illustration of plantar fasciitis in heel
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Plantar Fasciitis

It’s a common cause of heel pain. The tissue that connects the front and back of your foot and supports the arch gets swollen and irritated. Though it’s hard to know exactly what causes it, it’s more common as you hit middle age, especially between 40 and 60. And you’re more likely to get it if you repeat the same impact on your feet, like when you run. Starting a new activity can be a trigger.

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photo xray of osteoarthritis in foot
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It’s the most common form of arthritis (joint inflammation) in the foot and other parts of the body. It can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in middle age, and most people who get it are over 65. It happens when cartilage breaks down and allows bone to rub against bone. Normal wear and tear or even a sudden injury can lead to this condition.

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photo xray of bone spur on heel of foot
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Bone Spurs

You might not even notice these smooth bony growths when they first start to grow at the edge of the bones of your foot, often at your heel, mid-foot, or big toe. But they can cause pain when they get big enough to start pushing on nearby nerves and tissues. Osteoarthritis or a pulled tendon or ligament can cause the growths, which are more common as you age, especially after age 60.

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photo of feet with bunions
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This painful, bony lump grows at the joint where your big toe meets your foot. It develops slowly as the big toe pushes inward. Like many foot problems, it’s more common as you get older. Tight, narrow, shoes like high heels may worsen the condition. Icing, special pads, and shoes that aren’t too tight help. Your doctor might suggest surgery in serious cases.

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photo xray of achilles tendon injury
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Achilles Problems

The Achilles is the thick tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel. Blood supply can slow with age, which weakens the tendon and makes injury more likely. Repeated motion can inflame it. A jump or fall, often during sports, can tear it partially or completely. Your heel could swell and become very painful. Rest and icing is important. You could need surgery for serious tears.

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photo of bursae below pinky toe
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Small fluid-filled sacs called bursae help cushion your joints, bones, and tendons. Repeated motion or friction from shoes can make them swell. In the foot, your toes or heel might get red, swollen, and painful. Ice, padding, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen can help. Severe cases may need a corticosteroid shot or even surgery.

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photo of foot exam
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Peripheral Neuropathy

Conditions like type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, and arthritis, which become more common with age but aren’t a normal part of getting older, can damage the nerves that connect your brain and spinal cord to all of your body, including your feet. You might have numbness and tingling in your feet that turns to jabbing pain. Talk to your doctor about how to treat your symptoms as well as the underlying condition.

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mortons neuroma illustration
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Morton’s Neuroma

You might have pain in the front part of your foot or you feel like you’re walking on a rock or a marble.  It’s more common in women, especially in middle age, in part because of shoes that squeeze their feet, like high heels. The tissue around a nerve near your toe between two bones in the middle of your foot starts to thicken. Your doctor will likely suggest, rest, icing, padding, and NSAIDs.

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photo of gout in foot
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It happens when a waste product called uric acid collects as crystals, often in the big toe, where it causes intense pain and swelling. Your risk increases with age, between 30 and 60 in men and after menopause in women. Your doctor can help you treat an attack with rest and medication. A better diet and exercise habits, and possibly medication, may reduce future attacks and other problems linked to gout.

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photo of stress fractures in foot
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Stress Fractures

For women, the hormone changes that come with menopause can lower your bone density (osteoporosis) and make it easier to break bones, including those in your feet. Men may also get more brittle bones as they age. A stress fracture needs several weeks of rest to heal. You’ll want to strengthen your bones with exercise and diet, and perhaps may need to take medication. Ask your doctor about the pros, cons, and what would help you most.    

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photo of hammertoe
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It’s an abnormal bend in the middle joints of your toe. It usually your “second” toe, next to the big one, but it can affect the third, fourth, and fifth as well. You’ll notice an unusual shape and you may have some pain when you move it as well as corns and calluses from the toe rubbing against your shoe. Your doctor can treat it with special footwear, medicine to treat pain and inflammation, and sometimes surgery.

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photo of mature couple jogging
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What You Can Do

  • Exercise: Movement tones foot muscles, strengthens arches, and keeps blood moving.
  • Make sure your shoes fit with plenty of room in the toe box -- your feet get a bit bigger with age.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry to avoid infection and your toenails trimmed so they don’t rub against your shoes.
  • See your doctor if you have pain that won’t go away. The sooner you go, the faster you can feel better.
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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 07/03/2019 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 03, 2019


1)            JOHN BAVOSI / Science Source

2)            ISM / ATHENAIS / Medical Images

3)            Larry Landolfi / Science Source

4)            NaiyanaDonraman / Getty Images

5)            Science Stock Photography / Science Source

6)            Dr P. Marazzi / Science Source

7)            eyepark / Getty Images

8)            Mark Miller / Science Source

9)            Lea Paterson / Science Source

10)          Living Art Enterprises / Science Source

11)          Dr P. Marazzi / Science Source

12)          Lordn / Getty Images



American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Stress Fractures,” “Morton's Neuroma,” “Achilles Tendinitis,” “Osteoarthritis,” “Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs.”

American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: “Hammertoe,” “Is Your Foot Fracture an Early Sign of Osteoporosis?” “Morton's Neuroma (Intermetatarsal Neuroma),” “Achilles Tendon Disorders,” “Bursitis,” “Bunions.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Osteoporosis Treatment,” “What is Gout?” “What is Osteoarthritis?” “Osteoarthritis Causes,” “Arthritis & Diseases that Affect the Foot.”

American Family Physician: “Common Conditions of the Achilles Tendon.”

American Podiatric Medical Association: “Tendinitis.”

Cedars Sinai: “Bone Spurs.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Hammertoes,” “Stress Fractures,” “Bone Spurs.”

Evolutionary Medicine and Public Health: “Evolutionary Medicine: Why do humans get bunions?”

College of Podiatry: “Ageing Feet.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Why your feet get bigger as you age,” “Are you at risk for gout?”

Health In Aging Foundation: “Foot Problems.”

Hospital for Special Surgery: “Gout: Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment.” “Bunions: Overview.”

Institute for Preventive Foot Health: “Bursitis.”

International Orthopaedics: “Stress fractures in elderly patients.”

International Osteoporosis Foundation: “Treating Osteoporosis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Hammertoe and mallet toe,” “Osteoporosis treatment: Medications can help,” “Gout,” “Peripheral neuropathy,” “Achilles tendinitis,” “Arthritis,” “Plantar fasciitis.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet.”

Orthopaedic Pathology (Fifth Edition), 2010: “Morton's Neuroma.”

PM&R: “Risk Factors for Plantar Fasciitis Among Assembly Plant Workers.”

StatPearls: “Morton Neuroma.”

UCLA Health: “Coping with the changes your feet undergo as you age.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Understanding Bone Spurs.”

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 03, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.