Common foot and ankle issues: What you need to know

Foot and ankle pain can put a dent in your summer plans. With 26 bones in the foot, it’s no wonder we have issues from time to time.

Dr. Ronald Lepow, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, outlines some of the more common foot problems and treatment options.

Bone deformities

One of the most common bone deformities is known as hallux valgus, which is a structural deformity where the metatarsal bones spread apart, causing a prominent bone to protrude on the inside of the foot. Lepow says this condition may be treated conservatively, but usually requires surgical correction if pain persists.feet-image

Another common deformity is Tailor’s bunion, which is located on the outside part of the foot. The bunion can become very painful due to shoe irritation, Lepow says.

“The treatment for Tailor’s bunion often includes a surgical breaking of the bone so that it’s parallel with the second metatarsal bone,” he said.  “Another possible treatment for Tailor’s bunion is to get a wider pair of shoes.”

Lepow says hallux rigidus and hammertoe are also common bone deformities.

“Rheumatoid arthritis, an inherited condition which affects joints in the feet and hands, may predispose patients to bunion and hammertoe formation. Anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids may be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.”


If you’ve ever had a wart, you’re well aware of how painful they can be.

A plantar wart is a human papilloma virus infection of the foot. Lepow says warts are often spread in showers, gyms and other areas where barefoot walking is common. Depending on the type of wart you have, the treatment will vary.

“The two types of warts I see are single warts and warts that have a mosaic pattern, which are more difficult to treat and cure. Twenty two to twenty five percent of warts come back,” he said. “A lot of times I will recommend patients go to the drug store and buy a wart treatment such as salicylic acid, and sometimes that will work. However, it depends on what type of wart you have.”

Skin conditions

If you’re an avid runner or sports enthusiast, you may have experienced athlete’s foot, an infection caused by fungus found in soil.

“Athlete’s foot is picked up by contact with the fungus while walking barefoot in places such as a gym or hotel. Affected areas of the foot may burn or itch. However, they are usually cured in a week to ten days with anti-fungal medications,” Lepow said.

Ingrown nails are also very common and, depending on how often they occur, can be treated in a number of ways, Lepow says.

“Treatment depends on the history. If it’s once in a blue moon, it can be treated by removing the piece of embedded nail. If it’s something that is recurring, a more permanent solution may be required. Normally I’ll use a small bit of acid to kill the root of the nail so it doesn’t grow there anymore.”

Gout and ankle sprains

Gout, a buildup of uric acid in the blood and tissue, most commonly occurs in the big toe joint. You may experience swelling and severe pain. Seafood consumption can play a role in the development of gout.

“The first thing I ask a patient with gout is “when is the last time you had a seafood dinner?” People who ingest high concentrations of uric acid can very often have a gout attack if they are prone to the condition,” Lepow said.

Anti-inflammatory medications are often used to treat gout.

Ankle sprains, which are usually caused by a twisting injury of the foot, occur as a result of a tear or stretching of ankle ligaments.

“With an ankle sprain, I normally suggest an anti-inflammatory medication and supply an ankle brace for the patient. If the problem persists, we will order an MRI to see if the patient tore a ligament or if they need additional treatment,” he said.

Plantar fasciitis

Lepow says plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot conditions – and is often very painful. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation and partial tearing of a ligament band, which attaches the heel to the ball of the foot.

“It’s usually a result of poor arch support and overuse. It may be accompanied by a calcified spur on the heel,” he said.

Lepow says plantar fasciitis cases can often be improved with the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Custom orthotics will help as well.

Additional Resources

To schedule a visit with a Baylor podiatrist, call 713-986-6016 or make an appointment online.

Don’t flop on foot support this summer

Learn more about foot and ankle conditions.

-By Nicole Blanton

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