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5 Common Foot and Ankle Problems You Shouldn't Ignore (and How to Treat Them)

Dr. Eman Elmi
June 24, 2024
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Our feet and ankles are the foundation that carries us throughout our lives. They allow us to walk, run, jump, and navigate the world around us. But often, we take their health for granted, ignoring aches and pains until they become significant problems.

The truth is, many common foot and ankle problems can worsen over time if left untreated. This can lead to chronic pain, limited mobility, and even impact your overall well-being. The beneficial news? Early intervention and proper treatment can make a world of difference.

In this article, we'll explore five of the most common foot and ankle problems, their telltale signs, and why you shouldn't ignore them. We'll also provide insights into treatment options and tips for managing these conditions.

5 Foot and Ankle Foes You Shouldn't Ignore

  1. Plantar Fasciitis: This is a common culprit behind heel pain, affecting millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the plantar fascia, a ligament that supports your foot's arch, becomes inflamed.

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    • Symptoms: A sharp stabbing pain in the heel, especially in the morning or after long periods of standing. The pain may lessen throughout the day but can worsen with activity.
    • Why Not to Ignore It: Ignoring plantar fasciitis can lead to chronic pain, inflammation, and even heel bone spurs. Early intervention with stretching, physical therapy, and orthotics can effectively manage the condition and prevent complications.
  2. Heel Spurs: These are bony growths that develop on the underside of the heel bone, often a consequence of untreated plantar fasciitis.

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    • Symptoms: Heel spurs, similar to plantar fasciitis, can cause heel pain, especially with weight-bearing activities. You might also experience a stabbing or burning sensation.
    • Why Not to Ignore It: While not always painful, heel spurs can exacerbate plantar fasciitis and cause discomfort. Treatment follows a similar approach to plantar fasciitis, focusing on reducing inflammation and pain. Podiatrists can recommend appropriate footwear modifications to manage heel spurs effectively.
  3. Bunions: These bony bumps that form at the base of the big toe are a common cause of pain and misalignment. They can develop due to heredity, improper footwear, or certain medical conditions.

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    • Symptoms: A visible bony bump at the base of the big toe, often accompanied by redness, swelling, and pain. Bunions can make walking uncomfortable and cause difficulty fitting into shoes.
    • Why Not to Ignore It: Bunions can worsen over time, leading to increased pain, limited mobility, and even deformity in the toes. While padding and wider footwear can offer temporary relief, consulting a podiatrist is crucial to discuss treatment options, which may include orthotics or even surgery in severe cases.
  4. Hammer Toes: This condition occurs when the middle joint of one or more toes bends permanently, creating a "hammer-like" appearance. Tight-fitting shoes, certain medical conditions, or heredity can cause it.

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    • Symptoms: The condition manifests as a deformity of the toes, with the middle joint appearing bent and unable to straighten. This can cause pain, redness, and difficulty fitting into shoes. The tops of affected toes may develop corns and calluses from friction.
    • Why Not to Ignore It: Hammer toes can become progressively worse over time, potentially causing pain that interferes with daily activities. Early intervention with padding, exercises, and custom orthotics can help manage the condition and prevent further complications. In advanced stages, surgery may be necessary to correct the deformity.
  5. Ankle Sprains: These are common injuries caused by twisting or rolling the ankle. While most sprains are minor, they can cause significant pain and discomfort.

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    • Symptoms: pain, swelling, bruising, and difficulty putting weight on the affected ankle. Based on the severity of the sprain, ankle motion may be limited.
    • Why not ignore it: Ignoring a sprain can lead to instability in the ankle joint, increasing the risk of future sprains. Following the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and seeking professional evaluation from a podiatrist is crucial for proper healing and preventing long-term complications.

Treatment Options: Getting Your Feet Back on Track

The positive news is that most common foot and ankle problems are treatable with conservative measures. Here's a general overview of treatment approaches for each condition:

  • Plantar fasciitis and Heel Spurs: Includes stretching exercises, physical therapy, orthotics, pain medication, and steroid injections.
  • Bunions: We recommend padding, wider footwear, orthotics, and potentially surgery for severe pain or deformity.
  • Hammer Toes: Padding, exercises, custom orthotics, and surgery in advanced stages to correct the deformity.
  • Ankle Sprains: RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), physical therapy, bracing, and pain medication (if needed).

Home Care Tips: While seeking professional help from a podiatrist is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment, there are some self-care practices that can help manage foot and ankle pain and promote overall foot health:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight puts additional stress on your feet.
  • Wear Supportive Shoes: Choose shoes with adequate arch support and a wide toe box.
  • Stretch Regularly: Stretching your feet and calves on a regular basis can improve flexibility and reduce the risk of pain.
  • Apply Ice for Pain Relief: To reduce inflammation, apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Elevate Your Feet: When resting, elevate your feet above your heart to reduce swelling.


Ignoring foot and ankle pain can have significant consequences down the road. By recognizing the signs of common problems and seeking professional help from a podiatrist, you can prevent complications and ensure the long-term health of your feet and ankles. Your feet are your foundation, so make sure they're healthy.

Schedule an appointment with our podiatrist at Diable Foot & Ankle. Don't wait until the pain becomes unbearable. If you're experiencing any of these foot and ankle problems, schedule a consultation with a podiatrist for a personalized treatment plan. 

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