The foot is a complex structure of 26 bones, 33 joints, and 126 muscles, ligaments, and nerves. Only a small percentage of Americans are born with foot problems. Most problems are due to neglect and improper care, including ill-fitting shoes. With age, changes occur in the feet. Some disorders begin early in life and are affected by heredity, gait patterns, and terrain. About 75% of Americans will experience foot pain at some point in their lives.

Normal Anatomy of the Left Foot

© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Common causes of foot pain include:

  • Poor-fitting shoes
  • High-heeled shoes
  • Poor posture
  • High impact exercise (eg, running)
  • Poor balance

Foot pain may also be caused by systemic disease. For example:

  • Arthritis ( osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis )—Arthritis can cause stiffness and reduced range of motion.
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease —This condition affects the legs and feet by causing reduced circulation, swelling, and increased risk of infection.
  • Diabetes —A common complication of diabetes is reduced circulation, which causes a number of problems in the legs and feet including abnormal sensation, swelling, and increased risk of infection.
  • Gout —Gout may cause pain and swelling in the great toe.

For descriptions of many common types of foot pain, click here.

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