Hope for Foot Pain?
March 29, 2010 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Foot_Pain_Filter:Has anyone successfully reversed foot pain?

A couple of weeks ago, I developed a sharp, stinging pain in the ball of my right foot, under the third and fourth toes. I've seen a podiatrist, and am going back for a follow-up, and will also seek a 2nd opinion. The doctor suggested that my high arches have caused lots of pressure on my metatarsals, and that this can cause pain over time. He gave me a u-shaped pad to wear on the bottom of my foot, that does allow me to walk, slowly, without stabbing, stinging pain.

Alongside the medical route, I've done some research on my own, and have discovered a few things:

1. I have wide/extra wide feet, and have been wearing medium-width shoes basically my whole life. (Indeed, I've felt twinges here and there over the years that I now ascribe to too-narrow shoes.) I have just ordered wide-width shoes.

2. I am an "under-pronator," meaning I tend to walk on the outer edges of my feet, wearing down the outside of my shoes first.

3. I realize I am on my feet/walking now more than previously in my life, so whatever foot problems I have are likely exacerbated by that fact.

The combination of these facts makes me think I must be compressing my foot bones/nerves something awful when I walk, and perhaps there's some nerve damage/compression. I'm going to keep following up medically, but in the meantime, has anyone:

a. Had a similar problem?
b. Reversed chronic foot pain?
c. Had luck with movement therapy (Feldenkrais/Alexander/yoga/Pilates) to correct foot pain?
d. Gone through an experience like this and can provide some hope that the damage isn't permanent? It's pretty scary to be unable to walk on my right foot.

All thoughts or advice are welcome. Thank you!
posted by airguitar2 to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I have successfully rid myself of foot pain. The culprit was bunions. This was after one podiatrist told me I had a stress fracture. It made sense, because the pain occured after exercising. When I realized the treatment (taping my foot) wasn't working, I saw another doctor who identified the bunions. With surgical treatment, my feet have been pain free.

Bunions can cause your feet to be very painful. Also the pain can just crop up one day and then not go away. I would say in addition to seeking information and advice here, go see a different podiatrist to get another opinion.
posted by FergieBelle at 7:34 AM on March 29, 2010

I have some hideous plantar fasciitis (pain on the bottom of the foot at the heel). I would wake up every morning with the worst pain - to the point where I could barely walk to the bathroom. I now wear some great supportive shoes (Na'ot) and keep a foot massage roller under my desk at work which I use every so often. I also keep some baseballs at home to roll under my arch and heel. No more plantar fasciitis. Woo!
posted by Sophie1 at 7:58 AM on March 29, 2010

Also have plantar fasciitis. What worked for me is taking the support out of my shoes to encourage my toes to grip more as I walk, and stretching my calves and other back-of-the-leg muscles each day (lay in bed with one foot up at a 45-degree angle, put belt on toes, pull back on toes to stretch calves, hold 30 seconds - then bring leg up to 90 degrees, move belt to middle of foot, pull back to stretch the rest of the leg muscles on the backside of the leg, hold for 60 seconds, repeat on other leg). Extra support had actually made the pain worse. I still have a little pain but it's nothing like it was.

I lived with the pain for years and years before this, to the point that I even stopped taking walks for a while.

My pain started as a sharp pain between the front toes of one foot, and moved backward into the arch, and occasionally now I have twinges of heel pain - but nothing like the searing, tearing/sharp pain I used to have.

Get multiple opinions. Foot pain can be so disheartening. Don't give up. Ask the podiatrist if stretching your legs might help/hurt, and if it won't hurt you I encourage you to give it a try.
posted by lorrer at 8:07 AM on March 29, 2010

Your description of your situation reads like my experience but without the excruciating foot pain; for me, there was some ankle pain, but nothing too awful. I switched to some wide Rockports with orthotics, and things improved. I've since switched to a more stylish couple of pairs of Clarks, and the ankle pain is starting to return. So I want to say there's hope, but I wasn't as far gone as you seem to be.
posted by troywestfield at 8:20 AM on March 29, 2010

I had similar pain under my big toe a few years ago (though my problem is flat feet/bunions), and switching to wide flats rather than narrow heels was by far the most helpful solution. I used a "pinky ball" to massage it when it was painful; a foam roller would also work. The pain only lasted a few weeks, so hang in there! A physical therapist could recommend specific exercises for your condition, and would probably be the best place to start.

Anecdotally: yoga and foot strengthening exercises, combined with proper footwear, have been really helpful to me personally. I really like my Yamuna "Foot Savers" but they aren't necessary, there are plenty of yoga exercises that work the same muscles.

I've been disappointed with podiatrists personally, in my experience they've been dismissive of exercises and eager to jump immediately to surgical options.
posted by susanvance at 8:29 AM on March 29, 2010

I've got everted Achilles tendons *and* had a non-awesome cyst between the sheath and the bone in my left foot, which resulted in podiatry and a set of orthotic insoles for my (wide) shoes. The cyst has gone away with time and cushioning, and I'm doing pretty well adapting to the insoles.

I had Hi-Tecs for ankle-high boots and New Balance 955s for sneakers, and they're both fine; the podiatrist said any shoe I can get my insoles into will be fine. (I am, however, heartbroken that "any shoe" does not include any variety of John Fluevog boot known to man, as I just found out this weekend after trying to stuff my giant feet and the soles into multiple pairs.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:30 AM on March 29, 2010

Oh, and the first time I had orthotics, it was because I couldn't walk faster than a very slow limp at all, thanks to the worst shin splints the doc had ever seen and other school-sports-induced woes, and I was 15 years old. Better shoes and wearing orthotics for three years fixed me up until this whole cyst business 19 years later, and I'm running after the bus no problem.

Neither the sports medicine guy that time, nor the podiatrist this year, wanted to go messing around inside my feet and legs before seeing if it could be fixed with orthotics. The podiatrist even suggested cheaper options if my insurance didn't want to eat the cost of custom orthotics.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:34 AM on March 29, 2010

Try going to a running store where they watch you walk and then recommend shoes to fit. My feet are wide but I walk on the insides of my feet (instead of the outsides like you) and once I started wearing the recommended Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoes, my pain went away pretty quickly. I also used gel inserts for a while but I haven't used them in years.

Anecdote: my 3-year-old daughter fell down the stairs in our house. Instead of running to help her, I stayed on the couch and yelled for my husband to go get her and bring her to me for comforting. The stairs were carpeted; she was fine; but still - my feet hurt that badly.
posted by CathyG at 9:26 AM on March 29, 2010

After a lifetime of intermittent foot pain due to high arches ("You don't have high arches," said the woman fitting me for orthotics, "you have extremely high arches"), and then a bad injury when somebody dropped a bookcase on one of my feet, I've now been almost pain-free for a couple of years. ("Almost" because I injured my foot over-training for a half marathon, but that was my own dumb fault for increasing mileage too much too fast.)

For me it's a combination of two things: First, Egoscue postural alignment therapy (I've written about it before) to improve my overall alignment, positioning, and functionality.

Second, moving away from trying to address it with orthotics, heavily padded shoes, and that kind of thing (did you see the article How We're Wrecking Our Feet With Every Step We Take when it was posted to the blue?), and moving instead to minimal/"barefoot" shoes that are wide enough to let my feet expand as much as they need to. Right now I'm wearing and liking my Vibram Fivefinger Treks, and I have my eye on a pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes. (And for running, I want to get a huarache kit from Barefoot Ted.)

For me, getting rid of the excessive padding and overly-supportive, overly-constricting shoes has made a huge difference. My feet have gotten stronger and healthier and almost never hurt anymore, even though I'm far more active and do more on my feet than I used to.
posted by Lexica at 9:26 AM on March 29, 2010

I spent several years suffering from something very similar to what you describe, which was not bunions or planar fasciitis, according to the experts I consulted. Tried all sorts of podiatrist-approved partial-foot inserts and pads to some but little avail, but no fix. What seems to have helped the most in the ball-of-foot sensitivity disappearing in the long run was switching to shoes into which I could insert either two layers of gel-filled insoles or (preferred) sheepskin insoles, and to shoes that were already lined in sheepskin, plus avoiding long standing or walking on concrete as much as possible. I also completely stopped crouching on the balls of my feet. Took a while!

One of the most helpful things I did was actually a two-week walking-only-on-grass-and-dirt vacation wearing a serious pair of hiking shoes sized to be able to include those double layers of drug-store-purchased gel inserts. I was seriously worried that I'd have to sit out most of the walking and was really surprised how the soft and uneven terrain didn't hurt, and how generally better the problem was on my return to normal hard-floor life.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:39 AM on March 29, 2010

I have had problems with neuromas in both feet, probably a result of stuffing my 4E width feet into 2E shoes for the first 20 years of my life. What I've experienced is pain between the third and fourth toes, which is exacerbated by putting pressure on the toes.

It got so bad in my right foot that the pain would keep me up at night, so I had neuroma surgery. This helped some, but even after the surgery I would still occasionally have problems with toe pain in that foot.

I pretty much have it under control now because I have better shoes. I went to a shoe store that specializes in customizing shoes for people with foot problems. They worked with me to find combinations of shoes/custom inserts that would reduce the pressure on the toes/ball of my foot. For running shoes, New Balance motion control shoes + custom insert work well. For dress shoes, they added something called a rocker to the sole of the shoe to keep me from pushing too hard on my toes, and an insert within the shoe as well. I think it's possible that I could have avoided the surgery if I'd found this store first.
posted by creepygirl at 9:46 AM on March 29, 2010

Stuffing your wide feet into medium shoes is a guarantee of ouchie feet. Been there, done that. I've given up my Cinderella fantasies, accepted that my feet are wide, and shop at Zappo's or DSW (mostly online) and filter out all the "medium only" shoes. Thankfully, because of places like Zappo's and online shopping, it's far easier to find wide shoes than when I was a young fashionista and ALL you could get was "medium!" My feet are eternally grateful.

Surgery should be a last resort - I've seen/heard of far too many cases of botched surgeries causing more problems than they fix. Shoes that fit your feet are a "first resort" and for me was all I really needed.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:12 AM on March 29, 2010

I developed horrible foot cramps a couple of years ago when i moved so I could walk to work (great commute BTW). I just got that cleared up by switching to wide hiking boots with good ankle support. The only down side is that it takes more time to put on my shoes now-but no more cramps. Try the wider shoes and see if that clears it up (I got Dunhams 4ee after searching all the wide shoes listed in Amazon)
posted by bartonlong at 10:49 AM on March 29, 2010

My ball of foot pain was caused by Morton's Neuroma. Orthotics + acupuncture keep it mostly pain-free.
posted by kbuxton at 10:57 AM on March 29, 2010

I had the same thing as you, the very simplest fix is wider shoes. I'm a slender woman with average to narrow width feet but I've been buying men's wide sneakers for the last several years and I can comfortably walk 5+ miles in them. They're too loose for running, however. I also walk barefoot whenever possible.

Try wider shoes before you do anything drastic.
posted by mareli at 1:31 PM on March 29, 2010

Since everyone else is giving their personal anecdotes... Vibram fivefingers. The opposite of orthotics, support, cushioning, ... After the first week or so of adjusting, I've never felt so sure-footed and comfortable.
posted by rr at 1:31 PM on March 29, 2010

I had very similar pains to you - it was burstitis/capsulitis in my case - othortics (which I was super-skeptical about but there you go) + new shoes as recommended by my podiatrist have _completely_ fixed the problem. Huzzah! Expensive, but it worked.

Sounds also maybe like you could have Morton's Neuroma.
posted by smoke at 3:03 PM on March 29, 2010

I've had good luck using the techniques in the book Pain Free. The book in an introduction to the Egoscue postural alignment therapy that Lexica was talking about. I had what I think was plantar fasicitis, but I did the simple exercises for foot pain for a few weeks and the pain went away. I think for most people its not quite that easy but the basic premise is that you have to realign your skeleton, so for example, its actually having your hips out of alignment that causes a lot of foot pain.
posted by DarthDuckie at 3:52 PM on March 29, 2010

My feet are all messed up, and nothing has helped the pain and discomfort more than the Cloud shoe from the CrocsRx line. They're a special line of shoes made by Crocs for people with foot problems, including Diabetes.

I'm only familiar with the Cloud style, and even though the Relief style is geared to other foot problems I chose the Cloud because they dont have those nubbies inside. The sole is also a little thicker than the Relief, so you really don't feel the impact of walking, and they're very comfy to stand in.

Yes, they're ugly, and people will snicker. But you won't care, because they're THAT comfortable. I wear mine indoors, too, because they're more comfortable than walking barefoot. They're about $40, which is a lot cheaper than other shoe options, so it's worth checking out if you're looking into shoes. I think you can only get them from their site, but you can always return them. (Look for free shipping coupons online.)

And FWIW, I never thought the regular crocs were comfortable.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:48 PM on March 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I appreciate all the insight.

The podiatrist now thinks it might be a torn tendon (yikes!) It is slowly (very slowly) getting better, but knowing that these conditions do reverse over time is very helpful. In the meantime, the insole and shoe suggestions are great. Thanks again.
posted by airguitar2 at 6:04 PM on April 7, 2010

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