A quick guide to understanding chronic foot pain

We use our feet all day, every day, so a little pain here and there isn’t out of the ordinary. 

However, if you experience foot, ankle, and heel pain that lasts for more than three months, this may be a sign of something more serious, and can indicate you may have an underlying health condition or injury. If you’re concerned, check in with your podiatrist who may be able to help you get to the bottom of the issue.

Here’s what you need to know about managing chronic foot pain and how your podiatrist can help.

Common causes of chronic foot pain

Here are some of the common causes of chronic foot, ankle, and heel pain.

1. Arthritis

Arthritis refers to a group of diseases that cause inflammation and degeneration in the joints. It commonly occurs in the small joints of the foot or ankle, and can cause swelling, pain, and stiffness. 

There are many types of arthritis, each involving different treatments and risks, but the most common ones that can cause foot pain are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. This is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the synovium (connective tissue) covering the joint, causing it to swell. This is particularly common around the ankle. 
  • Osteoarthritis. This is one of the most common forms of arthritis. It occurs where two bones join together, with the connecting cartilage in the joint gradually wearing away. Osteoarthritis is typically diagnosed in people 55 or over. 
  • Post-traumatic arthritis. This can develop after a foot or ankle injury. Fractures or dislocations can cause damage to the joint surface, causing the cartilage between joints to wear away over time. 

2. Plantar heel pain

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes. This condition is caused by damage to the plantar fascia due to degeneration, overuse, or partial tears.

It can occur during vigorous or repetitive physical activity, due to structural issues in the foot, during pregnancy, or in people who are obese. It’s more common for people aged between 40-70 years.

3. Achilles tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is a common injury in runners, or people who spend a lot of time on their feet. It occurs when repetitive or severe stress irritates the Achilles tendon, the band of tissue that connects the heel to the calf. 

The Achilles tendon naturally weakens as we age, so it’s more common in older people. Tight calf muscles, and flat arches, can also put excessive strain on the Achilles tendon.

4. Bursitis

While it’s more common in the elbows, shoulders and hips, bursitis can also be the cause of chronic foot pain, and makes itself known by stiffness, redness, swelling, and pain around the heel or toe. Bursitis is caused by inflammation of the bursae, the small, fluid-filled sacs near your joints.

5. Gout

While gout may sound like an old-fashioned disease, it’s actually quite common today. A form of arthritis, gout causes small crystals to form inside and around the joints, which results in sudden, severe pain, and distinct swelling.

Managing your foot pain symptoms

Living with chronic foot pain can be difficult to navigate. However, with the guidance of a qualified podiatrist, there are treatments available to help you get ahead of the issue.

Evaluate your pain

Get a sense of where the symptoms are coming from and their intensity. Ask yourself:

  • Is the pain mostly in your joints?
  • Is it concentrated around particular toes or other areas?
  • Is there tenderness in the ligaments underneath your foot?
  • What is the severity and is it getting worse over time?


Stretching exercises before and after vigorous activity can help to work through muscle tightness, and keep your tendons and joints limber. This helps to improve your mobility and increase joint range of motion of your feet or ankles.

Over-the-counter medication

Over-the-counter or prescription medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can help reduce immediate symptoms of acute foot pain.

Keep moving (within reason)

Foot pain shouldn’t mean missing out, and it’s important not to let a fear of your pain reduce you to inactivity.

Physical activity and maintaining overall wellness are vital for healing and mental health. Resting and icing your feet is an effective method to relieve pain and swelling, while a foot massage can stimulate circulation and soothe muscles also.

With the guidance of your podiatrist, and supportive, comfortable footwear and orthotics, continuing to move is an important aspect of managing chronic pain.

Visit your local podiatrist

The best way to manage chronic foot and ankle pain is to talk to a professional about your symptoms and seek a qualified diagnosis. Working through chronic foot pain with an expert will guide your recovery and provide specific treatment to best suit your needs.

Get relief for your foot pain at our Bunbury podiatry clinic

Our feet are some of our most important body parts, so when they’re causing you pain it can noticeably impact your quality of life. 

Visit our Bunbury podiatrist, Dr. Noosha Behshad, to evaluate your symptoms and develop a treatment plan catered to your needs.

Book your appointment today.