The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground. - Buddha
July 2, 2014 9:18 AM   Subscribe

My foot hurts. Why does my foot hurt?

Yes, I know that 'see a doctor' is the best answer, but lets assume that's impractical until after the holiday weekend, the urgent care is never helpful unless you need antibiotics, and I'd just be wasting everyone's time at the ER.

So: my left foot hurts. Not my whole foot, but one very specific spot on the outside side of the foot, almost exactly halfway between the base of the toes and the heel.

What is particularly weird is that it mostly doesn't hurt when I'm walking on it, and it often does suddenly hurt when I'm just sitting still or lying in bed. It will be a sudden intense pain there, like a cramp but in rubbing the spot there doesn't seem to be a tight or spasming muscle anywhere that I can feel. If I compare both feet the area might be a little tiny bit swollen, or I might just be realizing my feet are different. It's not hot, red, or puffy in the way I associate with soft-tissue trauma swelling. I don't have any trouble putting weight on it, and the pain doesn't seem to be related to walking on it - sometimes it hurts when I step, sometimes it doesn't hurt at all, sometimes (often) it hurts when I'm not putting any weight on the foot at all.

Icing it last night made the pain stop, mainly because it made the whole side of my foot numb. Anti-inflammatory pain medication doesn't seem to do anything for it.

This has been going on, off and on, for about a week, but has been particularly bad the past couple of days. I don't ever wear heels, but it hurts no matter what shoes I wear - sneakers, clarks, barefoot. I'm not a runner. I haven't done anything weird, like twisting it or stepping in a hole. I haven't even bought new shoes in months.

Any ideas?
posted by anastasiav to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This has been going on, off and on, for about a week, but has been particularly bad the past couple of days.

When you have a pain that's steadily getting worse over several days you should seek professional medical attention.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:21 AM on July 2, 2014

Something like this happened to me a long time ago. It was a planter's wart, got it frozen off, the pain went away.
posted by sunslice at 9:23 AM on July 2, 2014

Response by poster: There is nothing on my foot that feels or looks like a wart or lump.
posted by anastasiav at 9:27 AM on July 2, 2014

This sounds something like what the very first symptoms of plantar fasciitis were for me. At first I did not have the typical manifestation of pain (first thing in the morning, right at the heel, etc.) It was more of a sudden stabbing pain in the middle of my foot that showed up for no apparent reason when I'd been sitting down for a while. We were at a film festival at the time, doing a bit more walking than usual but not terribly so, and pretty regularly about halfway through a movie I'd suddenly feel like someone had stabbed my foot with a small sharp knife.

After a couple of weeks it settled into the more typical plantar fasciitis symptoms. Not to say that's what you have going on, but you might want to read up on PF a bit so you know what symptoms you're looking for in case you're headed in that direction.

If it is PF, your main tools are icing and gentle stretching, ideally several times a day. Possibly if it gets worse, a sleeping sock/boot-thing to help hold your foot in position to minimize the PF aggravation, but you might find that if you're rigorous with your stretching for a while that will sort you out. I'd be hesitant to start stretching right now before you see a doctor, though, in case it's something else that might be aggravated by the stretches.
posted by Stacey at 9:41 AM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Any chance at all that you stepped on a splinter or piece of glass or something? With how tough the skin on your feet can be, something conceivably could have wedged its way in there that you can't feel on the surface of your skin.
posted by yasaman at 9:44 AM on July 2, 2014

Response by poster: Yasaman, I doubt it. When I press from the outside there isn't a sharp point of pain like I associate with an unseen splinter (which I've had several of, but always in my hands).
posted by anastasiav at 9:46 AM on July 2, 2014

This does sound pretty plantar fasciitis-y to me, too. Ultimately the best thing I found to treat it was the simple little compression bandages that wrap around your instep--you can find various versions of them on Amazon. When my PF was really bad, I did do the thing of sleeping with the device that keeps your foot flexed all night and it also helped a lot. But I'd recommend trying the compression sleeves and seeing if they bring insta-relief or not.
posted by yoink at 9:52 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

My bet is plantar fasciitis as well. You can start by stretching the foot by pulling back on the top of the foot towards you. I'd do it in three steps, moving across the foot. Pull towards yourself and hold for 10 seconds. Then move inward doing the same thing in the middle, and then the insole side of the top of the foot.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:52 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing plantar fasciitis. You can roll a tennis ball around with your instep to help stretch it.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:54 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

One more annoying PF vote. Get a smooth plastic pop bottle, fill to 1 inch of top, close, then freeze. In five hours, you'll be able to use this to both stretch it and ice it.

If you have a camera, take pictures (against graph paper if available) so you can track swelling, if any.
posted by Jesse the K at 10:59 AM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Might be peroneal tendonitis, not PF. That outer midpoint in the foot is where one of the peroneal tendons attach. Get in to see your doc as soon as you can, because if it turns into a chronic thing it will take a very long time to go away (I'm dealing with this currently).

Until you can get in to see your doctor (or get a podiatrist referral), keep icing it. I know you said NSAID's didn't do anything for it, but when mine starts hurting really badly it takes a while for the them to kick in. Start taking 600-800mg ibuprofen twice a day for a week and see if that helps. You can also stretch it - lie down on the bed, put a towel under the ball of your foot, and gently pull your toes toward you while keeping your leg straight. Hold 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.
posted by wearyaswater at 11:11 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

How do you sit? Do you ever sit with your left foot tucked under your right leg? I only ask because I do this a lot, and have to make a conscious effort to sit properly.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:23 PM on July 2, 2014

I think it is plantar fasciitis too. Not to get all woo-woo on you, but I cured mine by visiting my (traditional Beijing trained Chinese) acupuncturist, who stabbed it with a long needle. It hurt but it worked.
posted by bearwife at 1:17 PM on July 2, 2014

Hey, well I also have a sore left foot, though it's healed a lot better than it was a year ago.

I was first told it was probably plantar fasciitis, but honestly the doctors never gave me a firm diagnosis - since then they've guessed at bursa, morton's neuroma, you name it...I basically was told to ice the foot and do exercises. I've had two steroid injections and I have to say they helped a great deal. They brought the pain from agonising to still sore but bearable.

Lastly, a more holistic person suggested that my foot was painful partly because of emotional stresses. Could this be the case for you? (Not saying I believe in this myself but thought it would be worth asking!). or you feel stuck emotionally.

I have also been told that I have a lympathic fluid build up in my feet and also in my back (two separate people volunteered this information to me after giving me the once over).

The pain has not gone away but how do I cope? By drinking a lot of water, doing stretches and attending yoga and trying to get my emotional self in order, ie. relaxing more often. I also watch my posture and I think yoga has helped with this.
posted by Kat_Dubs at 3:02 PM on July 2, 2014

I experience symptoms similar to yours due to hallux limitus. I was diagnosed by a podiatrist after receiving an X-ray, and want to re-iterate the importance of being seen by a medical professional soon. Don't mess around with your feet!
posted by juliplease at 6:49 PM on July 2, 2014

Could also be bone spurs, I have them in my arch, and my heels, it flares up now and then. Get someone to look at your feet, you may need to start using some sort of custom insole device.
posted by boilermonster at 12:07 AM on July 3, 2014

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