Relief of Foot Pain

Treatment for foot pain varies, depending on the cause. Mild foot pain often can be relieved by wearing shoes with wide toe boxes, by using shoe inserts or pads (available over the counter), and by keeping off the affected foot as much as possible until the pain subsides.

RICE therapy—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—can be used to treat some types of foot pain. Rest involves reducing activity as much as possible until the pain subsides. In some cases, crutches, and/or a splint, air cast, or hard cast is necessary. Ice can be applied to the painful area to reduce pain and swelling. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin. Compression involves supporting the foot with a firmly (not tightly) wrapped elastic bandage, compression stocking, or gel wrap. Keeping the foot elevated about 6 inches above the heart with a slightly bent knee can help to minimize bruising and swelling.

Over-the-counter pain medication (e.g., ibuprofen, acetaminophen) also can be used to relieve mild foot pain. Plantar warts and corns sometimes can be treated using over-the-counter removers, but this should be done only on the advice of a qualified health care provider. Patients who have diabetes or other conditions that can compromise skin quality (e.g., lupus, scleroderma) must be extremely cautious when using over-the-counter preparations.

Foot pain that does not respond to conservative therapy may be treated using the following:

  • Corticosteroid (cortisone) injections (e.g., to treat tendonitis, bursitis, plantar fasciitis, and Morton's neuroma)
  • Custom-prescribed orthotics (e.g., to treat structural foot problems, such as flat feet)
  • Physical therapy (e.g., to treat plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis)
  • Surgery (e.g., to treat hammertoes/claw toes, bunions, and heel spurs)

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

Published: 31 Jan 2007

Last Modified: 08 Dec 2011