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Why Your Feet Hurt

It’s probably due to one of these ailments. Here’s how to treat them. For serious pain, see a podiatrist or a podiatric surgeon.

By Sally Wadyka
Woman's feet in yellow flip flops Victor Schrager


4. Stress fracture

Feels like: A tender area, often on the front part of the foot, at the second or third metatarsal (the metatarsals are the long bones in the midfoot).
 What causes it: Repetitive stress on a bone, like walking or running on hard surfaces, especially in shoes that aren’t designed to absorb shocks. “Every summer, I see fractures in women who walk the city sidewalks all day in flip-flops,” says Sutera. High heels can also make you more susceptible to stress fractures, because the heel’s tilt distributes your weight over your foot unevenly.
 Treatment strategies
  • See a doctor no matter what. A podiatrist will give you a surgical shoe to wear as you heal (it has a hard bottom that doesn’t allow the affected bones to bend) or advise you to wear some other kind of rigid shoes.
  • Slow down. Stress fractures take four to eight weeks to heal. During that time, you’ll need to stop running and limit your walking to what’s absolutely necessary.
  • Prevent recurrences. Maintain a healthy weight and wear supportive, well-cushioned shoes.


5. Bunions

Feel like: Sensitive, protruding bumps, typically at the heads of the big-toe joints.
 What causes them: Bunions are thought to be hereditary, and you can develop them if you have low arches or if you overpronate (your feet roll inward). “As the bump gets bigger, it’s actually your bone moving,” says Robbins. Wearing certain shoes―such as those with narrow, pointy toes and high heels―won’t cause bunions to form, but they can speed their progression.
 Treatment strategies
  • Choose the right shoes. Specifically, pick pairs with a wide toe box and a low heel.
  • Try gel pads. Place them over the bunions to help cushion the areas and reduce pain.
  • Consider surgery. If your bunions continue to get worse, become very painful, or begin to affect your feet’s mobility, a podiatric surgeon can realign the joints and shave off the protruding bones.


6. Neuroma

Feels like: A shooting pain in the ball of the foot.
 What causes it: Pressure on the nerve tissue in the underside of the foot, usually between two adjacent metatarsals. This pressure irritates the nerves, and the area swells. “Narrow, pointy shoes can put added pressure on an already irritated nerve,” says Robbins.
 Treatment strategies
  • Wear shoes with a wide toe box. And stick to those with low heels.
  • Employ anti-inflammatories. Take ibuprofen, or if that’s not enough, see a podiatrist and ask about a cortisone injection, which should bring down the swelling of the nerve immediately.
  • Consider surgery. For a stubborn neuroma that won’t go away with less invasive treatments, a doctor can use cryotreatment, a surgical technique in which a probe is inserted to eradicate the problem nerve.
Read More About:Aches & Pains

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