Foot Problems


Check your feet regularly for symptoms of foot problems. See your healthcare professional when you have:

  • Dry skin
  • Brittle or thickened nails
  • Burning or tingling sensations
  • Unnatural skin or nail colors
  • Feelings of cold or numbness
If you have symptoms of foot problems, see your podiatrist as soon as possible. This can help prevent potential long-term disability.

Common Foot Problems and Symptoms


Bunions are a bony growth or a bone out of position at the base of the big toe. They look like a bump on the outside of the big toe. Sometimes they are on the small toe. Eventually, the big toe may bend toward the small toes.

Bunions often cause pain because of problems with the supporting tissues under the bone. Bunions may become red, warm, inflamed, and very sensitive to pressure. Risks for bunions include family history, flat feet, arthritis, and years of friction with poorly-fitting footwear.

Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses are dead, yellowish, and thickened skin on feet. Corns are on toes and Calluses are on the ball or heel of your foot. Calluses that get too big or hard can damage the tissues underneath and cause pain.

To protect delicate inner tissues, feet grow thickened layers of skin to guard against repetitive pressure or rubbing. Poorly fitting shoes or socks generally cause corns and calluses. Toes rubbing against each other can too.


Hammertoes are toes that curl up or under other toes, often causing a dislocated joint. One of the small toes, usually the second toe, becomes permanently flexed, curled and out of line with the other toes. Finding comfortable shoes can be difficult.

Hammertoes are caused by abnormal tension in the muscles and tendons around the toe joints, causing them to buckle or flex. Eventually the joint becomes rigid.

Toenail Problems

Toenail problems include ingrown (growing into the skin), thickened, or discolored toenails. Their causes are:

  • Inherited problems
  • Trimming nails in an arch instead of straight across
  • Injury to the toe
  • Infection
  • Conditions such as diabetes or psoriasis

Ingrown toenails may become infected and there may be minor pain when the nail is pressed. Fungal infections of the nail can also be painful. Abnormally thick, cracked, and yellowing toenails may eventually fall off. 

Diabetic Foot Problems

These can include foot sores that often heal poorly, loss of feeling, or blood circulation problems. Diabetes may cause reduced sensation in feet, making it hard to know that the foot is injured. Also, diabetes lessens the blood flow to feet, so infections can be harder to fight.

Among the problems that can happen are:

  • Red areas or spots that can be signs of infection
  • Blisters, calluses
  • Ingrown toenails that cause more foot problems
  • Small cuts, which can quickly lead to a severe infection
  • Foot ulcers (sores)
  • Foot pain at night
  • Loss of a foot

Up to three-quarters of all amputations in diabetic people could be prevented with better monitoring of early danger signs. Severe problems with blood circulation in people with diabetes can also lead to amputation.

If you have diabetes, you or a family member needs to check your feet daily for sores. A healthcare professional needs to examine your feet at regular office visits. If you have any new sores, you should see your healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Arthritis Foot Problems

Joint changes related to arthritis can lead to painful or deformed joints, chronic dislocations, swelling, stiffness, and rigid joints. In gout, usually one joint—the big toe—becomes swollen and intensely painful.

Heel Pain

This pain is present at the back of the arch from heel spurs (bony outgrowth) or plantar fasciitis (an inflamed ligament along the bottom of the foot).

  • Plantar fasciitis may be caused by problems with the foot’s arch. The fascia (a tissue running along the bottom of the foot) may become irritated and painful. The major symptoms is pain along the bottom inside edge of your foot when standing. The pain may be worst in the morning and may come and go. If you ignore the problem is could become worse and remain with you.
  • Heel spurs are small bone growths that appear when the ligament running along the sole of your foot tugs repeatedly on the heel bone.

Heel spurs often cause pain on the bottom of your foot with walking and often are found with plantar fasciitis.

Arch Problems

Flat feet and very high arches can cause arch pain. Arch problems happen when the Achilles tendon (the vertical tendon behind the ankle) is too tight or too loose. Risks for these problems are:

  • Family history
  • Use of high heeled shoes
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Use of steroids

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

This syndrome is a type of pinched nerve disorder. The nerve, called the posterior tibialis nerve, may get trapped, causing irritation and pain. The main symptom is pain along the bottom of the foot. This can come with numbness, tingling, or burning, often at night. 

Achilles Tendonitis

This tendonitis happens when the tendon that connects your heel bone to your calf muscle becomes inflamed. Severe pain can make walking difficult. Causes include obesity, family history of a shortened Achilles tendon, and use of high-heeled shoes.

Sudden severe Achilles tendonitis or even a ruptured Achilles tendon may be a side effect of some antibiotics such as levofloxacin or ciprofloxacin.

Mortons Neuroma

In this condition, thickened tissue wraps around the nerves that lead to the toes. The result is nerve pain. Burning or tingling sensations and cramping can happen in the front of the foot.

Causes include tight shoes, arthritis, injury, and deformed bones.

Skin Growths and Cancers

If you have plantar warts, blood vessel tumors, or newly colored spots that change shape, color, or size see your healthcare professional soon. An exam is needed to check for cancers. Regular exams are important too.


Last Updated February 2023

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