Foot Conditions Explained


Foot Conditions Explained

Below is an overview of some of the most commonly seen foot problems.

Calluses (hard skin)

Calluses are hard, rough areas of skin that can develop on the heel or the skin under the ball of your foot. They’re larger than corns and often don’t have a well-defined edge. Because callused skin is thick, it’s usually less sensitive to touch and feel than the surrounding skin.

Corns

Corns are small areas of thick skin caused by pressure or friction. They generally form over bony areas, such as the top and sides of toes or on the soles of feet, although they can appear anywhere. They have a central core that may be painful if it presses on a nerve.

Diabetic foot care

People with diabetes generally have high levels of blood glucose, which can affect the circulation and nervous system. The resultant reduction in blood supply to the feet can damage nerve endings leading to peripheral neuropathy, an insensitivity in feet that means you lose the ability to feel pain, or to distinguish hot and cold.

Poor circulation makes it more of a challenge for the body to heal, so a minor cut, sore or wound left unchecked could lead to serious complications and, in the worst cases, amputation.

 For further information, see our diabetic foot assessment page.

Verrucae

Verrucae are warts that appear on the feet. They’re often mistaken for corns or calluses but they have their own blood supply and nerves, which means they can be incredibly painful, and they have a tendency to spread if left untreated.

Also called plantar warts, they’re caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is highly contagious and passed on by direct human contact. The virus thrives in warm, damp conditions, such as swimming pools or changing room floors, and can be passed on by walking on the same piece of floor as an infected person.

For further information, see our verrucae treatment page.

Ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails pierce the surrounding skin, causing it to become tender, red and swollen. They can be extremely painful and may become infected or inflamed. They commonly occur on the big toe, on one or both sides, though they can develop on any toe.

Ingrown toenails can be caused by poor nail-cutting technique, ill-fitting shoes, injury, or simply genetics.

For further information, see our toenail surgery page.

Onychomycosis

Fungal nail infection, or onychomycosis, is the most common nail disease. The infection can affect one or several nails on both feet, and ranges from mild to severe. It can cause your toenails to thicken, discolour to white or cream, and it may affect the quality of the nail, causing it to become brittle and crumbly. It’s most commonly caused by the spread of a fungal skin infection, such as athlete’s foot.

For further information, see our fungal nail treatment page

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)

Athlete’s foot is a fungal skin infection that usually appears between the toes. It can lead to intense itching and the skin may become red, scaly, dry, cracked or blistered.

Athlete’s foot thrives in warm, damp conditions, hence it’s most commonly found in sportspeople who use communal changing rooms, and it’s highly contagious, passing easily between people. If left untreated, large, painful fissures can develop, and the infection may spread. 

Plantar fasciitis (heel pain)

Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of heel pain, caused by an inflammation of the plantar fascia, a strong fibrous ligament that gives the sole of the foot its arch or shape.

There are a number of ways you can develop plantar fasciitis, including, flat feet, obesity, ill-fitting shoes that don’t support your feet, standing for long periods, and excessive running or walking, especially when it involves a change of surface such as road to track.

For information on treating plantar fasciitis, see our podiatry page.

Flat feet (over-pronated feet or pes planus)

Having flat feet, also known as over-pronated feet or fallen arches, means your feet have little or no arches, causing them to press almost flat against the ground. While some people with this issue have no problems, the resulting overstraining of ligaments or muscles can lead to problems in the feet, ankles, knees, hips or back.

Flat feet is often a genetic issue, although it’s also caused by joint hypermobility or a disease of the nervous system.

For information on treating flat feet, see our podiatry page.

High arches (supinated feet or pes cavus)

Having high-arched or cavus feet means you have a condition where your foot has a very high arch. It’s the opposite of flat feet, and it’s a less common condition.

High arches usually develop in both feet at a young age and most of the time this is hereditary. However, some congenital conditions condition such as cerebral palsy or congenital foot club, a neuromuscular disease such poliomyelitis or Charcot-Marie-tooth disease, or a hereditary condition can lead to high-arched feet.

It can be a more problematic condition than flat feet, as it results in increased stress on the heel and ball of the foot.

For information on treating high-arched feet, see our podiatry page.

Metatarslgia (including Morton’s neuroma, capsulitis, etc.)

Metatarslgia is a common overuse injury resulting in pain in the front of your foot. It commonly occurs in the area where the ball of your foot meets the second, third and fourth toes.

Metatarslgia causes pain, and sometimes a burning or aching sensation in the ball of your foot, with the intensity of the pain varying from mild to severe. Symptoms don’t suddenly appear, but tend to develop gradually over several months.

There are a number of different causes including ill-fitting shoes, being overweight, or taking part in high impact sports. It’s often associated with and can be a symptom for other foot problems such as Morton’s neuroma, a thickening or enlargement of nerve tissue at the base of the third and fourth toes, or capsulitis, a condition where the toe ligaments become inflamed, usually affecting the second toe.

For information on treating metatarslgia, see our podiatry page.

Shin splints and other running-related pains

Shin splints is a pain or swelling in the front of the lower limbs, which usually appears after repetitive activities, like running or walking. There are a number of causes for the condition, including flat feet, bad running technique, worn-out or ill-fitting trainers, and walking or running on uneven surfaces.

For information on treating shin splints and other running-related pains, see our podiatry page.