Everyone has had a minor problem with a toe, foot, or ankle. Most of the time
our body movements do not cause problems, but it's not surprising that symptoms
develop from everyday wear and tear or overuse. Toe, foot, or ankle problems
can also occur from injuries or the natural process of aging.
toes, feet, or ankles may burn, sting, hurt, feel tired, sore, stiff, numb,
tingly, hot, or cold. You may have had a "charley horse" (muscle cramp) in your foot while lying in bed at night. Your feet or ankles may
change color or
swell. You may have noticed an embarrassing
odor from your feet. Some changes in your feet and
ankles are normal
as a person ages or
during pregnancy. Home treatment is usually all that
is needed to relieve your symptoms.
Toe, foot, or ankle problems
may be caused by an injury. If you think an injury caused your problem, see the
Toe, Foot, or Ankle Injuries. But there are many noninjury causes of toe,
foot, or ankle problems.
Most skin problems that affect your
feet are more annoying than they are serious. If you have:
The feeling of walking on pebbles: You may have
plantar warts on the bottom of your
Patches of thick and tough skin on the heel or ball of your
foot: You may have a
callus, corn, blister, or skin
Red, peeling, cracking, burning, and itchy skin between
your toes or on the bottom of your feet: You may have
athlete's foot. Or maybe your feet are reacting to the
shoes you are wearing (shoe dermatitis).
swollen, and painful skin around a toenail: You may have an
ingrown nail or an infection around your nail (paronychia).
Red, swollen soles of your
feet that are painful to the touch or when you walk: You may have a bacterial
infection. Public showers, hot tubs, or swimming pools are common areas where
bacterial infections, athlete's foot, and
warts can be spread to your feet.
Toe joints are more likely to
develop problems than other joints in your feet.
Heat, pain, redness, swelling, and extreme
tenderness that comes on quickly in your big toe joint may be caused by
gout. Similar symptoms can occur with an
If you have swelling or a bump
at the base of your big toe, you may have a
If you have a bump on the outside
of your little toe, you may have a
bunionette, also called a Tailor's
Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are
common when you have conditions such as
lupus, or gout.
You may develop pain in the front (ball) of your
foot (metatarsalgia) or in your heel. Heel problems commonly
occur when you overuse calf muscles, wear shoes with high heels, or participate
in activities, such as running, that cause repeated pounding on your heels.
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Most minor toe, foot, or ankle
problems go away on their own. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to
relieve your pain, swelling, and stiffness.
If you have swelling, be sure to
remove all rings, anklets, or any other jewelry that goes around your leg or ankle.
It will be harder to remove your jewelry if swelling increases, which
in turn can cause other serious problems, such as nerve compression or
restricted blood flow.
Stop, change, or take a break from any activities that
cause your symptoms.
Avoid "running through the pain," which may
increase damage to your foot.
Consider changing your exercise
routine if you think running or another high-impact sport is causing your foot
pain. Switch temporarily to a low-impact exercise activity, such as
cross-country skiing, stair-climbing machines, bicycling (regular or
stationary), rowing, or swimming.
Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Carefully read and follow all directions
on the medicine bottle and box.
Try home treatment for these other foot problems such
Foot cramps. Try the following home treatment to
help relieve leg cramps:
Straighten your leg.
foot and pull it toward you. It is probably easiest to do this from a sitting
position. You can loop a towel around the end of your foot and pull it toward
you if you have trouble reaching your foot.
Gently rub or massage
corns. Home treatment may help relieve discomfort from
corns, calluses, or other thickened skin:
To thin a corn or callus, rub the thickened
skin with a towel after a shower or bath.
Use a pumice stone after
bathing to reduce the tissue. Do not do this if you have
peripheral arterial disease, or an
immune system problem, or if you have been told that you have
poor circulation in your feet.
The following tips may prevent toe, foot,
or ankle problems.
Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm (not hot)
water. Use a mild soap, preferably one containing moisturizers, or use a
Avoid problems by wearing good footwear. Wear comfortable and supportive shoes. Support weak or unstable ankles by using a brace or
taping before exercise or activities that increase your risk of
Wear the correct size panty hose and stockings. Avoid
wearing constricting garters, knee-high, or thigh-high
Use a rubber mat to stand on if your work requires you
to stand on hard surfaces. This may reduce stress on your
Maintain a reasonable weight for your height.
stretching exercises for the tendons at the back of
the heels. This is especially important for athletes before sports activities
but is also helpful for people who are not involved with
Walk regularly to improve circulation, increase
flexibility, reduce fatigue, and encourage bone and muscle
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.