Is your foot pain a symptom of a more serious health issue? Spot the warning signs

By Ali Horsfall February 2, 2020 8:00 am


Every day our feet get put through their paces. Bad-fitting shoes or being on your feet for too long can cause discomfort that’s often treatable with rest, but in some cases foot pain can be cause for Here’s how to recognise when foot pain is a sign of a more serious issue.


A loss of sensation in your feet

‘Numbness in your feet is one of the early signs of diabetes and often starts in the toes,’ says Emma McConnachie, a podiatrist from the College of Podiatry. ‘Understanding the symptoms of the condition can ensure it is detected early and properly managed.’


Acute throbbing in the big toe

Gout is caused by an imbalance of uric acid in the body, causing pain and inflammation in the foot. ‘Throbbing pain in your big toe, often in the middle of the night, is one of the top indicators,’ says Emma. ‘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.’


Aching joints

‘If your achy joints worsen when exercising, wearing high heels, or in cold weather, this could be a sign of osteoarthritis,’ says Emma. Cartilage damage of a joint causes the bone underneath to thicken, resulting in this bone condition along with pain and stiffness, ‘In the foot it mostly affects the base of the big toe and through early detection it can be easily managed with the right shoes, orthotics and padding,’


Inflammation of your feet

Do your feet get swollen or hot and red? This inflammation is often a sign of overuse, caused by rigorous exercise or standing for long periods of time explains Emma. ‘If it’s accompanied by stiffness, muscle aches and fever, however, it could be a symptom of rheumatoid arthritis,’ she says. ‘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.’


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 – a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot,’ says Emma. ‘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.’


Podiatrists are experts in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of foot, ankle and leg conditions.

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