Painful feet, foot problems and foot pain are very prevalent. According to estimates, 75% of the population suffers from foot problems. The foot is an ingenious structure made of 26 small bones and 33 joints, surrounded by a web of muscle tissue and many nerves. With every step, a force 2 to 3 times the body weight is exerted on the feet and ankles, on all the soft tissues, including the nerves. On average, we take around 8,000 steps per day so it is quite logical that we sometimes suffer from foot problems.

Foot pain: the foot contains 33 joints and 26 small bones!

Causes of painful feet: infections and age

There are many reasons for painful feet. A major cause is infected nerves. This is the case in various foot disorders, such as constriction of the foot nerves: for example in the tarsal tunnel syndrome and Morton's neuroma. Also sagging forefoot, arthrosis of the ankle and toe joints, gout and all sorts of neuropathies could cause painful feet, for example in the case of vitamin B deficiency. Furthermore, age is an important factor: in old age our feet spread out and the fat pads underneath the heels and balls of the feet become thinner. The skin becomes dryer and thinner, causing thin nerves in the skin to become overstrung. Additional problems, such as arthrosis, diabetes and circulatory problems occur often in elderly people and contribute indirectly to painful feet.

Additional causes of painful feet

Aside from infections and age, there are additional factors that could cause painful feet.

  • Women in general run greater risks of developing foot problems, mainly due to wearing narrow shoes or walking on high heels. Severe problems can develop, especially at advanced ages. Nerves could get constricted and tissues can become irritated by an unnatural pressure on the joints of feet.
  • People who due to their profession stand the entire day on their feet develop irreversibly painful feet, but they also often suffer from pain in their legs, knees or back.
  • Too much exercising/jogging/dancing: pain in the heels and shins is especially common among people who engage excessively in sports, run or dance.
  • People who are overweight also suffer from an overload to their feet and ankles. This overload can easily lead to painful feet and injuries.
  • Over-pronation: excessive inward tilt of the ankles and also flat feet play a major role in causing foot problems. This type of twisting puts pressure on nerves and other tissues.

Cause of nerve pain in the foot

Nerve pain develops if the nerve is damaged. This might be caused by a physical injury, for example, an accident or a gash, but also from diabetes if small nerves are affected. Neuralgia might also develop from pressure on the nerve, such as in the case of tarsal tunnel syndrome, in which the nerve in the ankle comes under pressure. An infection in the nerve could also be the cause for nerve pain. This might also cause painful feet.

Painful feet: your feet have many nerves that could get damaged

Nerve pain: various forms of painful feet

Morton’s neuroma is a form of nerve pain, whereupon a nerve in the foot is pinched between the midfoot bones, exerting great pain on the forefoot and toes. It usually concerns the nerve between the third and fourth midfoot bones. This might be caused by poor blood flow in the foot, but also by too many sports or walking on heels as well as from a sagging forefoot. The major complaint is pain, usually at the tips of third and fourth midfoot bones. This pain is often described as burning, stinging, spastic or electrical sensations in the toes. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is characterised by a constriction of the foot nerve (the nervus tibialis), which results in painful feet at the sides, under the feet, in the forefeet and the soles. It more or less resembles carpal tunnel syndrome that occurs in the wrists and is a common phenomenon. However, tarsal tunnel syndrome is not so commonly known and is often overlooked during diagnosis of foot problems. Tarsal tunnel syndrome is not a common disorder and perhaps for this reason it is not recognised as such.

Symptoms of nerve pain in the foot

Pain is an important symptom of nerve pain. In the case of nerve pain, fierce stabs of pain occur in the area close to the affected nerve. Irritation, burning sensations or stabs and cramps might also occur in the area of the nerve. The painful feet could worsen by minor prickles from touching your skin lightly or by wearing tight-fitting shoes.

Neuropathy as a cause of painful feet

Neuropathy is a term used for diseases that affect the nerves. The word comes from Latin and can be translated as nerve disease. Because the nerves no longer conduct impulses optimally, all sorts of strange sensations could occur, such as numbness, tingling, stinging, a wedged feeling and a burning, stabbing or nagging pain. The cause of painful feet is then not in the feet themselves, but in the nerves leading to the feet. That can even originate from a much higher area, such as in the case of sciatica where a lower back nerve is pinched due to a hernia. This creates a chronic inflammation of the nerve that runs all the way from the lower back to the foot, with extreme pain in the foot. In case of chronic deficiency of vitamin B, nerve inflammation also occurs and the results are painful, burning feet that could also feel numb as if you are walking on cotton wool. To support the nervous system in the best way possible, the Russell Science Group has developed a special product based on palmitoylethanolamide and a special selection of vitamins from the B group: PeaPlex.

Neuroinflammation as a key cause of painful feet

There are many causes for neuropathy. Unfortunately, these causes are almost never easy to treat in order to improve the condition of neuropathy patients. The exception perhaps is neuropathy caused by chemotherapy. Due to the toxic effect on the neurons, chemotherapy results in a semi-acute inflammation of the nerve. If the chemotherapy is stopped (temporarily), then the damage to the nerves is such that the symptoms diminish relatively quickly and the neuropathy itself disappears. However, this is usually not the case. Besides chemotherapy, diabetes is also a common cause of painful feet. The nerves are affected by the sugar and the patient develops a chronic neuroinflammation of the foot nerves.

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