Below are brief, high level descriptions of various different types of foot and leg pains, with information on the typical causes of the pain and potential actions to relieve the pain. Please consult your doctor if you are in pain.
Ball-of-foot pain ( Metatarsalgia)
Pain in the ball-of-foot region is known as Metatarsalgia. It is often located at the metatarsal heads of the middle toes or at the pad near the big toe. It can be caused by pressure over a long period of time, and is often caused by restrictive footwear, such as high heeled women's dress shoes. It can also occur as the ball-of-foot pad thins with age.
Relief can be obtained by selecting footwear with a wide toe box and wearing orthotics that have a metatarsal pad to redistribute weight from the painful area.
Blisters form in the upper layers of the skin. They are a small pocket of serum (a clear fluid) or blood. They usually form under a layer of outer skin that has become damaged. Blood-blisters occur when a small blood vessel ruptures and blood sips into a tear between the layers of skin.
Blisters cushion and protect the tissue underneath, which allows it to heel. It normally takes 3-7 days for new skin to grow beneath the blister and for the fluid to be reabsorbed by your body. To prevent infection, a blister should not be pierced, but should be allowed to burst on its own once the skin underneath has healed.
Rubbing of the skin for an extended period of time (by, for example, a poorly fitting or poorly made shoe) can cause a blister. Blisters form most easily when the skin is moist and the temperature is warmer.
Technical sports socks can help keep your feet drier and reduce the chance of a blister. If a blister bursts in the first few days than you can use a blister kit to prevent infection and speed-up the healing process.
Heel pain is a common condition. The two main causes are a bruise on the flat pad under the heel or plantar fasciitis. A bruise can occur on the heel in the same way as any other bruise, by a sudden contact with a hard object.
To relieve heel pain, the shock caused by the impact of walking or running must be cushioned and absorbed. A good orthotic with heel and arch support will offer relief from heel pain. If the pain was caused by over-pronation then a posted orthotic should be used. Most heel pain should be reduced by a combination of rest and the use of a good orthotic.
Runners are the main group of people who notice over-pronation. It is very common in people who have low arches or flat feet. Pronation occurs naturally as the heel makes contact with the ground and initiates an inward roll of the foot. This acts as a cushioning mechanism. Over pronation happens when the feet roll inward too much. Over-pronation stresses the foot, which can lead to other conditions such as plantar fasciitis, heel pain and ball-of-foot pain.
Good orthotics with rearfoot posting and arch support can be used to treat over-pronation. Runners should use shoes that provide maximum support and stability.
If you have flat feet and over-pronate, then you may have a heel pain that is diagnosed as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fasciitis is fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. This tissue can be stretched by over-pronation. It is often most painful when you get up in the morning.
A good orthotic with rearfoot posting and arch support is needed to control pronation and prevent inflammation of the plantar fasciitis.
Runners and other sports persons sometimes suffer from shin splints. Shin splints is a pain at the front or inside of the tibia (shin). Overexertion of the muscles can cause small tears at the point where the muscle is joined to the tibia. Poor or old running shoes and flat feet or high arches (which are poor shock absorbers) can lead to shin splints.
Strengthening and stretching the leg muscles and resting from the activity that caused the problem are recommended. When the pain has subsided and exercise is resumed, then it is essential to use good footwear, good orthotics, minimize running on the toes (uphill) and to stretch before and after exercise.