Common Foot Problems

6 min read


Common foot problems

It probably won't come as a surprise to hear that women's feet are different from men's feet in a number of ways. Because of that, there are a number of foot issues that affect women more than men. In this guide, we'll cover common foot problems women face and how to address them and the foot pain they cause.


Bunions are one of the most common foot issues. A bunion is a bony protrusion that develops along the outside of the big toe. The bone and tissue surrounding the joint (metatarsophalangeal, MTP) becomes misaligned due to undue pressure on the toes.

The main cause of bunions are improper biomechanics. If the foot puts too much stress on the MTP joint, bunions can form. People with flat feet and low or fallen arches are more susceptible to developing the condition. Other causes include:

  • Foot injuries
  • Arthritis and inflammatory joint disease
  • Overuse of high heels
  • Undue occupational stress on the feet

While ice, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and bunion pads can help alleviate pain, once a bunion forms, only surgery will truly fix the problem. That is why it is important to take care of your feet before bunions form.

Because biomechanical problems cause bunions, it is important to fix any irregularity in your stride. Insoles with superior arch support are key. Reduce the time spent in high heels and choose shoes with roomy toe boxes.

Corns and Calluses

Women's foot issues - corns and calluses

Corns and calluses are thickened areas of skin that develop on areas of the foot. They are caused by friction between your foot and your shoes. Calluses form on the skin of the bottom of the foot. Corns appear on the top or the side of the toes. There are three main causes of corns and calluses:

  • Ill-fitting shoes - Tight shoes can cause "hotspots" or specific areas where your foot rubs against your shoes. High heels are a main culprit.
  • Foot deformities like hammer toes - the abnormal bending of the toe joint can create shoe fitting issues.
  • Overpronation- Overpronation causes arches to flatten and elongate. As this happens the ball of the foot moves forward and back, rubbing on the inside of the shoe or sandal. This rubbing often causes calluses.

To prevent foot issues like corns and calluses, make sure you:

  • Have shoes that fit
  • Wear arch-supporting insoles to limit pronation and to assure proper alignment
  • Reduce the amount of time spent in high heels

Fashion vs. Comfort

Women's foot issues - Comfort Shoes

Many professional women struggle to balance comfort and fashion in their shoe choices. Conditions caused by high heels consistently rates as one of the most common foot pain problems for women. High heels can cause:

  • Tight calf muscles
  • Toe problems like hammer toe
  • Ankle instability
  • Morton's Neuroma
  • Bunions

There are ways to wear high heels and avoid the most common foot pain conditions:

  • Wear heels in moderation.Use sneakers during your commute. Don't wear heels on your days off. Alternate heels with flats.
  • Choose comfortable heels. Wear 2-inch heels or lower. Find heels with wide toe boxes. Re-sole the heels with thicker rubber to provide extra comfort and reduce slippage.
  • Avoid certain styles. Very high heels (stilettos) can cause pain in the ball of the foot. Pointy-toed heels will cramp the toes.

Ballet flats are also an option for women's professional wardrobe. Flats distribute weight more evenly over the entire foot, but their lack of support can lead to other problems, including overpronation.

The best way to provide extra structure in ballet flats to help prevent foot issues is by using arch support insoles.

Hammer Toes

Hammer toe is an unsightly and painful condition in which the toe bends abnormally at the first joint and ends up looking like an upside-down V. The condition most often occurs in your second to fifth toes.

Hammer toe is more common in women than men. High heels and shoes with tight toe boxes can cause the condition. Poor shoe choice is aggravated by underlying biomechanical irregularities including:

  • Flat feet –As your arch over flattens, your toes are forced to stabilize the foot. This causes increased pressure on the toe joints.

  • High arches – People with high arches often have imbalances in the different tendons in the toes (extensor and flexor), which can result in hammer toes.

  • Bunions – Bunions will push your big toe towards the littler ones. This can put undue stress on the smaller toe joints.

It is important to wear comfortable shoes with wide toe boxes. Supportive insoles can also help take the pressure off your hammer toe.

Morton’s Neuroma

Women's foot issues - Morton's neuroma

Morton’s Neuroma is an inflamed or enlarged nerve in the metatarsals (toes). It is more common among women than men. This is mainly due to overuse of high heels and tight shoes. It is important to choose proper footwear to prevent the condition.

Symptoms include pain, tingling, and swelling in the toes and ball of the foot. It can often feel like you have a pebble stuck in your shoe.

The main causes of Morton's Neuroma include:

  • Biomechanical problems like high arches and flat feet. Overpronation can also cause the metatarsals to rotate excessively, pinching the nerves.
  • Trauma to the toe nerves.
  • Improper footwear. Shoes that are too tight will squeeze the toes together. High heels over two inches will increase the pressure on the front of the foot.
  • Repeated stress on the feet.

Most foot specialists will recommend insoles to both treat and prevent the condition.


Women's foot issues - Pregnancy
During pregnancy, women's feet change. Most often, women's arches will flatten, particularly during the first pregnancy, and they will often go up a shoe size. There are 2 main reasons women's feet change during pregnancy:
  • Weight. Putting on weight during pregnancy is inevitable. However, weight gain, and shifts in how women carry their weight can flatten the arches and cause feet to swell.
  • Hormones. Estrogen and relaxin are produced during pregnancy to relax the joints and pelvis to accommodate childbirth. But these hormones will also loosen the ligaments in the foot, causing the arches to flatten and shoe size to increase.

While foot issues may be inevitable during pregnancy, there are specific ways pregnant women can take care of their feet:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Work with a physician or midwife to follow a healthy lifestyle while pregnant.
  • Choose the right shoes.Avoid high heels. Pick shoes that provide both comfort and support.
  • Take care of your feet. Rest with your feet elevated on a pillow. Ice your feet. Perform foot exercises to increase circulation.
  • Wear insoles with arch support. Tread Labs' Stride insoles address the 3 common foot problems women face during pregnancy.
    • Provides superior arch support.
    • Controls overpronation.
    • Gives structure and comfort.

Runner's Knee

Runner’s knee (Pattellofemoral Pain Syndrome, PFPS) is a common injury among runners. The condition is more common in recreational runners than their elite counterparts. Women are twice as likely to develop runner’s knee than men.

PFPS is when the knee becomes irritated. Running often triggers the patella (kneecap) to rub the femur (thighbone).

Overtraining—or a sudden increase in training—can set off PFPS. But imbalance is the underlying cause of runner’s knee. There are two types of imbalance:

  • Muscle imbalance – Weak quadriceps (thigh muscles) and inflexible hamstrings can cause runner’s knee. Poorly conditioned thigh muscles won’t adequately support the patella, causing misalignment. Tight hamstrings will put extra pressure on the knee.
  • Functional imbalance – Biomechanical problems can lead to runner’s knee. The patella can be irregularly shaped. Worn cartilage can result in reduced shock absorption. But biomechanical issues in the feet can also lead to PFPS.

Because women tend to have wider hips, their thighbones often meet the knee at a greater angle. This puts the kneecap under more stress. Insoles can help support the particular issues women face with runner’s knee.

Stress Fractures

women's foot issues - stress fractures

Stress fractures are high on the list of the most common foot issues. While both men and women can develop stress fractures in the feet and legs (an injury where the bone weakens to the point of developing small cracks), female athletes develop these injuries at a higher rate than male athletes. Moreover, older women who have gone through menopause also need to be careful about bone injuries including stress fractures. Estrogen helps your bones process the calcium it needs for optimal growth, and the reduced presence of this hormone in the body can lead to osteoporosis. 

There are several causes of lower-extremity stress fractures:

  • Overtraining or a sudden increase in training.
  • Biomechanical problems like high and low arches and flat feet.

If you eat healthy, train correctly, and wear proper footwear, you can greatly reduce the risk of stress fractures and other common foot problems. Wearing arch support insoles can correct biomechanical issues that lead to improper stride, uneven impact absorption, and most importantly, stress fractures.

Find Your Fit

Cassia Roth
Cassia Roth

2 Responses


May 09, 2019

Hi Jane,
Tread Labs does provide a semi-custom orthotic, which can provide a level of stability as well as alignment for the ankle.
I would suggest talking to your doctor to make sure an orthotic like ours would be something beneficial for your needs.
We do offer a 30 Day Guarantee, which allows you to try the insole for a month before determining whether you would like to keep the insoles, exchange them or return them for a full refund.
Thanks you,
Tread Labs

Jane Holmes
Jane Holmes

May 09, 2019

Due to being in steroids for 5 1/2 years I have ended up with osteopenia and weak tendons. Inhave a tear in the tendon that runs through the ankle and along the inside of the foot. Due to the weakness I am not a candidate for surgery – it would just tear again. Doc has referred me to a place for a special brace and orthotic. Is this something you can provide? I see them on Tuesday but fear the cost with be unattainable for me. Thank you.

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