Why do my feet hurt all the time, especially in the morning?
February 14, 2006 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Why do my feet hurt all the time, especially in the morning?

For the past several weeks, my feet, heels and ankles have been stiff and sore, making walking difficult. After they warm up, it's a little better, but the pain and discomfort is always there. This is especially true in the morning after a night's sleep, or if I've been sitting for any length of time. This isn't garden-variety stiffness from sitting too long. This is Tin Man level can't-move-the-joints-stiffness that radiates up from the heels, through the ankles and into the knees and hips. The heel pain is especially noticeable in the morning, which makes no sense unless I'm secretly sleep-running (and I'm not ... I think).

Stipulations: Male, 37 years old. I am overweight but not obese, and have not had any recent weight gain or illness. My shoes haven't changed. My sleeping arrangements haven't changed. I get decent exercise in the form of swimming -- low impact on the joints. My feet hurt, period.

Is this anything to be really concerned about, or am I just out of shape and getting older? I'm looking for ideas on a possible diagnosis so I can do further research.
posted by frogan to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You might have plantar fasciitis. I have it, and although the pain doesn't go into my knees or hips, the rest sounds right.
posted by goatdog at 5:20 PM on February 14, 2006

Your description doesn't match my experience exactly but perhaps you have plantar facsiitis.

I had it. It was tightness and pain -- for me it was solely in the heel and bottom of the foot, and hurt a lot in the morning after waking up, or if I had been sitting for a long time. After walking around for a while, things would 'loosen up' and the pain would go away. After describing it to my lovely long-distance runner wife, she suggested that it could be plantar fasciitis.

I traced the cause to an increase in walking -- the weather was nice, and I started walking around a lot after work in my otherwise comfortable work shoes.

The advice for treatment typically includes stretching exercises. This wasn't working fast enough for me (and didn't show any immediate effect in the mornings). I started using foot splints when I slept, and it cleared up in a few weeks. Now I try to be sure new shoes have good arch support, and wear sneakers when I go a-wandering.
posted by i love cheese at 5:21 PM on February 14, 2006

Let me agree. I have had planter facsiitis for about 3 years. It goes away for a while but if I start spending alot of time on my feet or wear bad shoes it comes back. The treatment has been ice and Aleve for short time relief and stretching and supportive shoes for the long term. Good luck.
posted by leahsmom at 6:18 PM on February 14, 2006

Oooh - sorry, another vote for plantar fasciitis. I have it and occassionally have flare ups that literally come from out of nowhere. Stretching and good shoes made it go away - I've been pain free for a few years now.
posted by peppermint22 at 6:50 PM on February 14, 2006

I had bouts with plantar fasciaitis for a while. My orthopaedic had me wear a sock similar to this, and it helped tremendously. I've been free of pain for the last few years.
posted by neilkod at 7:07 PM on February 14, 2006

do you take lipitor or any other statin to control cholesterol?
posted by brandz at 8:46 PM on February 14, 2006

I have had plantar fasciitis, as well. It sounds horrendous, but I had a cortisone shot in my foot when it just got too bad to deal with. The shot sucked, but it really helped the swelling and pain and let my foot heal a bit. I also use inserts that my doc made for me, they're like little foam heel lifts.

My pain was always worse in the mornings, too.
posted by jdl at 9:05 PM on February 14, 2006

I had PF/heelspurs in 2001, and it took me a little over a year to overcome it, but I did, and haven't had any recurrence. You should go to a doctor and get checked out for PF/heelspurs, so that you can get started on healing if that's it.

One thing you can do beforehand is thoroughly stretch out your feet tomorrow morning before getting out of bed. All of us who suffered it before you well rememer that tenderness when we got out bed in the morning and put weight on our feet.

Here's what you do: When you wake up, still lying down, *very gently* start pointing your toes up and down, up and down, not straining. Do that at least 10 times, then side-to-side a little, then drawing circles with your toes. Again, not particularly straining or stretching out the ligaments and tendons. Now, doe those three things again, this time with a little more force. Finally, really stretch out your feet/ankles, arching the bottom of your foot several times from ball to heel.

Now, wen you stand up and walk downstairs or across the floor, does it hurt less? If so, you probably have PF. If you religiously stretch out (it's not so important that you do the exact exercises I recommend, any similar regimens will work for stretching) before you get up in the morning, before you get up after sitting at your desk for a while, getting out of your car, etc., and *make certain* to only wear very supportive footwear, including dress shoes with great support, and if you avoid carrying a heavy laptop bag to work everyday like idiot me, you can beat back the advancing aches. Good luck.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:28 PM on February 14, 2006

do you take lipitor or any other statin to control cholesterol?

No. I know what you're talking about, though. No muscle destruction here!
posted by frogan at 9:58 PM on February 14, 2006

I had similar symptoms earlier this year, and getting orthodotics cleared in completely. I would see your doctor and have him refer you to an orthopedist.
posted by BackwardsCity at 5:29 AM on February 15, 2006

cleared it, not cleared in.
posted by BackwardsCity at 5:29 AM on February 15, 2006

The pain of plantar fascitis is concentrated in the heel. Just the description was enough to make my doc feel 95% certain of the diagnosis.

When you wake up and stand, your heel hurts badly. After five minutes, it doesn't.

I didn't have stiffness, or pain in other parts of the foot, so if it is plantar fascitis, it's much different than the one I had. Even when I was fighting achilles tendonitis and plantar fascitis in the same foot, stiffness and overall soreness wasn't an issue -- the pain was very localized, and the heel pain would resolve very quickly (what's happening -- the fascia tear heals partially in the night, and tears again when you step on it. Repeat until heel spurs form.)

I'll pretend to be one of MeFi's real doctors. "You need to see a doctor about this. There are several conditions, for example (insert conditions here), that cause such issues in the feet."

This is another reason for a doc -- often, you'd think "Well, my feet hurt -- it can't be that serious" -- when the problem is actually systemic, but affecting the feet the most. Diabetic neuropathy leaps to mind, but there are more.
posted by eriko at 5:52 AM on February 15, 2006

eriko sez: often, you'd think "Well, my feet hurt -- it can't be that serious" -- when the problem is actually systemic, but affecting the feet the most. Diabetic neuropathy leaps to mind, but there are more.

Like a pinched nerve in the spine. That was my first thought upon reading the question. (That's what mine used to feel like. Then it got worse.)

Even really bad plantar faciitis shouldn't make your feet hurt all the way up to your hips. Other orthopedic problems might. Get thee to an orthopod, before it gets worse. Stuff like this rarely gets better on its own.
posted by jlkr at 6:11 AM on February 15, 2006

Sometimes when I'm having a bad day or wearing bad shoes, I (mostly unconsciously) walk on the outside of my feet. My knees and hips complain loudly the next morning, along with the normal PF foot pain.

The orthotics help, and if the PF has just set in get them now so you don't ruin your walk. I've always had it, and thought everyone's feet hurt up until I was a teenager and my mother caught me limping in the mornings. I'm unpleasantly pigeon-toed from years of adaptive maneuvers.

Definitely get it looked at.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:02 AM on February 15, 2006

It does sound like PF, which I had too. Of course, get it checked out. My doctor didn't advise using the treatment system that's like a stretch boot -- she just had me do a series of stretches each morining and evening.

Mine cleared up after a year or so, and I think a key factor in clearing it up was weight loss. You may find that dropping a few pounds will help.
posted by Miko at 8:25 AM on February 15, 2006

frogan, I don't mean to sound like an alarmist, but the symptoms you describe, coupled with a couple of other symptoms, were the onset of sarcoidosis for me. You don't mention any swelling, but for me, the stiffness predated the swelling. Just google it, and check the symptoms to be safe. While not usually REALLY bad, it is something to check out for.
posted by Richat at 9:04 AM on February 15, 2006

My sister — who has plantar fascitis and who tells me that one of these days, she's going to get her own MeFi account (hint hint, sis) — suggested that rolling your foot on a water bottle full of ice is especially relieving; she does it first thing in the morning and it helps a good deal.
posted by WCityMike at 4:46 PM on February 15, 2006

Well, I don't know what it is for sure, but I might help you alleviate it. Plantar fasciitis sounds somewhat reasonable. I've been a licensed massage therapist for 4.5 years and have seen a few, or several people with that condition. If I remember correctly, I do believe massage therapy helps.

I highly, highly recommend soaking your feet in epsom salt solution (epsom salt and water) with a few optional drops of essential oils added in (rosemary is wonderful - I've used it for feet pain before and it's worked quite well.) Epsom salt is really cheap.. it's just amazing stuff, I've used it for bodily aches and pains (especially muscular tension and nervous stress) for years. This is called hydrotherapy.

Use a foot spa, or you can just use a small tub that will hold 1-4 gallons of water or so, pour hot water into it (as hot as you can stand) and about 1 cup epsom salt per gallon of water. Soak for 15-20 minutes. If you like, you can alternate heat for 10-20 minutes and then ice for 5 minutes (lay your foot up against a bag of frozen peas with a pillow case over it, ideally, or use a cold water bath with a few ice cubes to soak the entire foot/ankle) about 2-3 times each (I think you're supposed to end on ice, though I don't recall now). I would end the soaking process with a little therapeutic stretching (in every and any direction you can get your foot/ankle to move) and then use some lotion to massage your foot, especially the plantar surface (the flat part you walk on).

Otherwise, for topical pain relief (and help with reducing inflammation) I highly, highly recommend Biofreeze, which is akin to a professional-grade Bengay, or Cryoderm. Cryoderm (formerly known as Stop Pain) is AWESOME. I used it yesterday to relieve the worst & most painful stiff neck I've ever had (slept on it wrong, apparently). It works wonders.

One more thing: In the past, I've had remarkable success with taking a calcium/magnesium supplement to put an end to muscle spasms. There is something about calcium and especially magnesium that seem to help "lubricate" the muscles.

Can you tell I can't afford health insurance? ;) These do work though, I promise. Hopefully they will for you, too.
posted by mojabunni at 7:57 PM on February 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

How strange! Just noticed a piece of mail for massage CEU courses sitting on the desk with the words 'Plantar fasciitis' glaring right at me! Supposedly this seminar for the Myokinesthetic system (modality; an extra certification you can get) will teach LMTs how to treat plantar fasciitis. Perhaps you can search for a practitioner in your area. There are several massage listings, from online yellow pages, to Holistic Health Network, to all kinds of other independent listing companies. You can also try emailing myokin@yahoo.com (who operates this CEU course) and ask for a recommendation of practitioners in your area, or any other helpful tips.
posted by mojabunni at 8:43 PM on February 15, 2006

The pain in your ankles and knees could be a result of you subconsciously altering your walking style to prevent the pain in the original foot.

I once had injured one foot and a week or so later I discovered that my other foot was also giving me pain, though I hadn't remembered injuring it. I later realized that it was because I was favoring the original foot and altering my step, thereby putting additional strain and pressure on the healthy foot.
posted by parilous at 4:56 PM on September 5, 2006

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