Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments of 4 Common Foot Problems

Your feet create the foundation for the rest of your body. When your feet have problems, it's hard to feel good about anything else. Millions of Americans suffer with foot problems that can often be prevented or easily treated. Learn what you can do about these four common foot problems:

1) Bunions form when your big toe points toward your second toe and causes a bump to form on the outside edge of your toe. This bump can be red, scaly, or callused and is often painful, especially when it forms near the joint.

Bunions occur more commonly in women and people born with abnormal bones in their feet. Bunions can also run in families. Wearing narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes can increase risks for developing bunions.

You can ward off a bunion by taking good care of your feet and by wearing low-to-mid heeled, wide-toed shoes.  If you suspect a bunion is forming, try wearing felt or foam pads on your foot to protect the bunion or purchase spacers at the drugstore to separate your big and second toes.  If it's really a big problem, your doctor might recommend surgery to realign the toe and remove damaged bone tissue. 

2) Corns and calluses are areas of thickened, hard, rough skin that form on parts of the foot that receive a lot of friction. 

  • Corns form on the top or sides of the toe.
  • Calluses form on the sole of the foot.

By themselves, corns and calluses aren't problematic, but when they crack or press on bone or nerve tissue, they can cause foot pain. 

The best way to prevent corns and calluses is by wearing well-fitting shoes and socks that don't rub. Good foot hygiene that includes sloughing off dry, dead skin with a pumice stone will help prevent callus formation.

If a corn or callus has already formed:

  • Soften the skin with warm water
  • Remove as much as possible with a pumice stone
  • Protect it with a corn pad or moleskin bandage
  • Switch to better fitting footwear and within a week or so, it should go away
  • Never try to remove a corn or callus with a knife or razor
  • If it becomes irritated, infected or causes pain, see your doctor

3)  Morton's neuroma is tissue that thickens and swells around a nerve, usually between the third and fourth toe in the ball of the foot. When pressure from walking or wearing the wrong shoe is applied to the neuroma, it sends tingling, sharp, shooting or burning pains to the ball and sometimes toes.

Morton's neuromas are caused by compression and irritation of the nerve, frequently from wearing narrow-toed or high-heeled shoes.  Once a neuroma has formed, the damage can be permanent. Wearing well-fitting shoes can often prevent neuroma formation. 

Once a neuroma has developed, the best remedies are padding, icing, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, orthotic supports and sometimes, corticosteroid injections. If that doesn't relieve the pain, surgery is sometimes necessary.

4) Plantar fasciitis is inflamed connective tissue that causes pain from heel to toe. It's caused by poor arch support, quick turns that stress the foot, extra-tight calf muscles, damage from long-distance running or pronation (a natural gait-variation). 

You can prevent plantar fasciitis by wearing the right shoe for your foot type and sport. If you have very high arches or flat feet, wearing orthotic arch supports when you exercise or walk long distances can also prevent plantar fasciitis.  Stretching calf muscles after exercise is key. 

The best way to treat plantar fasciitis is with:

  • Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (the RICE treatment)
  • Anti-inflammatory medications

    If these method doesn't work, your doctor might suggest physical therapy, shoe inserts, or arch support.