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What Are the Causes of Foot Pain When Walking?

By David B. Ryan ; Updated August 14, 2017

Pain is a signal to the brain that something is wrong in the body. Foot pain may indicate a number of problems, from something as simple as improper footwear to a serious arthritic condition. Consult a medical specialist if the feet begin to experience pain while walking. A change in the type or severity of pain in a previously diagnosed foot condition should also be investigated.

Improper Shoe and Sock Selection

Shoes should suit the physical activity. Walking and running shoes are specifically designed to offer different types of support for the stress placed on the foot during the activity. Old, worn shoes should be discarded and replaced with new shoes with strong support. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) suggests working with "a podiatrist to help you select the shoes you need."

Arthritis

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that creates pain when walking. There are no cures for arthritis, but by working with an immunologist and a podiatrist, the walker is able to determine the proper walking motion and length of stride that best suit the individual's condition.

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Corns and Calluses

Corns (generally located on the toes) and calluses (usually develop on the balls of the feet) are created by skin or bones rubbing against an improperly-fitted shoe or sock. The layers of dead skin that form these conditions should be treated by an orthopedist or podiatrist as improper removal may make the pain worse. Treatment, combined with properly fitting shoes and sport socks, usually eliminates such foot pain.

Bone Spurs

Bone spurs, also known as osteophytes and heel spurs, are created when recurring stress is placed on the heel bone, creating osteoarthritis. The spurs are created from growths on "the underside, forepart of the heel bone," according to the APMA, where the body deposits calcium to replace the lost and damaged cartilage. Nerves and tissue also become inflamed when the spur is rubbed, causing intermittent or continual pain while walking. Medications or surgery to remove the spurs may be necessary to halt this walking pain.

Flat Feet

Flat feet is a term used to describe the loss of arch support inside the foot. This condition usually does not cause pain, but for walkers, the lack of arch support must be replaced with proper footwear. If not, the foot may push the shoe inward, ruining minor support, and shifting the leg into an unnatural position. This creates foot and leg pain due to the improper alignment. Lifts and inserts are necessary to avoid this problem.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Perhaps the most deadly type of pain caused when walking is associated with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a buildup of plaque in the leg arteries. The Society of Interventional Radiology states that "Twelve to 20 percent of Americans older than 65 suffer from peripheral arterial disease but only one-third are symptomatic." Symptoms typically include pain while walking. Walkers over 50 should be tested for PAD. The normal treatment involves diet and a formal exercise program. Surgery may be necessary for severe conditions.

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