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Knock-on effects on general health

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Left untreated, even mild foot pain can lead to difficulty walking and overall reduced activity. Clearly, this can have knock-on effects on physical health and increase the risk of obesity. However, it can also lead to social isolation, which can affect mental well-being and may ultimate be a factor in developing depression.


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This very common condition causes nerve damage in around half of sufferers. Frequently, this nerve damage is felt in the foot. You may notice numbness, weakness or burning or tingling sensations. These need checking out and you also need to be very careful not to injure your foot and to check it regularly for cuts or other damage.

Deep vein thrombosis

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If deep vein thrombosis makes you think of blood clots in legs, you’re not wrong. Less well known is the fact that some blood clots make themselves known via pain in the foot or a suddenly swollen ankle. Ignoring signs of a possible deep vein thrombosis can be very serious indeed so it’s also wise to get checked out.

Psoriatic arthritis

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This is an inflammatory disease that damages the joints. An affected foot may have swollen toes, thickened toenails and pain in the heel or sole. If only one foot is affected and especially if you also have psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is a distinct possibility. Early treatment can reduce the debilitating effects of this condition.


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Something of a standing joke, the pain of gout – typically felt in the big toe – definitely isn’t funny for sufferers. A type of inflammatory arthritis caused by urate build-up, it’s easily misdiagnosed even with medical attention. If you suspect you have gout, be persistent with requests for help as primary care providers can assist with treatment.

Your favorite shoes

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While you might hope to treat your sore feet with a warm foot bath and a rest, some conditions won’t be so easily resolved. These include bunions and hammertoes. Sometimes resulting from individual physiology, they’re also often caused by poorly-fitting footwear. Left untreated, it’s a sad irony that you may find yourself unable to wear the shoes that caused the problem in the first place.

Stress fractures

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The risk of stress fractures increases with age. Signs of a stress fracture can be subtle and easy to confuse with other things. However, pain that appears during physical activity is a classic symptom, especially in an overweight person who frequently goes barefoot. Medical attention may be necessary both to treat the stress fracture and to assess the sufferer for any increased risk of osteoporosis.

Plantar fasciitis

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This is pain felt in the sole of the foot, usually around the arch or base of the heel. Quixotically, it frequently eases during exercise only to return following a period of rest. Sufferers may also find it difficult to lift their toes off the ground. A medical professional can advise on self-help methods, such as ice packs and tailored exercises.

Morton’s neuroma

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This is caused by a damaged or irritated nerve in the foot. The most usual location is between the third and fourth toes, and you’re likely to notice thickened tissue in the affected area. Unless you also have pain, you may not seek prompt medical advice. However, delaying treatment usually means the problem gets worse.

Fallen arches

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If there’s no gap between the inner soles of your feet and the floor when you’re standing up, you probably have fallen arches. Known as “flat feet”, this condition is generally harmless. In some people, however, it causes pain in the ankle or foot, and may mean that shoes wear out quickly. Physiotherapy can help so it makes sense to seek professional advice.

Kohler’s Disease

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Although rare, this isn’t a condition you want to see in your child. Mostly affecting young boys between the ages of about six and none, Kohler’s Disease is a consequence of a deteriorating arch bone. It’s caused by an interrupted blood supply, which may itself be a result of stress-related compression. Early signs include redness, limping and swelling in the toes and foot.

Freiberg’s Disease

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Another condition mostly affecting the young, Freiberg’s Disease is most commonly seen in girls in their pre-teen and teenage years. It occurs when the metatarsal bones in the ball of the foot begin to deteriorate and flatten. Look out for a girl who complains of stiffness in one of her toes, pain when walking or a swollen foot. You may also notice a limp developing.

Maffucci Syndrome

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Very young children may sometimes develop bone lesions in the long bones of their feet. Known as enchondromas, the lesions are actually benign tumors and make affected bones more liable to break. Enchondromas can also cause subcutaneous vascular lesions and bumpy knots within the lesions themselves. The condition may also affect the bones of the hands.


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The bane of parents taking kids to swimming classes, verrucas can affect anyone. They’re warts that tend to get pushed upwards by the weight of the body. Veruccas often occur in clusters and may fuse together. Given time, the body can usually get rid of them, though most people prefer to treat them as they can be painful to walk on.

Athlete’s foot

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Athlete’s foot is the best-known of several fungal infections that affect the feet. Most have obvious symptoms that might include itching, redness, and sore, scaly skin. Sometimes a sufferer may mistake Athlete’s foot for dry skin. This can be a problem as, treated early, Athlete’s foot is relatively easily resolved. Left too long, however, and eradicating the fungal infection can be much harder.

Ingrown toenails

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Even if it seems less attractive, nearly everyone knows the importance of cutting toenails in a straight line. It is, of course, to reduce the likelihood of suffering from an ingrown toenail. An ingrown toenail may resolve by itself even if the surrounding skin is red, swollen and painful. However, more persistent cases will require medical attention.


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Poorly-fitting shoes that rub against the foot are the most usual cause for calluses. These flat, rough, yellow, uniformly thickened layers of skin generally develop on the sole of the foot. They can make walking hard and sometimes may hurt even when at rest. Home treatment – and perhaps some new shoes – may resolve the problem. If not, a foot specialist can usually help.


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Another common consequence of wearing poorly-fitting shoes, corns are small areas of thickened skin. They usually appear on the tops or side of the toes, and make walking uncomfortable. However, sometimes corns form between toes, where the more moist environment makes them prone to infection.

Fat pad atrophy

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Although you may not realise it, every step you take is cushioned by pads of foot on the balls and heels of your feet. This natural cushioning decreases with age, which can make walking increasingly uncomfortable. Wearing gel-filled orthotics or shoes with cushioned interiors can ease the problem.

Cracked heels

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Unless you’re rigorous about taking care of it, the skin on your heels is prone to drying out. Catch the problem early enough and an application or two of moisturiser should sort it out. Leave it too long, however, and you risk cracked and bleeding skin, which is more prone to infection.

Achilles tendonitis

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The Achilles tendon wasn’t only a weak point for the famous warrior of Greek myth. It’s one of the easiest tendons to damage, resulting in an injury called Achilles tendinitis. Although painful and likely temporarily to restrict your mobility, the resulting inflammation is usually eminently treatable with the right medical advice.

Bone spurs

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If you develop a bone spur in your foot, you may or may not notice it. For some people, the condition is painless. For others, it is excruciating. The condition itself is relatively harmless. It’s the result of a bony outgrowth where bones meet and typically feels like a lump beneath the skin.

Ankle arthritis

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Ankle arthritis is a form of osteoarthritis that causes stiffness and pain in the ankle joint, which may radiate down into the foot. It’s a degenerative condition of the cartilage in the joint and, although it’s not curable, treatments are available to slow the process of the disease, relieve pain and help keep you walking.

Hammer toe

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This is a painful condition that is unlikely to resolve without medical intervention. It’s the result of a muscle imbalance that can happen organically or can be the result of poorly-fitting footwear. Whatever the cause, it results in the development of an abnormal bend in the middle joint of one of your toes.


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Your muscles, joints and bones are cushioned and protected from damage by small sacs filled with fluid. Known as bursae, these sacs sometimes become inflamed, resulting in a painful condition called bursitis. It’s relatively common in older people and, in the foot, usually affects the bottom of the big toe and the heel. Rest usually resolves it but some people may need medical care.

Stress fractures

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Not just a problem for athletes, anyone can suffer a stress fracture – and the foot is relatively common location. It’s caused by increasing the duration or intensity of an activity too quickly for the bone to adapt to the change. The result is inflammation within the bone and tiny hairline cracks to its exterior, which can be hard to detect.

Excess weight

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Being overweight can place extra stress on your feet. This may make walking or even standing uncomfortable as the connective tissues in the feet come under additional pressure and the fat pads on the soles begin to wear away. Pain in the ball of the feet is relatively common in overweight individuals but may resolve with weight loss.


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This is a bacterial infection that, although common, can be extremely serious. Any part of the skin can be affected but the feet and lower legs are more commonly affected. Early symptoms include redness and swelling that may feel hot to the touch. Medical attention is essential as antibiotics may be necessary to stop the infection spreading.

Pompholyx eczema

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Pompholyx eczema is a subtype of eczema that particularly affects the feet and hands. It’s persistent and hard to treat, causing itchy blisters that can drive the sufferer to distraction. Early warning signs include a prickling or burning feeling in the digits. Pompholyx eczema may cause secondary bacterial or fungal infections.

Claw toe

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Much like a hammer toe, a claw toe affects the joints of the toe. However, where hammer toe usually affects only the middle joint, claw toe extends itself to include the joints at the top of the toes. The result can be toes that curl stiffly down towards the floor. Certain exercises may help alleviate the condition.

Chemotherapy side-effects

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Chemotherapy acts on fast-dividing cells like tumors. However, it may also affect other cells that divide quickly. These include the cells that make up the nails on your feet. Your nails may turn black, loosen or fall off altogether. Although they usually regrow when treatment is finished, it’s important to watch out for signs of infection in the exposed nail bed.


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Although we may think of it as a condition consigned to the past, rickets – and the vitamin D deficiency that causes it – remains a problem. Most commonly affecting children, it results in painful, sore bones that fail to grow and develop properly. An affected child may be reluctant, or even unable, to walk. Tingling feet can be an early warning sign.


feet up
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Erythromelalgia is a very rare condition that can start at any age. It causes a burning sensation and redness in different parts of the body, although the feet are one of the most commonly-affected areas. Cooling gels sometimes help ease an attack, as does raising the affected limb.

Ledderhose disease

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Although it’s a benign (as opposed to malignant) disease, Ledderhose diseases causes nodules to grow on the soles of the feet. The nodules often make walking painful. Physiotherapy may be helpful but the most severe cases may require surgical excision with wide margins to prevent reoccurrence.

Charcot foot

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A rare complication of diabetic neuropathy, Charcot foot makes the bones of the foot increasingly fragile and prone to fracturing. Breaks can occur even during everyday activities, such as standing and slow walking, which usually place the body under very low stress. Fortunately, in many cases, Charcot foot stabilizes to a chronic condition following its initial acute incidence.

Hand, foot and mouth disease

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This is a common childhood viral infection that usually starts with a fever and sore throat. The second stage typically involves mouth ulcers and a spotty rash on the feet and hands, which can be painful. Young children may be more unwell than older ones but painkillers at the appropriate dosage can help relieve symptoms.

Rheumatoid arthritis

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This inflammatory condition causes swelling and pain in the joints. Any of the joints may be affected, including those in the feet. Particularly in the earlier stages, exercise and physiotherapy can be helpful. Medication may also assist. Rheumatoid arthritis rarely manifests in just one foot; usually it affects both.

Pott’s fracture

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This is a fracture of one or both of the bony protrusions found on both sides of the ankle. Usually caused by direct trauma to the ankle or a twisting injury, the casualty will almost certainly know that they are injured. Walking and weightbearing are likely to be painful and, in the most severe injuries, even attempting to stand may be difficult.


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This is an inflammation of the bone or bone marrow. Usually caused by an infection, it’s most commonly found in the long bones of the arms and legs. However, other bones, including those in the foot, may sometimes be affected. Look out for redness, swelling and perhaps a pus-filled open wound. As the infection progresses, the affected person is also likely to feel unwell.

Bone cancer

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It’s rare for bone cancer to manifest itself in the foot and this may make it harder to spot where it does occur. At the earliest stages, bone cancer in the foot is likely to cause fairly non-specific symptoms. For example, the sufferer may limp without apparent reason or they may experience swelling or tenderness in the foot.