Foot problems

Foot problems can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • limping

You don't normally need to see a healthcare professional. New onset or flare-up of a longstanding foot problem should begin to settle within 6 weeks.

What causes foot problems?

Foot problems are fairly common and can be caused by injury or normal wear and tear. It may also be due to a flare-up of an existing problem.

As you get older, normal wear and tear can cause your foot problem to flare-up now and again, often for no reason.

Can this cause problems anywhere else?

You may feel some pains in your toes, ankle, calf, knee and even in your back. This should improve as your foot problem gets better.

Foot problems can also cause limping. If the limp is severe, using a walking stick on the opposite side to your foot problem may help.

How to use a walking stick

Self-help

Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none.
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • help you aim for a healthy body weight

It's recommended you stay at or return to work as quickly as possible during your recovery. You don't need to be pain and symptom-free to return to work.

More about keeping active

Pain treatments

Pain medication can help to reduce the pain and help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery.

Speak to your community pharmacist or other healthcare professional about taking medication or other methods of pain relief​. It's important to take medication regularly.

More about taking painkillers

Resting or moving?

Within the first 24 to 48 hours of symptoms starting you should try to:

  • rest your foot, but avoid long spells of not moving at all
  • move your foot and toes gently for 10 to 20 seconds every hour when you're awake

After 48 hours:

  • Try to slowly return to normal activity.
  • Do whatever you normally would and stay at or return to work - this is important and is the best way to get better. You don't need to be pain or symptom-free to return to work.
  • When going upstairs, reduce the strain on your foot by leading with your good leg - use a handrail if available.
  • When going downstairs, reduce the strain on your foot by leading with your problem leg - use a handrail if available.

Avoid sports or heavy lifting until you have less discomfort and good movement.

When to speak to a health professional

Speak to your GP as soon as possible if:

  • there's been significant trauma - for example a fall from height or direct blow to the foot
  • you've a significant open wound
  • you can't put any weight at all through your foot

Help and support

If, after following the above advice, your foot problem hasn't improved within 6 weeks a referral to a physiotherapist or podiatrist may be of benefit.

If available in your health board area, the Musculoskeletal (MSK) Helpline can refer you to a healthcare professional if you need it.