The lower leg is composed 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 are grouped into one of three categories — shoes that fit improperly, medical conditions or injury from impact.
Foot and calf pain can be caused by muscle fatigue, overuse, injury, underlying medical conditions or shoes that don't fit right.
Exercise and Sore Calves
High-impact movement, such as running, aerobics and 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.
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Overuse of Calf Muscle
Individuals with abnormalities of the foot experience pain in the lower limbs from overuse. Cavus foot, or unusually high arches, is a condition that results in excessive tension placed on the ball and heel of the foot when engaged in normal movement. This foot condition is problematic when overuse in the form of prolonged walking, running or other exercise occurs.
Achilles tendinitis is another form of overuse that can occur that's not related to foot abnormality. Inflammation and irritation in the tendon happen 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 and Calf Pain
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 can cause pain and weakness in the leg and foot.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clot formation, can cause leg pain. This condition can be life-threatening if the clot becomes dislodged and travels to the lungs. In addition to pain, DVT often causes redness and warmth in the back of your calf, according to Mayo Clinic. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you might have a DVT.
Pain may occur when tissues of the limbs do not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. This can happen from plaque buildup in the arteries, referred to as arteriosclerosis, and from claudication or muscle fatigue.
Lack of Orthopedic Support
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, that cause undue weight on the lower limbs also factor into the level of pain experienced. See a podiatrist or physical therapist for an evaluation to determine which orthotic intervention is most appropriate for you.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.