Patient Education: Causes of Foot/Ankle Pain

Causes of Foot Pain

At some point in their life almost every person is affected by problems with their feet. The foot is a complex structure. Accurate diagnosis is essential to receiving the appropriate treatment. Some common causes of foot pain include:

Topics below cover the following common foot conditions:


A Bunion is a protrusion on the inner edge of the foot, just before the big toe. At the same time the big toe also starts pointing more and more towards the other toes. The most common cause of Bunions has to do with wearing shoes that are too tight or squeeze the toes. Hereditary factors also play a role. Along with bunions you may develop a hammer toe in the second toe.


Hammer Toe

Hammer Toe is a deformity of the toe where the toe sticks upward at an uncomfortable angle. They can be caused by improper footwear, hereditary factors, or weaker small muscles of the foot (the muscles of one side end up pulling harder than the other side, causing an imbalance).


Flat feet

Having flat feet may not cause any problems at all. To see if you have flat feet look at the inner edge of you foot when you are standing. If the inner edge of your foot touches the ground then you have flat feet. If problems develop then consultation with a doctor may be necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Causes of Ankle Pain

Ankle pain is a common problem. Ankle performance depends on a complex interaction of tendons, muscles, ligaments and bones. A problem with any one part can adversely affect the whole. Accurate diagnosis is essential to receiving the appropriate treatment. Some common causes of ankle pain include:

Topics below cover two common areas of ankle problems.


Arthritis is a general term used to describe inflammation of a joint. It can result in pain, swelling, stiffness, and limited movement. Although arthritis of the ankle is rare, it is known to occur in a few different ways. It can be caused by:

Previously Healed Injury is the most common cause of ankle arthritis. It’s caused by fractures and other injuries that damage the surrounding cartilage. The damage to the cartilage never really heals back to its original condition. Over time, this can lead to accelerated arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients with rheumatoid disease can develop ankle arthritis. The joint inflammation can cause damage to the cartilage. This can lead to significant problems which require treatment.

Infection of the joint, although rare, can cause lifelong damage to the cartilage.

Genetic factors relating to arthritis are not well understood. We do know that some genetic tendencies exist that make joints wear down faster.

Excessive Body Weight places greater strain on weight bearing joints. This strain causes faster degeneration of the joints and resulting arthritis.


Types of injuries:

Sprains are injuries to the ligaments around the ankle.

Tendinitis and Tendinosis, although similarly named, are actually quite different. Both relate to tendons, which connect muscle to bone. Tendinitis is inflammation of the tendon, usually related to acute (immediate) occurrences like accidents. Tendinosis, on the other hand, is a chronic (long-term) condition associated with degeneration of a tendon.

Fractures are a common type of ankle injury. There are many types of fractures. Each type of fracture requires a different treatment strategy to ensure the best outcome.

Cartilage Damage can result from sprains, fractures, or other causes. Cartilage heals very slowly. Depending on the type of injury, it may not heal at all.

All patient education materials are provided by and have been reviewed by our Advisory Board of leading Orthopedic Surgeons to ensure accuracy. All materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from your orthopedic surgeon. Any medical decisions should be made after consulting a qualified physician.
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