What do you do when you lose sleep at night over painful feet? Do you take an over-the-counter pain killer? Do you surf the internet looking for answers? Well, look no more my friend, in this article we’ve compiled the most common causes of aching feet at night, what they feel like and what you can do about it.
Symptoms of Aching Feet at Night
Aside from aching feet at night, other signs can be associated with it. It’s very important to keep an eye out for these symptoms and report it to your doctor on your next visit, these include the following:
- Formation of calluses in the foot
- Pain when active
- Pain when inactive
- Pain on touch
Causes of Aching Feet at Night1–5
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive dysfunction, and mood disorders.
Foot pain is a common complaint among patients suffering from fibromyalgia. In fact, many people who suffer from fibromyalgia have been diagnosed with some type of foot problem.
When blood circulates properly in your body, it carries oxygen and nutrients to cells and removes carbon dioxide and metabolic wastes. Feet pain is often caused by poor blood circulation. Poor circulation causes swelling and inflammation of the soft tissues around the ankles and feet which eventually leads to foot pain, muscle spasms, and leg cramps.
Foot massage helps improve blood circulation and relieve tension in the muscles and joints. A foot rub can help reduce pain and stiffness, increase flexibility, and promote healing.
Poor Sleep Quality
Poor sleep quality often results in poor posture and soreness throughout the day. Sleeping on hard surfaces, such as concrete, can contribute to backaches and leg cramps.
Overuse or Previous Injuries
Overuse injuries occur when people use their bodies too much without rest, this is referred to as the infamous ‘wear and tear’. These injuries can range from minor sprains to serious fractures.
Diabetes is a disease where the body doesn’t generate enough insulin hormone which helps the body store and utilize glucose from food. When the body isn’t able to make enough insulin, glucose accumulates and stays in the blood forming what’s called hyperglycemia. As a result, this can damage nerves, eyes, kidneys, heart, and blood vessels. Diabetic nerve damage may result in numbness, tingling, burning, or weakness in the legs and feet. Thus, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, then you are at a higher risk of developing a condition known as diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy is a condition where the nerves in the legs become damaged. In addition to nerve damage, the blood vessels in the legs can also become damaged. When these two things happen together, they can cause severe pain in the feet.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition where connective tissues in the foot become inflamed. This inflammation causes pain and swelling in the heel area.
While many people have experienced plantar fasciitis at some point in their lives, it is not considered a normal part of aging. Nevertheless, it can be the root cause of significant foot pain at night.
Morton's Neuroma is a health condition where the nerve endings in the fingers become inflamed due to repetitive motion. Since this is a disease that affects the nerves it comes with the classic signs of tingling, numbness, and shooting pain. If left untreated, it can cause extensive and irreversible damage to the nerves and surrounding tissue.
Granted, this disease is not specific for symptoms that appear only at night, but they can persist all day long and at nighttime as well.
Some people are genetically predisposed to experience foot pain due to how their feet were formed. This includes people with flat feet or deformed feet.
Metatarsalgia is a disease affecting the bones of your big toes —also known as the metatarsal bones— where they become painful due to pressure from shoes. In some cases, the pain may extend down the leg to the knee or hip area. If you have metatarsalgia, you might notice sharp pains in your foot, especially when you first put on your shoes in the morning. You may feel tenderness around the joints of the toes, and sometimes even bruising.
The reasons behind metatarsalgia are varied, but often they stem from wearing ill-fitting footwear. Wearing high heels, boots, and tight shoes can cause the muscles and tendons around the feet to tighten. This in turn leads to callus formations on the feet, which can then rub against the shoe causing friction and irritation.
Gout is a condition that’s characterized by the accumulation of uric acid crystals between your joints. Evidently, pain develops in the middle of the night which can disturb sleep and even cause sleep apnea. One of the most common places for these crystals to accumulate is in the big toe which will eventually result in extreme pain and aches in the feet.6,7
Age and Aching Feet
It’s important to note that old age is one of the risk factors for chronic aching feet. Luckily, a study published in the journal of Maturitasin 2016, found that proper foot care is highly effective and beneficial in reducing pain.8
What You Can Do About it?
If you’re not experiencing aching feet at night, you can take measures to prevent this from happening by practicing good foot care. The best way to care for your feet is to keep them clean and dry. Use warm water and soap to wash your feet daily. Dry your feet thoroughly after washing. Wear comfortable shoes that are not tight and fit you well. Avoid wearing tight shoes and socks. Wearing shoes that fail to provide appropriate support for your foot arch can cause painful feet.
On the other hand, if you notice any changes in your feet, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist or doctor. They may recommend management strategies and treatment to help you relieve your symptoms.
The Bottom Line
Foot pain at nighttime can be caused by many distinct factors which is why it’s crucial to get examined by a doctor or a podiatrist so that they can determine the cause and guide you towards the best treatment plan for you.
- Boulton AJM. Diabetic neuropathy and foot complications. Handb Clin Neurol [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2022 Jul 16];126:97–107. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25410217/
- Gutteck N, Schilde S, Delank KS. Pain on the Plantar Surface of the Foot. DeutschesArzteblatt international [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2022 Jul 16];116(6):83–8. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30892183/
- Rosenbaum AJ, DiPreta JA, Misener D. Plantar Heel Pain. Medical Clinics of North America. 2014 Mar;98(2):339–52.
- Balasubramanian G, Vas P, Chockalingam N, Naemi R. A Synoptic Overview of Neurovascular Interactions in the Foot. Frontiers in Endocrinology [Internet]. 2020 May 22 [cited 2022 Jul 16];11. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32528410/
- Serpas DG, Zettel-Watson L, Cherry BJ. Fibromyalgia status and depressive symptoms are linked to body mass index and physical performance in mid to late life. Psychol Health Med [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 16]; Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34758657/
- Abrams B. Sleep apnea and gout. Canadian Family Physician. 2009 Mar;55(3):243–4.
- Gout Causes, Symptoms & Pain Treatment | Advanced Foot & Ankle [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jul 16]. Available from: https://www.afacc.net/foot-problems/gout/
- Menz HB. Chronic foot pain in older people. Maturitas. 2016 Sep 1;91:110–4.