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What Causes Severe Pain in the Soles of the Feet?

By Cindi Pearce ; Updated July 27, 2017

We tend to take our feet for granted until they---like the rest of our body---grow old and let us know through sometimes excrutiating pain that we should treat them more kindly both now and in the future. And it's not only age, but also certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and tarsal tunnel syndrome, that take their toll on feet. Following are some tips on how to ward off pain.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune inflammatory disorder, can cause the soles of your feet to be tender and painful, making you feel like you are walking on pebbles. In addition, this arthritic condition may cause you to develop ulcers, calluses or corns under the soles of your feet. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the entire body and target all the joints and muscles in your feet.


Diabetics can suffer from neuropathy, a distortion or reduction of nerve signals. Neuropathy causes deep pain in your feet, and elsewhere, as well as a burning sensation, tingling, weakness, numbness and an inability to discern hot from cold. Peripheral neuropathy---one of the two main types---can affect the nerves in your feet, toes, hands, legs and arms. When an individual has neuropathy in his feet and legs, this can result in ulcers and, in a worst-case scenario, require amputation of the afflicted body part.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

A condition called tarsal tunnel syndrome---similar to its better-known cousin, carpal tunnel syndrome---occurs when the tibial nerve is "trapped" by pressure from surrounding ligaments or other internal impediments. The syndrome causes pain, numbness, tingling or burning along the bottom of the foot, and the pain occurs most frequently at night. Ask your physician about orthotics to relieve the symptoms. If your foot pain is originating from the back of your foot, it can have an effect on the heel as well as the sole, which is called the plantar, all the way up to the ball of the foot. Massage, rest and elevating the foot can also provide relief.

Sole Parathesia

Numbness and sole parathesia (burning, tingling or a "pins and needles" sensation) can indicate the presence of an underlying disease, in addition to those already mentioned, including peripheral artery disease, peripheral nerve compression or trauma, sciatica, Raynaud's disease, and other disorders. See a podiatrist or other health-care professional for guidance.

Old Age

As we age, our feet flatten and widen and we lose some of the padding on the sole, which makes the bottoms of our feet more susceptible to injury and overall soreness. Foot pain is often the first indication of other age-related illnesses, such as circulatory disease, diabetes or arthritis.

One Final Nemesis

While it may seem like common sense, those Manolo Blahniks or other stylish shoes could be the issue. If you're wearing ill-fitting shoes, or strolling around in high heels on pavement sidewalks all day, the bottoms of your feet will likely be sore. Ditch the heels, if possible.

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