Pain: bottom of your heel
This sharp, shooting pain is typically plantar fasciitis. It comes from inflammation of a band of connective tissue—called the plantar fascia—that extends along the bottom of your heel to the ball of your foot. Studies show that more than 40 percent of people who see podiatrists deal with heel pain like plantar, says McClanahan.
A chronic case of fasciitis could turn into plantar fasciosis—where the tissues aren’t inflamed but actually degenerate due to repeated stress. You’ll feel the pain most after waking up or prolonged sitting.
Causes: Runners and athletes often get plantar fasciitis because of excessive training, according to the APMA. But your shoes may also be a cause. Footwear with a tapered toe box forces your big toe in an extended position. This causes the muscle that controls your big toe—the abductor hallucis—to pull your foot unnaturally, which restricts blood flow to the bottom of your foot, says McClanahan. Over time, this can lead to plantar fasciosis.
Pain relievers: Give yourself a massage by rolling a golf ball or frozen water bottle under your foot. This relieves the inflammation. You can also insert a metatarsal pad into your shoe, shortening the plantar fascia ligament and re-distributing pressure away from the troubled area. If your shoe has a tapered toe box, switch it for one that allows your feet to splay naturally, like the Altras .
Pain: big toe
Blame the redness, soreness, and swelling on a bunion, a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe. You’ll often notice a “bump” on the outside edge of the foot because of swelling.
Causes: Heredity can play a factor. Chances are if your father has bunions, you’ll inherit his odd foot shape or mechanics and get them, too, according to the APMA. Wearing shoes with tight toe boxes can exacerbate the problem.
Walking, running, or exercising with poorly-fitting shoes applies pressure to the joint.
Pain relievers: The APMA advices dealing with acute pain with ice or a bunion pad. If it’s a progressive problem, wear shoes with a wide toe box and try a toe-spacer device like Correct Toes that helps to re-align your toes.
You can also try a bunion stretch. Here’s how to do it: With one hand, pull your big toe away from your other toes. With your other hand, apply a deep tissue massage with your thumb on the tissues between your first and second metatarsals.
Pain: between your toes or on the ball of your foot
If you have a stinging sensation on the bottom of your foot, as if you’re stepping on a pebble, you may have a neuroma—an enlarged growth of nerves. This is essentially a pinched nerve in your foot, and usually occurs between the third and fourth metatarsal. This spot represents the confluence of two plantar nerves joining together, and with a larger volume it’s more likely to be pinched/squeezed.
The cause: Neuromas occur from ill-fitting shoes, repeated stress, or trauma to the feet.
Pain relievers: Go with a well-cushioned shoe that has a lower heel and level platform. A metatarsal pad can help relieve pressure on the nerve, as well. “If that doesn’t work, you can ask your doctor about cortisone,” says McClanahan. This destroys the scar tissue around the affected nerve.
A simple toe extensor stretch may help, too. Do this: While seated in a chair, keep one foot flat on the floor and bring the other foot underneath the chair. Your heel should be off the floor. Now curl your toes toward the ball of your foot, and push the top side of your toes into the floor. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch of the extensor muscles on top of the foot. (Click here to watch McClanahan demonstrate the toe extensor stretch.)
Pain: ankle top
When walking or running, the quick pinch you feel just below where your shoelaces are tied could be your peroneal nerve—a nerve that runs down your leg and through your foot.
The cause: You may aggravate your peroneal if you tie your shoelaces wrong or your shoe’s tongue hits your ankle.
Pain reliever: Release the pressure from the nerve. “Skip the last two or three shoelace eyelets or cut off the top inch of the tongue,” says McClanahan. If this doesn’t help or it’s more than a fleeting shock of pain, see a podiatrist.
This shooting pain above the heel and below the calf muscle is commonly tendonitis. Over time, your ankle feels less flexible.
The cause: Overuse can cause inflammation and swelling of the Achilles tendon, a strong tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heels. If you’re new to more minimal shoes, research shows that transitioning too quickly to a lower profile shoe can put strain on calf muscles. In turn, this puts a larger burden on the Achilles with each step.
Pain relievers: First and foremost, you need to rest. Ice your Achilles for 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day, advises the APMA, and take anti-inflammatory medications if you like. You can also use a heel lift—a shoe insert that helps absorb shock—to take pressure off your Achilles.
If you want to prevent this pain from starting in the first place, increase Achilles and calf flexibility, says McClanahan. That includes a slow transition into minimal shoes if you’re a runner, and stretching the Achilles.
Do this: Stand on the balls of your feet on a stair or a curb. Keeping your legs straight and the balls of your feet on the stair, release your heels toward the floor. Pause for 10 deep breaths. To increase the intensity of the stretch, keep one foot flat and lower the other heel. Then switch legs. Do this a couple times a week or more if you’re noticing tightness.
By Brian Dalek
Originally Published By menshealth.com