“There’s no pain that should be ignored,” says Dr. Jane Andersen, a podiatrist in Chapel Hill, N.C. and a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association. Any type of foot pain — new or prolonged — warrants a visit to your primary care doctor or podiatrist.
Pain in the feet can signal a host of conditions, from fractures to plantar fasciitis (inflammation in the tissue that connects your heel bone to toes), to arthritis. Noting the time of day when the pain occurs can give you a hint as to the cause.
Pain in the morning, when you first get up, can point to arthritis or plantar fasciitis. With both conditions, pain will recede as the foot loosens up throughout the day. A common cause of heel pain, plantar fasciitis often affects runners and people who are overweight. Wearing high heels or shoes that don’t have enough arch support also raises the risk. Andersen often sees people in her practice whose plantar fasciitis is caused by exercising in worn out shoes. “Athletic shoes don’t last very long,” she says. If you can estimate the mileage you put on shoes, then a good rule of thumb is replacing shoes every 350 to 500 miles, or anything over a year old, she says.
Pain that gets worse throughout the day may indicate a fracture, Philbin says. Pain caused by a fracture will recede when resting and worsen when bearing weight. Fractures, or small cracks in the bone, can be caused by overactivity or changes in activity, like trying a new exercise, according to the AAOS. Osteoporosis or other conditions that weaken bones can up the risk of a fracture. Healing fractures requires immobilizing the foot with a boot, and possibly even surgery.