What Are the Causes of Foot & Calf Pain?

The lower leg is comprised of the muscles extending down through to the foot. Muscles, tendons and ligaments support the foot and join it to the upper portions of the leg, such as the calf. These systems work together for movement and when a portion of the system is injured the result is signified by pain. Nearly all causes of foot pain is grouped into one of three categories -- poor fitting shoes, medical conditions or injury from impact.

young fitness woman runner /hiker legs at forest trail
Female runner's calf (Image: lzf/iStock/Getty Images)

High Impact

Group of people exercising
People exercising (Image: ColorBlind Images/Blend Images/Getty Images)

High impact movement such as running, aerobics or jumping can cause injury to the lower leg and foot area resulting in conditions such as plantar fasciitis or calf muscle strain. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue running across the bottom of the foot. Injury to this portion of the foot causes inflammation and pain that radiates up the leg over time. Tearing or rupture of the calf muscle from high impact activity can also cause intense pain. Ineffective warmup prior to exercise increases the risk of calf strains.

Overuse

Human foot pain
Skeletal foot pain (Image: SomkiatFakmee/iStock/Getty Images)

Individuals with abnormalities in the foot experience pain in the lower limbs from overuse. Cavus foot, unusually high arches, is a condition that results in excessive tension placed on the ball and heel of the foot when engaging normal movement. This foot condition is problematic when overuse in the form of prolonged walking, running or exercise occurs. Achilles tendinitis is another form of overuse that can occur, not related to foot abnormality. Inflammation and irritation in the tendon happens after excessive movement, causing pain in the foot, heel and calf area. Ignoring the pain associated with tendinitis can lead to rupture, which may require surgical repair.

Medical Conditions

Athersclerosis in artery caused by cholesterol plaque
Arteriosclerosis (Image: pixologicstudio/iStock/Getty Images)

Medical conditions that cause a disturbance in the way movement occurs can cause foot pain. For instance, spinal problems due to nerve damage near the spinal cord or venous thrombosis, a condition in which blood clots form in the veins. Pain may occur when tissues of the limbs do not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. This can happen from plaque buildup on the arteries, referred to as arteriosclerosis and from claudication, or muscle fatiguing.

Lack of Orthopedic Support

Pain
Person with foot pain (Image: Hlib Shabashnyi/iStock/Getty Images)

Shoes that fit too tightly and place pressure on the toes or supply minimal support to the arch of the foot cause foot pain. Orthotic devices can reduce foot and calf pain. However, other conditions such as obesity, causing undue weight on the lower limbs also factor into the level of pain experienced.

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