Why do I have foot and ankle pain?

Why Do I Have Foot and Ankle Pain? | Excel PT

Foot and ankle pain is a common issue for people to have. There can be underlying reasons for even mild foot and ankle pain; knowing the common causes for this type of pain can help you understand better what you are feeling.

Common causes of foot and ankle pain

Causes for foot and ankle pain typically fall into three main categories: injuries, musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions and lifestyle choices. Injuries are most often caused by an event or recurring event that caused the pain, like a fall or hard blow to the affected area. MSK conditions are less traceable as they often occur over time and become more noticeable as they develop. 

Another possible category of causes is lifestyle choices. Such causes would include things like what kind of shoes you wear or how you exercise. For example, if you have really tight shoes or wear high heels often, then it can cause foot and ankle pain even after you take them off. Lifestyle choices can contribute to developing an underlying condition, but sometimes just the lifestyle choice needs to be adjusted to cause less pain.

Injuries that cause foot and ankle pain

Foot and ankle pain can be caused by a fall or a direct blow to the ankle or foot. It is common in children and teens for injuries to happen during sports, play or falls, and the more intense the sport is, the higher the risk of injury. For adults and older adults, there is a much higher risk for injuries because of how aging reduces muscle mass and bone strength. This can result in problems with vision, balance and strength, making injuries more likely to happen. Also with reduced muscle mass and bone strength, the injury can be more extreme or harder to recover from, which is important to understand if you’re dealing with foot and ankle pain.

A few of the specific injuries that can cause pain in your feet and ankles are:


  • Achilles tendon injuries

An Achilles tendon injury is an injury that affects the tendon at the back of your ankle and calf. The Achilles tendon is a strong, fibrous cord that connects the muscles in the back of your calf to your heel bone. An Achilles injury can include anything from a partial to complete tear of the tendon. When this injury happens, it can sound like a pop, and you may feel an immediate sharp pain that makes walking difficult. With minor Achilles tendon injuries, you may still be able to walk and move your ankle up and down, which can make this injury go untreated or undiagnosed.

  • Stress fractures

A stress fracture is a hairline crack in a bone that sometimes can be so small that an X-ray won’t catch it. This kind of injury can happen in any bone that bears any weight — commonly the bones in your feet, ankles and legs. 

Symptoms of a stress fracture in your foot can include pain in your foot or ankle that diminishes during rest or pain that comes back as you engage in physical activity. You may see swelling in the affected part of your foot or ankle. Swelling from a stress fracture can make wearing shoes difficult or make the area very tender. You may also have bruising around the area of your foot and ankle where the stress fracture is located along with the pain.


  • Sprains and strains

Sprains are injuries that happen to ligaments from twisting a joint like rolling an ankle. Strains are injuries to a muscle or tendon mainly when they have been overused or stretched. Your ankle is one of the most commonly sprained or strained joints. Often, mild foot and ankle sprains and strains do not need medical treatment. 

The symptoms of a sprained or strained ankle is pain when you stand or bear weight on the affected foot, or instability in the ankle. You may see swelling or bruising around or on your ankle and foot. Not being able to move the ankle much or having tenderness in the ankle are also common symptoms of a strained or sprained ankle.

A musculoskeletal condition that can cause foot and ankle pain

Foot and ankle pain can occur more as we age. So it is important to know if you may have an underlying MSK condition that is worsening over time. For example, you may notice small signs of arthritis but wait until it becomes worse before you do anything. 

Waiting to address an MSK condition can be risky to your health as it can progress into a chronic condition if not addressed. Managing a chronic condition can be more difficult or less successful the later you start addressing it. It is important to talk to someone, such as a physical therapist, about your symptoms before they become unmanageable and your pain worsens. One example of an MSK condition that can lead to foot and/or ankle pain is plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis refers to inflammation in the band of tissue called the plantar fascia, which connects your heel bone to the base of your toes. It supports the arch of your foot and absorbs shock when you walk. This condition can cause chronic and debilitating foot or ankle pain making walking or standing difficult. The pain it causes tends to be worse when you first get up to walk after sitting or lying down for a while. Plantar fasciitis can happen due to high arches and problems in the calf muscles.

Excel PT can help you address foot and ankle pain

This is not a complete list of possible causes for foot and ankle pain but just an overview of the more common causes. Talking to one of our licensed physical therapists at Excel Sports & Physical Therapy can help you learn what specific condition or injury may be causing your foot and ankle pain. 

They can not only diagnose what is causing your foot and ankle pain but also get you started on a treatment plan designed to help you recover from or manage it.  

Contact our team today for more information about how we can help address your pain or to schedule your initial appointment.