcium deposits to form on the heel.
It may take a long time to start noticing symptoms. The first symptom you may notice is a sharp, stabbing pain in your heel when doing high-impact activities and swelling in the heel close to the arch.
16. Posterior Tibial Tendonitis
Inflammation of the posterior tibial tendon—the tendon that runs down the inside of the ankle into the foot—can cause both arch pain and side-of-ankle pain.
Along with pain on the inside ankle just above the bone, you may also experience redness and tenderness in this same area.
17. Peroneal Tendonitis
The peroneal tendons run along the outside of the ankle and down into the foot. One runs underneath the arch and connects near the inside of the arch. The other attaches about halfway to the toes on the side of the foot.
You may feel pain running down the outside of your ankle or around the outer ankle joint, which will get worse if you twist your foot inward or outward.
Depending on where the inflammation is, you may also experience pain on the inside of the arch or on the outer edge of your foot.