Why do my feet hurt?

Worn out converse

By the time most Americans reach age 50, they will have traveled some 75,000 miles by foot — that’s like walking around the world three times! While our feet are built to take a beating, problems can develop. The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that 77 percent of adults said they have had a foot ailment, and half say they experience foot pain.

“Foot pain is not normal,” said Jon Goldsmith, DPM, a foot-and-ankle specialist with CHI Health Orthopedics. “If your feet are hurting, it’s never normal. If you are bothered with pain for more than a week and there is no improvement, it’s time to consult your doctor.”

A major contributor to foot pain is right inside your closet — your shoes! An American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society study found that nine out of 10 women wear shoes that are too small for their feet, and 8 out of 10 women say their shoes are painful. As a result, women can develop bunions, hammertoes or other foot problems largely due to tight shoes.

Dr. Goldsmith says shoes that are too flat have no arch support or structure to support the foot. Shoes that are too high can cause bunions, stress fractures and even an ailment called the “pump bump,” but shoes are not the only culprit behind foot pain. Being overweight adds more stress on feet and increases pain, while people with diabetes need to pay special attention to their feet and the shoes they wear.

In addition, during the winter months, Dr. Goldsmith urges caution with footwear. He sees a lot of ankle fractures due to ice and slippery conditions.

Regardless of the source of foot pain, advises Dr. Goldsmith, don’t put off seeing a doctor because you’re afraid of needing surgery. “Most foot and ankle pain can be treated effectively with conservative care,” Dr. Goldsmith said.