Why Do My Feet Hurt: 4 Common Causes and 3 Helpful Remedies

by Mark Paigen 7 minute read

Foot pain is incredibly frustrating. Discomfort in your lower extremities can keep you from enjoying all sorts of activities. It can even impair your ability to perform pain-free basic movements like standing and walking.

Feet bear our weight, get crammed into all sorts of footwear, and endure a lifetime of pavement-slapping.


  • The list of common issues that cause foot pain is long and varied, from bunions to fungus to arthritis.
  • There are a number of effective pain-relief strategies that you can try on your own, including stretching, ice and heat therapy, and supportive insoles.
  • By replacing your shoes’ factory insoles, you can add a pair that’s made specifically to address your foot pain issues, providing support, comfort, and pain relief.

Let’s review:

  • A few of the most common causes of foot pain
  • The best remedies for relieving foot pain

Most Common Foot Pain Problems

person at the beach touching their feet

Feet lead rough lives, and every part of the foot is vulnerable to painful conditions. Trouble can start in any of these parts of the foot:

  • Nails
  • Skin
  • Muscles and tendons

Why are feet so tough to keep happy? Consider the daily hardships that they’re subjected to:

  • Supporting body weight during daily movement
  • Harsh impact against pavement during walking
  • Compression into unnatural footwear designs such as high heels
  • Confinement in hot and sweaty shoes and socks with limited airflow

Despite their importance and their challenges, feet are often neglected. They don’t get the attention they deserve in exercise, stretching, or self-care routines.

Over time, things often start to go wrong. Muscles and tendons are strained, skin gets worn down, nails are misshapen or damaged, and infections take root.

Here are a few of the most common problems that cause foot pain.


Bunions are painful, bony bumps. Bunions affect one specific location: the outer base of the big toe joint.

Both foot structure and mechanics during walking can cause bunions. Bones in the front of the foot gradually shift, resulting in the bunion bulge. Wearing shoes that are too narrow or tight can also cause or worsen bunions.

Plantar Fasciitis

Pain from plantar fasciitis occurs in the heel. The condition occurs when tissue on the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed.

Plantar fasciitis pain is known for its intensity. The stabbing pain is typically most severe during the first steps of the day. The intensity decreases throughout the day but may return during long periods of standing or when first standing up after a period of sitting.

Although the cause of plantar fasciitis isn’t completely understood, the condition is common in runners and those who are overweight.


Tendon inflammation is known as tendonitis. Tendons are the connective tissues that hold bone and muscle together throughout the body. When tendons are inflamed, the area becomes sore, swollen, and tender.

In feet, tendonitis commonly occurs in one of these two forms:

  • Achilles tendonitis, affecting the tendon that connects your calf muscle and heel bone
  • Posterior tibial tendonitis, affecting the tendon that connects your calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the foot

Tendonitis in the foot can happen to anyone, but most commonly occurs in people who:

  • Are athletes or very physically active
  • Don’t properly stretch before or after exercise
  • Are overweight

Doctors diagnose tendonitis by checking for swelling, pain, and range of motion.

Flat or High Arches

The arch of a foot is the bridge-shaped zone between the heel and the balls, i.e. the padded areas before the toes.

A normal or medium arch is slightly raised off the ground when a person is standing. Arch problems can occur in either direction—an arch may be too flat or too high.


Arch Type Common Issues Footwear Needs
Flat Arch
  • Feet roll inward during walking or running
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Supportive soles
  • Arch support or raised heels to relieve middle-foot pressure
High Arch
  • Impaired shock absorption
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Extra cushioning to compensate for deficient shock absorption

Source: Mayo Clinic

If you suspect that your arches are flat or high, perform the footprint test:

  • Dip your foot in water
  • Step your wet foot on a piece of cardboard

For normal arches, the footprint test makes a wet spot with an arch area that’s around half-filled. If you see a full footprint, flat arches are indicated, while a high arch leaves very little arch-area footprint at all.

Other Foot Issues Related to Overuse, Injury, Infection, and Inflammation

Bunions, plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, and high/flat arches are just a few of the dozens of concerns that cause foot pain.

Additional problems that can cause foot pain or discomfort include:

  • Ingrown toenails
  • Plantar warts
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Onychomycosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Arthritis (osteoarthritis, reactive arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Stress fractures
  • Broken toe or broken foot
  • Bone spurs
  • Corns or calluses
  • Hammertoe or mallet toe
  • Morton’s toe

Your family doctor can diagnose and treat most common foot conditions, or refer you to a podiatrist for specialized care.

Best Solutions for Foot Pain Relief

two pairs of bare feet on the ground

Issues causing severe foot pain may require medical attention. However, there are a number of effective pain-relief strategies that you can try on your own. Here are a few foot pain relief strategies to serve as precursors or complements to medical treatments.

Stretches and Exercises

man performing a crouching stretch for the soles of his feet

Improving strength and flexibility in your feet and ankles may reduce the pain and discomfort caused by some conditions. Perform a combination of exercises that accomplish both toning and stretching. Address all parts of the foot, including the toes, arches, and ankles.

To get started, try this routine of basic foot exercises from Medical News Today.

Yoga is great for stretching the entire body, including the muscles around your feet.

Just keep in mind that lots of modern western Yoga is more fitness-oriented and focuses less on stretching. For a yoga practice that’s all about deep stretching, including specific foot stretches, try Yin Yoga.

Ice or Heat Therapy

Ice and heat are effective home remedies. Lowering or boosting the temperature around a sore or swollen area manipulates the circulation of blood through blood vessels. This reduces inflammation and soothes the pain.

Which should you use—cold or hot therapy? Here’s a basic guideline:

  • Ice is typically used for acute injuries
  • Heat therapy is typically used for chronic conditions

For acute injuries, icing is used to tighten up blood vessels. This numbs pain, relieves inflammation, and reduces bruising.

Heat isn’t usually used for acute injuries because warming up an injured area can increase inflammation, slowing down recovery.

For areas that experience chronic pain, heat can be useful. Heat increases blood flow, bringing muscle relaxation and relieving the pain in sore muscles.

For foot pain that involves both inflammation and soreness, alternating ice and heat may be helpful. The temperature changes constrict (ice) and open (heat) your blood vessels. This process can ease both inflammation and swelling, reducing pain and restoring mobility.

The RICE method is often recommended for injuries that cause foot pain. These four steps form a reliable technique for reducing swelling and pain:

  1. R: Rest the foot or ankle
  2. I: Ice the injury
  3. C: Compress the injured foot by wrapping it in a bandage
  4. E: Elevate the foot above your heart to shift your blood circulation and reduce swelling

Shoe Insoles

yellow Tread Labs shoe insoles for running sneakers

For lasting relief from foot pain, you’ll need to address not just the pain, but its cause. Often, this means making an adjustment to your footwear.

Along with wearing comfortable, high-quality shoes, the best footwear choice you can make for pain relief is to add new insoles to your shoes.

A shoe’s insole is the interior pad that receives the bottom surface of your foot.

Insoles are made from a variety of materials, such as:

  • Foam
  • Fabric
  • Cork
  • Gel
  • Leather

High-quality shoes typically come with removable insoles that can be replaced with aftermarket insoles that are a better match for your individual needs.

By replacing your shoes’ factory insoles, you can add a pair that’s made specifically to address your foot pain issues. New insoles can completely change your footwear experience, providing support, comfort, and pain relief.

By adding support just where your foot needs it, insoles can address whatever common foot ailment you’re dealing with. For example, if you have high arches, an insole with extra cushioning can add the shock absorption that the shape of your foot doesn’t provide naturally.

Tread Labs Shoe Insoles for Foot Pain Relief

red running shoes with Tread Labs insoles


Many replacement insoles are one-size-fits-all and made to last for just a few months. At Tread Labs, we know that if you’re going to the trouble to replace a part of your shoe, you’re looking for a product that’s built to last, and made to target your specific needs. 

”I recently purchased the Pace Insole Kit from Tread Labs… the most flexible and comfortable insoles I have ever owned. They work with all my shoes from dress shoes to sandals. And the pain relief is fantastic!”
— Mark S., ★★★★★ Verified Tread Labs Reviewer

Tread Labs insole systems consist of a two-part design:

  • Molded arch support
  • Interchangeable top cover

When we say “built to last,” we mean it. Our molded arch supports are built to last for one million miles. Meanwhile, the replacement top covers last for one year. Easily detach the cover from arch support and replace it when it’s time for a new one.

Since different foot issues require different solutions, select a pair of insoles that addresses the cause of your foot pain. Shop by foot issue to find insoles that address your plantar fasciitis, wide feet, tendonitis, or other condition.

For more footwear insights and buying guides, visit the Tread Labs blog.

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