Understanding Common Causes of Foot and Ankle Pain

Understanding Common Causes of Foot and Ankle Pain

Despite the dramatic impact that foot and ankle pain can have on your quality of life, many people don’t seek medical care to get relief. According to a national survey, only 30% of people who experience any type of foot pain seek medical advice, while others often endure pain longer than necessary and risk further damage to the affected area by using home treatments without medical advice.

Treating foot and ankle pain without medical advice isn’t always productive. Whether your foot and ankle pain is caused by an injury or chronic condition, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in your journey to relief.

Orthopedic surgeon Robert Douglas Bostick III, MD, and the team at Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in Metairie, Louisiana, have extensive experience diagnosing and treating a wide range of foot and ankle problems. 

Based on your medical evaluation and imaging studies, such as X-rays, Dr. Bostick and the staff can identify the source of your pain and recommend the types of treatment most effective for your condition. Based on your needs, an individualized treatment plan can involve therapies that range from pain relievers and activity modification to minimally invasive surgery.

In this blog, Dr. Bostick discusses common conditions that cause foot and ankle problems and how these conditions can impact your daily life. 

Foot and ankle arthritis

Foot and ankle arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the small joints of your foot and ankle. Pain and stiffness are common symptoms. There are many forms of arthritis that can affect your foot and ankle. Three common types include:


This is a condition in which cartilage — which is the cushioning substance at the ends of your bones — deteriorates. This results in pain as bone rubs against bone.

Rheumatoid arthritis

This is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue, including joints, causing inflammation.

Post-traumatic arthritis

This is a type of arthritis that occurs after an injury, such as a dislocation or fracture.

Loose cartilage

Occasionally, small pieces of cartilage can break off and move around in a joint. Pain triggered by physical activity and swelling are the most common symptoms of loose cartilage. 

Fractures, strains, and sprains

It’s common to experience foot and ankle injuries during normal activities, given all the ways you use your feet every day. Fractures (broken bones), strains (stretched or torn muscles), and sprains (stretching or tearing of a ligament), can occur during sports, car accidents, falls, and other mishaps.


Gout is a condition in which your body accumulates too much uric acid in your blood. When too much uric acid builds up, or the kidneys can’t process it appropriately, the acid can form into sharp, needle-like crystals around your joints. Gout pain can be so excruciating that it makes walking unbearable and can even make it intolerable to feel a bedsheet on the affected joint. 

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a thick ligament underneath your foot that links your heel to your toes. The condition can cause debilitating heel pain. 

Plantar fasciitis can occur as the result of age, obesity, or foot problems, such as having flat feet. You can also develop plantar fasciitis if you stand on a hard surface for long periods at work or participate in activities that stress your heel, such as long-distance running.

Bursitis and tendinitis

Bursitis and tendinitis are conditions that involve the deterioration of the soft tissues that surround muscles and bones. The most common causes involve damage that results from an injury or overuse as a result of repetitive movement during work or recreational activities. 

Sports injuries

Sports injuries are common causes of foot and ankle pain. Three of the most common types of sports injuries include: 

Achilles tendinitis

This condition is inflammation of the tendon, which is the strong band of tissue that runs down the back of your lower leg and joins your heel to your calf muscle. Achilles tendinitis often occurs as the result of repetitive stress to the tendon from overuse.

Ankle sprains

This injury occurs when the ligaments that support your ankle are stretched beyond their limits or ruptured. This can happen when you twist your foot unexpectedly or roll your foot in sports, such as when playing basketball or football.

Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome)

This condition manifests as pain and tenderness along or just behind the large bone in your lower leg (the tibia), and it often occurs as a result of repetitive activity. 

Treating foot and ankle pain

The type of treatment appropriate for your foot and ankle pain depends on your condition, age, overall health, and goals for resuming activity. Common treatments include:

When surgery is necessary, we provide expert minimally invasive techniques, such as arthroscopy, to reduce recovery time. 

Don’t ignore new or chronic foot or ankle pain. To find out how we can help you relieve pain and improve mobility, call 504-541-5800 or book an appointment online with Metairie Orthopedics & Sports Medicine today.

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