While foot-related injuries are common and more commonly can cause medical complications, noninjury-related problems in the toes, feet, and ankles. Daily activity, aging, and certain medical conditions can take their toll on these areas, resulting in common complications like joint problems, skin conditions, burns, or recurring pain.
Common problems like muscle cramps or twisted ankles might make muscular flexibility and motion difficult. Topical issues like burns, rashes, or swelling can cause discomfort, unsightly appearance, or unpleasant odors. These noninjury-related issues are often mild and easily treatable.
Types of Problems
Topical conditions on the foot, toes, and ankle are usually more of a nuisance than conditions worthy of serious medication. Still, these skin problems can irritate the surrounding area or become unsightly, and dermatological treatment can sometimes be beneficial. Common types of topical issues include:
- Plantar warts: Small circles of toughened skin on the toes and bottoms of the feet; may create the sensation of walking on pebbles
- Peeling, itchy, or irritated skin: Could be a sign of mild topical conditions like athlete’s foot
- Irritation or redness around a toenail: Could be a sign of an ingrown toenail or fungal nail infection
- Swelling or irritation on the bottoms of feet: Could be a sign of a bacterial infection, usual treatable by topical ointments
Strain on the ligaments, muscles, or bone in the joint area can cause discomfort or a limited range of motion. Toes are the most common areas in the foot to develop joint issues. Joint problems include:
- Swelling or extreme tenderness: Typically caused by infections like gout
- Bunions: Characterized by a swollen bump at the end of the big toe. A small bump could be a minor version of the condition, called a bunionette.
- Hammer, mallet, or claw toes: Characterized by a deformation or unusual bend in a toe
- Joint pain or stiffness: Could be a sign of bursitis, arthritis, or lupus.
Pain in the foot is normally the result of pressure or strain on the foot area. Foot pain can be caused by anything from overuse of the calf muscles to ill-fitting shoes. Strenuous exercise can also create significant pain if the strain on the feet is too great. Common causes of pain in these areas include:
- Plantar fasciitis: Characterized by sharp pain on the bottom of the foot, especially when pressure is applied
- Pain in the back of the heel or ankle: Could be Achilles tendonitis retrocalcaneal bursitis
- Stress fracture: Hairline breaks in the bone caused by putting too much strain or pressure on the feet
- Flat feet: Can cause pain in the midfeet or on the soles of the feet
- Heel spur: Small bony growths that appear under the heel bone
Daily strain and activity can also take a toll on the nerves of the feet, not just the joints and skin. Some conditions can cause sensations of tingling or burning, which can indicate that a nerve in the foot is pinched or otherwise injured. Some typical instances of numbness-related foot injuries include:
- Morton’s neuroma: A growth around the nerves that causes numbness, pain, tingling, and/or burning in the toes, especially in the ball of the foot and the third and fourth toes.
- Sciata: A pinch in the nerve that can cause numbness or tingling from the back all the way down to the feet.
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome: A pinched nerve in the ankle that can cause numbness in the ankle and foot, especially when walking.
- Poor circulation: Numbness or lack of feeling in the feet could be a symptom of conditions that affect the circulatory system, like diabetes or peripheral arterial disease.