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Updated 13 August 2022 | Approved By

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Foot Pain – Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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What is Foot Pain?

Foot pain describes any discomfort in and/or around the foot. Many structures in the foot can cause pain, including ligaments, bones, cartilage, fascia, tendons and muscles. For most people, there are 26 bones in the foot to help provide structure and support. Injuries or conditions to one or several structures can lead to foot pain. According to a study conducted in North West Adelaide, around 20% of Australians will experience foot pain [1]. Australians who are female, obese and/or over 50 are more likely to report pain in the feet. Foot pain is often underreported but can severely affect an individual's quality of life. Talking to a GP is important to help diagnose, treat and manage your foot pain. Your GP can refer you for testing (if necessary) and guide you to any appropriate treatment.

Types of Foot Pain

Many types of foot pain could be causing your symptoms. The location of the foot pain can indicate what could be causing your foot pain. Below will be a list of common areas where people will report discomfort and the types of conditions that could be causing these symptoms.

Pain on Top of Foot

Some people report pain at the top of the foot, which can start from the front part of the ankle to the start of the toes. Potential conditions which could cause pain here include:
  • Tendonitis
  • Ankle arthritis
  • Fractures
  • Sinus tarsi syndrome
  • Anterior ankle impingement
  • Osteochondral defect

Pain in Arch of Foot

Pain along the arch of the foot is also another commonly reported problem, particularly along the inner side. The arch of the foot is created by the structure of the bones and supported by connective tissue, such as ligaments and tendons. Potential conditions which could cause pain here, includes:
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Fractures
  • Bunions
  • Arthritis

Pain In Heel of Foot

The heel describes the back and underside of the foot. For many people, this part of the foot is the first part that touches the ground when walking. Healthcare professionals will describe this walking pattern as the heel-to-toe strike. Potential conditions which could cause pain here includes:
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Bursitis
  • Fractures
  • Boney spurs
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Feel fat pad syndrome
  • Warts

Outer Side of Foot Pain

Outer foot pain describes any discomfort felt from the inner part of the ankle (near the bony protrusion) and extending to the beginning of the 5th toe. Potential conditions which could cause pain here include:
  • Fracture
  • Arthritis
  • Ligament sprains
  • Tendonitis
  • Bursitis


Foot Pain Symptoms

Foot pain symptoms can vary depending on the condition's location, cause and severity. Below will be a list of symptoms that may also occur alongside your foot pain:
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Bruising
  • Tender to touch
  • Unable to put weight through the foot without discomfort
  • Limping
  • Numbness
  • Redness
  • Growths (e.g. warts, wounds, etc.)


What Causes Foot Pain?

There are many causes of foot pain, which have been listed above. Typically, foot pain can be caused through several means, including physical injury through trauma (e.g. twisting ankle, landing awkwardly after jumping, etc.) and gradually over time (e.g. degeneration, inflammation, etc.). There are several characteristics that can increase the risk of developing foot pain, which will be listed below [1][2]:
  • Female gender
  • Being over the age of 45
  • Having a body mass index (BMI) over 30
  • Having hip and back pain
  • Having pronated and flat feet
  • Being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and/or diabetes


Tests and Diagnosis

To receive a formal diagnosis for your foot pain, it's recommended to see a GP about your current problems. Your GP will ask several essential questions about the condition and perhaps perform a physical assessment of the foot. They may also refer you to imaging tests (e.g. MRI, CT scans, etc.) to help create 2D and/or 3D images inside the foot. This information will detail any abnormalities, diseases and/or injuries that could be causing the foot pain. For some individuals, GPs may recommend blood tests to determine whether there may be any other underlying medical conditions. Those with chronic diseases like psoriatic arthritis and diabetes often experience foot pain symptoms.

Foot Pain Treatment

After testing and diagnosis, your GP will recommend treatments that may assist your symptoms. GPs may also refer you to other services to further facilitate your treatment.


Medications, such as pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs, may be prescribed by your GP to help relieve your foot pain symptoms. Suppose you have an underlying medical condition that your GP suspects may be contributing to your pain. In that case, medications may also be prescribed to treat this. Always take your medications as guided by your GP.


Your GP may refer you to see a podiatrist. A podiatrist is a qualified healthcare professional specialising in foot health and care. They offer a range of treatments that can help prevent and manage your foot pain. Examples of treatments to expect include:
  • Orthotics and insoles
  • Recommending appropriate footwear
  • Taping
  • Manual therapy
  • Lifestyle strategies
  • Corrective exercises


Your GP may also refer you to see a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists are qualified health professionals that specialise in physical health and mobility. If your foot pain is causing mobility and physical restrictions, a physiotherapist can incorporate the treatments below to assist you:
  • Exercise and rehabilitation
  • Adjusting your training program
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Lifestyle strategies
  • Pain management (e.g. heat, ice treatment, etc.)
  • Manual therapy

Orthopaedic Specialist

Your GP may recommend seeing an orthopaedic specialist for severe or persistent foot pain. They are specially trained doctors that are experts in the musculoskeletal system, such as joints, muscles, bones, ligaments and cartilage. Orthopaedic specialists offer more advanced treatments, such as injections and surgery. Invasive treatments, such as surgery, are usually provided as a last-line treatment.


Recovery from foot pain will depend on several factors, such as the condition responsible for the symptoms, general health and how long you have had it. See your GP as soon as possible for appropriate treatment to experience faster recovery and better outcomes.


Foot pain causes physical limitations, such as the ability to experience, walk and even stand. These limitations can begin to affect day-to-day activities, such as participating in social events and working. Guidance from trained healthcare professionals can help resolve and prevent ongoing complications.

Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.

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  1. Hill, C. L., Gill, T. K., Menz, H. B., & Taylor, A. W. (2008). Prevalence and correlates of foot pain in a population-based study: the North West Adelaide health study. Journal of foot and ankle research, 1(1), 1-7.
  2. Menz, H. B., Dufour, A. B., Katz, P., & Hannan, M. T. (2016). Foot pain and pronated foot type are associated with self-reported mobility limitations in older adults: the Framingham foot study. Gerontology, 62(3), 289-295.