Risk Factors and Causes of Foot Pain

Risk factors for foot pain include the following:

  • Age (children and the elderly are at increased risk)
  • Heredity (many structural foot problems are inherited)
  • Overweight/obesity
  • Prolonged periods of standing (especially on hard surfaces)
  • Repetitive jumping and running (especially on hard surfaces)
  • Wearing ill-fitting, high-heeled, or narrow shoes regularly

Certain medical conditions also increase the risk for developing foot pain. These conditions include diabetes, arthritis, and inflammatory conditions (e.g., ankylosing spondylitis, tendonitis, bursitis).

Causes for foot pain include the following:

  • Forefoot, including toe pain and ball of foot pain:
  • Midfoot, including foot arch pain, bottom of foot pain, top of foot pain:
    • Abnormalities in foot structure, such as flatfeet (excessive pronation) or high arches (supination)
    • Gait abnormalities (unusual and uncontrollable walking patterns)
    • Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the fibrous connective tissue on the sole of the foot)
    • Plantar warts
    • Soft-tissue sarcoma of the foot (cancer that originates in fat, muscle, nerve, fibrous tissue, blood vessels, or deep skin tissue of the foot; rare)
    • Tarsal tunnel syndrome (nerve entrapment that may cause pain on the sole of the foot)

  • Hindfoot, including heel pain and ankle pain:
    • Achilles tendonitis
    • Ankle injuries (e.g., sprain, fracture)
    • Haglund's deformity (bony growth at the back of the heel that usually occurs when shoes repeatedly aggravate tissue and underlying bone)
    • Heel spurs (bony growths)
    • Plantar fasciitis
    • Sever's disease (relatively common condition in active growing children and adolescents)
    • Stress fractures (crack in the outer shell of the bone)

Publication Review By: J. Michael Lunsford, D.P.M.

Published: 30 Jan 2007

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015