3 Common Foot and Ankle Problems, and How To Solve Them

When it comes to maintaining overall health, we often focus on major organs like the heart, lungs, and brain. However, one crucial aspect that sometimes gets overlooked is the health of our feet and ankles. Few parts of our body play such a significant role in our daily lives, impacting mobility, posture, and even our overall well-being.

The foot and ankle provide us with the ability to stand, walk, run, jump, climb, and dance. The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 29 muscles (including 19 that act on the foot alone) and over 100 tendons. The foot supports our entire body weight and absorbs the impact of each step we take. The ankle joint, meanwhile, is the connection point for the leg’s fibula and tibia and the foot’s talus bone. It helps us pivot, turn, and supports us during motor activities like walking, running and dancing. Together, they form the foundation of our body, influencing our entire musculoskeletal system.

With that many moving parts and that much (literal) pressure, it’s no surprise that the foot and ankle can suffer from some painful problems. Here are three of the most common foot and ankle problems, and what can be done to solve them.

Plantar Fasciitis

The thick band of connective tissue that runs from the back of your heel into your toes is called your plantar fascia. This supports the arch of the foot when you land while taking steps throughout the day, ensuring your body has good integrity starting at the heel all the way up to your hip. Due to increased loads in walking, running, or standing; poor or worn out footwear; or unknown and spontaneous changes in tissues as we age, the facia can get inflamed or develop microtears. This causes pain and is what we know as plantar fasciitis. 


There are two stretches our physical therapy teams suggest doing in the morning to help loosen up your plantar fascia, lessening or eliminating pain throughout the day. 

  • Stretch #1: Before getting out of bed, take the heel of the hurting foot and rest it on your opposite knee. With your hand, cup the ankle and lock it with your toes flexed toward the knee. Grab your big toe with your other hand and pull backwards towards your trunk, holding for five seconds. You should feel a stretch along that fascia. Repeat this about 20 times for the tissues to loosen. 
  • Stretch #2: Stand next to a wall and place the affected foot against it with your toes running high up the wall, then lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the heel throughout the arch of the foot and in the calve. Hold this for 30-45 seconds for a nice, prolonged stretch. 

If these stretches don’t fix your pain and you are having trouble keeping up with your normal routine, working with a physical therapist on flexibility and strengthening the foot muscles and legs can help get you back to your full range of living, as can custom heat-molded orthotics which offer a custom fit support in your shoe to promote pain free walking. 

In extreme cases where pain is not subsiding, additional options include injections or surgery. 

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are partial or complete tears of the ligament within a joint due to sudden twisting or rolling movements. Signs of a sprain are: a popping sound at the time of injury, pain in the area, swelling or bruising, difficulty walking, or a limited range of motion. 


Most ankle sprains are minor, and can be treated and healed with the PRICE method:  Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Calluses and Corns

Calluses, also known as hyperkeratotic lesions, affect most of us. Often, as they enlarge they can lead to uncomfortable pressure points or even ulcerations in diabetic patients.

Calluses are typically larger, can be an inch or more in diameter, and vary in shape. They normally develop on the soles of the feet under the heel or balls, on the palms of the hands, or on the knees. Calluses are rarely painful 

Corns tend to be smaller (usually about a quarter-inch to a half-inch in diameter), round, and well defined. They often occur in non-weight-bearing parts of the skin – typically on the tops and sides of toes. Corns can be painful when pressed.


Callus debridement is the cutting or sanding away of the extra tissue from the top of the skin in order to eliminate the pressure that a callus causes. In order to avoid exposure of the patient’s most sensitive skin, a small portion of the callus is always left.

Debridement can help treat corns, as well. Also, a patch containing 40% salicylic acid is often applied to medically reduce or eliminate the corn. 

Avoiding the repetitive actions that caused calluses and corns to form in the first place, as well as wearing proper-fitting shoes, can keep them from recurring.

Our feet and ankles are integral to our overall health and well-being. By taking proactive steps to care for them, you can prevent discomfort and injuries while ensuring you remain active. From choosing the right footwear to seeking professional care when needed, investing in your foot and ankle health pays dividends in maintaining mobility, preventing complications, and enhancing your overall quality of life.