T Nation

Chronic Foot Pain Just Won't Go Away

I’m not even sure where to begin describing this I’m so frustrated with it. I’ve apparently had a problem for quite some time(~3-4 years probably) but it has only been painful for the last 12-18 months.

I didn’t even realize I had a problem until I started tracing back some odd things I noticed years ago but which didn’t cause me any pain. So instead of writing a book about it I’ll just list what my symptoms are and what I’ve done/tried so far.

Symptoms oldest to newest:

Discomfort when heel planted when weight bearing and front of foot is lifted off ground. Many times there is a ‘popping’ feeling at the heel at a specific point when raising the front of the foot off the ground. This results in the outer heel becoming ‘grumpy’ for at least several hours to a couple days.

This feels like something is rubbing inside my foot and the popping feels like it’s catching on something and releasing. It’s not always like this so I’m not sure if it’s related to inflammation or possibly some external factor but I’m usually able to replicate it without too much trouble. Since it’s such an odd sensation I remember it from 3-4+ years ago when I would stretch sometimes. I however was walking 3-5mi/day to work and never had any pain until the last year or two. I also do not normally notice anything when doing this motion when the foot is non-load bearing.

 Improved by avoiding doing that with my foot at all costs however it's not entirely unavoidable and sometimes this happens when I stretch or during normal activity.

Discomfort in back/outer heel laying on back in bed with weight of foot resting on heel.
Improved if heel is put on a pillow or heel is slightly off bed and weight is on achilles tendon.

Discomfort in outer heel when standing in one place for more than 15-30sec.
Improved by moving around/walking however I am unable to walk very far without pain either but that is most likely from my inactivity over the last year.

Severe foot pain for about two weeks to the point I was on crutches. This was my own stupidity for jogging barefoot and not noticing it until it was too late.

Improved by being off my feet and resting it.  Likely this caused a Plantar Fascia issue which now seems much improved.

Things I’ve done/am still doing:

1.Started sleeping on side to avoid heel pain. This was easy when it was the only time I’ve had any pain.

  1. My foot started ‘catching’ and would stay sore for hours to days so I saw the 1st Podiatrist. Got Xrays which didn’t show anything. Was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis before he walked into the room. Treated with injections and cheap orthotics and told to rest and stay off my feet as much as possible till it got better. My feet got significantly worse which is when I started having issues just standing and walking.

  2. Decided to see another Podiatrist. This one was much more interested in finding out root cause of the problem. Noted a slightly collapsing arch on left side and odd gate. Sent to PT, got custom inserts. Custom inserts didn’t feel great until I got used to them. PT may have helped but the biggest improvement was the soft tissue work afterwards.

  3. Continues use of a golf ball and cold pack throughout the day at work. This appears to have diminishing returns as there is nowhere near as much pain as there used to be. The only typical sore point is the insertion of the plantar tendon at the heel from there all the way to the outside of the foot along the heel bone.

Hopefully I’ve described whats going on fairly well but if I’ve missed something or wasn’t very clear please let me know and I’ll be happy to poke my foot wherever and see if it hurts. I’ve just been dealing with this pain for so long it feels like it’s never going to get any better. Sorry about the book.

After what feels like forever I finally have an update to this after lots to trial and error by different podiatrists. The good news is it appears that my chronic foot issue was an inflammation of the fat pad of my heel which got referred to as crepitus. Apparently the next specialist I was sent to had seen this a couple times before and got it right away.

The catching/popping past feeling I was having with my heel was apparently the inflamed tissue not being able to move past the bone when it was compressed and me putting more pressure to force it past there was the sensation I was having.

The solution? Aspercream a couple times a day on my heel. It’s definitely not 100% better yet but it’s a huge improvement already and is slowly getting better now instead of worse. Unfortunately before I got to that point one of the podiatrists thought a walking cast was a good idea. Fixes everything right? So after 6 weeks of that I’m left with a much smaller left gastroc on the left and a super tight it band on the right which I’m working on fixing.

I’m now left with just the odd ‘ball’ on my great toe flexor near the ball of my foot which makes me feel like my foot is going to come apart between my big toe the toe next to it. Since I can see that just by looking at the bottom of my foot I’m hoping that the podiatrist can figure it out easier that my last issue.

With any luck I’ll have the last nagging issues figured out and I’ll finally get to walk around and be outside more let alone lift again.

Here’s yet another followup. My heel pain is 75%+ better than it was. Oddly enough I ended up overdoing things in PT and now have sesamoiditis in both feet. I think the only reason my heels aren’t 98% better is because I’ve been walking around funny because the balls of my feet are so painful now.

Not exactly the outcome I was hoping for but I’ll take a couple week old issue thats already been diagnosed over a phantom pain nobody can figure out.

So another update now that it’s been a month. My feet are slightly better but still way worse than my heel pain ever was. I’m seeing the Podiatrist again in a couple weeks and will be requesting some imaging to see what’s actually wrong with my feet. The only thing I’ve found so far that lets me walk semi-normally would be those gel dancers pad things for metatarsal/sesamoid pain.

Interesting reading.

Sorry to hear about your troubles, Peter. It sounds like a hell of a long journey and a frustrating one for you too. After first post I was thinking achilles, but as I read on I was completely clueless. I’m glad you got an answer finally and something you can work on.

Is it worth visiting a physio to take a look at your gait and walking posture? I know that after a foot or leg injury we can tend to unconsciously adjust the way we walk and move to try and avoid discomfort, which becomes ingrained. But over time this adjustment might produce other problems. Since you’ve had this so long it might be worth checking out.

Good luck to you. I hope you are on the last strait of your journey.