Foot Pain? What Could It Mean?

High heels shoe feet pain. Closeup of woman barefoot with painful toes has removed her formal stilettos at work

For many of us, the experience of foot or ankle pain is not a new phenomenon, whether it be from ill-fitting shoes or being on your feet for too long. Whilst such pain is often not serious and treatable with rest, in some cases it could be symptomatic of a more serious issue.

Emma McConnachie, a podiatrist from the College of Podiatry, shares her top tips for recognising when foot pain could be a cause for concern and the tell-tale signs that it’s time to seek advice from a professional.

Emma McConnachie

Emma McConnachie


1 A loss of sensation in your feet

Woman rubbing under heel of her foot

Pic: Shutterstock

Numbness in your feet is one of the early signs of diabetes and often starts in the toes. Each day, 23 people with diabetes in England sadly have a toe, foot or leg amputated due to complications with diabetes, however this risk can be greatly reduced by understanding the symptoms of the condition, to ensure it is detected early and properly managed.

2 Acute throbbing in the big toe

Throbbing pain in your big toe, often in the middle of the night, is one of the top indicators of gout. The condition affecting one or two in every 100 people in the UK, is caused by an imbalance of uric acid in the body, causing pain and inflammation in the foot. When caught early, gout can be managed through anti-inflammatory drugs, a healthy diet and footwear adaptations, and will help you to avoid future deterioration of your joint further down the line.

3 Aching joints

Happy women working out together in fitness exercise class.

Pic: iStockphoto

Our joints can become stiff for many reasons, however if your achy joints worsen when exercising, wearing high heels, or in cold weather, this could be a sign of osteoarthritis. Damage to the cartilage of a joint causes the bone underneath to thicken and cause pain and stiffness, resulting in this bone condition. In the foot it mostly affects the base of the big toe and through early detection can be easily managed with the right shoes, orthotics and padding.

4 Inflammation of your feet

If your feet become swollen or hot and red, this inflammation is often a sign of overuse, caused by activities such as rigorous exercise or standing for long periods of time. However, if accompanied by stiffness, muscle aches and fever, it could be a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. This condition results from a faulty immune system that attacks the tissue lining the joints. Feet are often one of the first places to be affected by the condition and are therefore crucial to its early diagnosis.

5 Persistent pain

Podiatrist treating patient

Pic: Shutterstock

If you experience pain in your foot or ankle that doesn’t fade after a few days, it’s essential to seek expertise from a specialist. Enduring pain can be a sign of a number of common foot conditions, such as bunions or Morton’s neuroma (painful condition that affects the ball of your foot). Whilst these are often treatable with simple steps, if left untreated they could require more serious intervention that can impair mobility in the long-term.

Awareness of these warning signs will go a long way to ensure the early diagnosis of serious conditions and the effective management of your foot health. If these symptoms feel familiar or if you have any other concerns about your feet or lower legs, be sure to book an appointment with a podiatrist.

Podiatrists are experts in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of foot, ankle and leg conditions – find your local podiatrist via The College of Podiatry’s ‘Find a Podiatrist’ tool.

Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!