Tips to Fix Your Aching Feet

Foot Pain and 8 Tips to Soothe It

Person soaking feet in lemon and mint
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Do you have aching feet after a long day at work or play? It happens to most people when you overdo it, but there are factors that can make you more prone to getting sore feet. Learn about the causes, prevention, and how to soothe those tired feet.

Common Causes of Aching Feet

  • Abnormal Foot Anatomy: Common problems include flat feet, an excessively high arch, and arthritis or joint restriction.
  • Obesity: Carrying excess weight results in increased strain on ligaments, muscles, and joints.
  • Pregnancy: In addition to the stress caused by increased weight, pregnancy hormones cause the ligaments that stabilize your feet to relax. These two factors together result in excess strain on your feet.
  • Poorly-Fitting Shoes: Your shoes need to be the right size and shape or you can have issues. You need a larger shoe size as you age and your tendons and ligaments stretch. You may have developed a bunion or hammertoes and need a wider shoe. A sloppy fit is also bad, overworking your muscles as your feet shift around in the shoe and increasing the risk of blisters and black toenails. Also, shoes that are lacking in support and cushioning can leave your feet feeling fatigued and sore.
  • Overuse: Increased walking or standing, especially when combined with other contributing factors, can cause even the healthiest feet to become sore. Also, walking or standing on hard surfaces, such as concrete, can stress your feet. This can be a problem for those who stand all day at work or are generally on their feet for long periods of time.

    Eight Ways to Soothe Foot Pain

    Besides kicking back and giving your feet a rest, here are some remedies that can help ease the ache and rejuvenate tired feet:

    Moist Heat

    Sometimes aching feet are simply the result of overstressed muscles and connective tissue due to excess activity or weight-bearing. One of the best remedies for relaxing sore muscles is a foot bath.

    Soak your feet in a basin of warm water or a store-bought foot spa for five to 10 minutes. Try adding Epsom salts to the water for an added soothing effect. Epsom salts are readily available where first aid products are sold. Use approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons per gallon of warm water. If your feet are swollen, hot, or tired, use cool water instead of warm and elevate your feet for a half hour or more after the soak.

    Stretches

    Overstressed muscles will tend to contract or spasm. To counteract this tightness, stretch your feet. A good time to stretch is after a warm soak when your muscles will be relaxed. Sit in a comfortable position and stretch the ankle and toe joints using your hands or a strap. To also target the calf muscles, try a runner's stretch while leaning against a wall. Hold each motion comfortably for 10 to 20 seconds for maximal benefit.

    Exercises

    Exercises for your ankles, feet, and toes will help stretch, strengthen, and relax them. Try these exercises:

    • Pick up objects with your toes and move them from one pile to another.
    • Standing, rise up on your toes, lifting your heels off the ground.
    • Do ankle pumps, moving your foot up and down.
    • Make circles with your ankles.
    • Roll the bottom of your foot on a frozen water bottle, tennis ball, or golf ball.

      Massage

      Apply oil or lotion to the soles and massage while applying gentle thumb pressure to any sore areas of your feet. Focus on the plantar fascia, the prominent cord-like structure that runs the length of the arch, from the ball of the foot to the heel. You can best feel it on the sole of your foot when you flex your toes upward. The plantar fascia is an important anatomical structure because it helps give form and support to the arch, which is necessary for absorbing shock when your feet hit the ground. Tightness of the plantar fascia can often be a root cause of heel soreness. Another easier way to massage the feet is by using wooden foot roller or a foot spa with built-in massage.

      Arch Supports

      Try a pair of over-the-counter arch supports for your shoes. Arch supports will help decrease the shock that your feet experience with every step. The heel and ball of the foot are especially prone to soreness and full-length arch supports will help cushion these areas. Visit a shop that specializes in arch supports and get recommendations by the experts there. If your problem still bothers you, see a podiatrist and discuss custom-made orthotics. These offer even more support for the feet and have the added benefit of accommodating specific foot problems such as plantar fasciitis and flat feet.

      Check Your Shoes

      Identify which shoes may be contributing to the soreness. Switching to running shoes or shoes with a stiffer sole may help. Even sandals come in styles that cradle the arch and have a slightly thicker sole, which is preferable. Also, if your shoes have excess wear and tear they may be contributing to your sore feet. Worn-out soles can change the dynamic of how your feet hit the ground, thus throwing off your biomechanics.

      Since shoes that are too tight or too loose can lead to soreness and fatigue, have your feet measured the next time you buy shoes. You may be surprised to find out that you were wearing an incorrect shoe size. If you have bunions, hammer toes, or a neuroma, make sure your shoes are wide enough and deep enough in the toe box.

      Trim Your Calluses and Corns

      The hard, dry skin of calluses and corns can give you pressure on the bottom of your foot, and lead to cracks, bleeding, or infection. Soak your feet in warm water for a few minutes. Dry them and use a pumice stone or emery board on the hard spots. Apply a moisturizing lotion and massage it in. Put on socks to seal in the moisturization.

      Consider Acupuncture

      Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that has been shown to be of benefit for foot pain in some studies, although the studies often have flaws such as publication bias.

      When to Get Medical Help for Sore Feet

      Sore feet on occasion is a relatively common experience for people of all ages. When the soreness increases in frequency or is not alleviated by simple remedies such as the ones listed, see a podiatrist to evaluate your feet.

      In addition, certain medical conditions can cause or contribute to foot pain. See your primary care physician to evaluate and treat these conditions:

      A Word From Verywell

      Sore feet can not only be miserable, they can keep you from enjoying healthy exercise and physical activity. Take steps to relieve your pain before it stops you. In the long run, it is often cheaper to see a podiatrist and get professional treatment than to experiment with over-the-counter remedies that don't address your specific problem.

      Sources:

      American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. Metatarsalgia (Forefoot Pain). http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-smaller-toes/Pages/Metatarsalgia.aspx.

      Chen W, Yang GY, Liu B, Manheimer E, Liu JP. Manual acupuncture for treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. PLoS One. 2013 Sep 12;8(9):e73764.

      Mayo Clinic. Foot pain. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/foot-pain/basics/definition/SYM-20050792.

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