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Five Tips to Fix Your Aching Feet

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Updated July 08, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Person soaking feet in lemon and mint
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At some point most of us have experienced aching feet, whether it's after a long day of work or play. There are a variety of factors that can make you prone to sore feet, some of the most common factors include:

  • Abnormal Foot Anatomy- Common abnormalities are: 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 ligaments that stabilize the feet to relax. These two factors together result in excess strain on feet.

  • Poor-Fitting Shoes- Shoes that are not properly sized for your feet can cause issues. If your feet shift around in the shoe while you walk, foot and leg muscles will become over-worked. Also, shoes that are lacking in support such as ones with thin or overly flexible soles can cause a problem.

  • 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.

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

1. 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 in a store-bought foot spa for 5-10 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 1-2 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.

2. Stretch - Overstressed muscles will tend to contract or spasm. To counteract this tightness, stretch your feet. A good time to stretch is after warm soak, when 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 10-20 seconds for maximal benefit. See: Foot and Ankle Stretching Exercises

3. Massage - Apply oil or lotion to the soles and massage while applying gentle thumb pressure to any sore areas of the 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 our 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.

4. Arch Supports - Try a pair of store bought 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. Custom-made orthotics offer even more support for the feet and have the added benefit of accommodating specific foot problems.

5. 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.

Sore feet on occasion is a relatively common experience among 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 for an evaluation of your feet.

In addition, certain medical conditions can cause or contribute to foot pain. Some include:

  • Diabetes- or any other condition that causes peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage to the limbs
  • Autoimmune diseases- such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Any condition that causes lower limb swelling such as cardiovascular disease
See your primary care physician to evaluate and treat any medical condition that may be contributing to the pain.

Sources:

Levine, David, DPM, CPed. Reconsider Biomechanical Causes In Heel Pain Cases. Podiatry Today Nov. 2000 15: 40-46.

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