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Common Causes of Toe and Heel Pain

Foot pain is extremely common, experienced by about 75% of Americans to some degree at some point in their lives—a fact that should come as no surprise, given that feet contain about a quarter of the total bones in the human body (250,000 sweat glands, too). That pain often presents itself in the front and back of the foot.

Here are some common complaints everyone should be on the lookout for, as well as some care instructions to keep you feeling better from the tips of your toes to the backs of your heels.

How to Treat Toe Pain

Obviously, answering the question of how to treat toe pain requires being more specific about the kind of pain. Here are some common causes of toe pain:

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails occur when the nail (often on the big toe) grows under the skin and into the surrounding tissue. Home ingrown toenail treatments include soaking your feet in hot water or using gauze and dental floss to gently lift the nail. If the problem doesn’t go away in a week or so, it’s probably best to see a podiatrist.


Bunions are bony growths that usually occur on the inner edge of the foot, near the base of the big toe. It is unclear the degree to which genetics influence the development of bunions, but they may also be caused by wearing poor-fitting shoes. Switching to shoes with a wider toe box, sometimes paired with custom orthotics, can ease the pain associated with bunions; if not, surgery is sometimes necessary.


Gout is far more common than people realize. This complaint, which is marked by severe swelling and redness, is simply a type of arthritis that affects a variety of spots in the lower limbs, but especially the big toe. Rest and anti-inflammatory drugs may combat the pain temporarily, but you should seek medical help for a longer-term solution.

How to Treat Heel Pain

There are quite a few causes for heel pain, as well. Here are the most common:

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis refers to the inflammation of the tissue that supports the bottom of the foot, and it is often characterized by a sharp pain in the heel when you first step out of bed in the morning. Treatments include rest, stretching and better shoes.

Stone Bruise

A stone bruise is a severe bruise on the fatty pad underlying the heel, and often feels as if you’re walking on a pebble each time you step. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to heal these bruises except wear comfortable shoes and wait.

Heel Spurs

Heel spurs are bone growths on the bottom of the heel, and can cause pain whenever weight is placed on the foot. Although surgery is occasionally employed, most heel spurs are treated with heel pads, custom orthotics and physical therapy.


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