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Diseases of the Foot: Flat Foot, High Arch Foot, Hammer & Claw Toes, Hallux Valgus & Hallux Limitus

No doubt that the human foot is a marvelous evolutionary part of human body that is capable of handling tons of work. The foot, toes and heel work in perfect collaboration which take you from one place to another. However, it does experience common problems, which can affect your health in many ways. Know about the commonest diseases of the foot and get the right treatment, as needed.

The human foot is an amalgamation of 42 muscles, 26 bones and 33 ligaments. And at least 50 ligaments made in the food and tendons are made up of very strong fibrous tissue which keeps all the parts together. It also has more than 250,000 sweat glands in the body.

Diseases of the Foot

Diseases of the Foot

Here are some diseases of the foot commonly experienced by people. These condition, if identified properly can be treated appropriately.

Flat Foot

Flat foot or pes planus, is one of the most common diseases of the foot, which affects people from all over the world. It is a foot deformity when the arch of the foot collapses and the feet touches the ground. The exact reason or cause hasn’t been figured out yet, but causes like wrong foot wearing habits, or obesity are some of the staunchest reasons which possibly lead to flat foot.

This deformity can also be congenital and if the ligaments do not support the full foot structure just because they are injured (posterior tibial tendon dysfunctions) they become mal- aligned later in life. For a person suffering from flat feet, there is an increased pressure and stress on the ligaments and tendons of the foot which results in medial arch pain and overused injuries (for instance the tibial tendon dysfunctions).

The primary treatment of flat foot congenital deformity involves giving a support to the arch to control the motioning of the foot as well as balancing the weight of the body. These supports include shoes inserts, supportive shoes, and prescribed orthotic devices. And in severe cases, surgical intervention becomes important. The condition of flat foot is even worse for those suffering from accessory navicular syndrome in which there is a presence of an extra bone in the inside of the foot. The area of the foot when accustomed to prolonged pressure and stress might swell and redness can be seen around. Surgical intervention in this cases is also the last measure, if the conservative treatment options do not show satisfactory improvement.

High Arch Foot

This too is one of the common diseases of the foot. The high arch foot condition or pes cavus is exactly the opposite of flat foot. The reason being in a normal cycle, the gait cycle or walking begins with the arch in a flat position. This allows the foot to be in a loose condition so that it adapts the terrain. Those suffering from high arch foot or pes cavus, the arch doesn’t flatten itself according to the weight of the body and it sort of stays in a locked condition. The foot no longer stays flexible and therefore pounds to ground as a person walks.

Neurologic medical conditions such as Cerebral Palsy and Charcot-Marie-Tooth or CMT lead to a high arch foot condition. Also, it is also seen that many patients suffering from high arch foot develop certain calluses at the heel and ball side of the foot.

Treatment options are limited and the most common one is to help the foot in absorbing the pain in these regions. Different foot pads are inserted for padding the foot rather than just control it`s movement. Only conservative treatments are used in this condition.

Hammer and Claw Toes

Hammer and claw toes are some of the deformities which are often named for their appearances. In the normal and the lesser toe, (which doesn’t include the big toe), three phalanges are connected by these joints. When the joint closest to the foot; i.e. the proximal joint contracts, it is referred to as the hammer toe. And if the joint close to the nail contracts, then it is known as claw toe. Additionally there might also be seen the rotation in the toes, which is also known as adducto varus deformity and this is commonly seen in the fourth and the fifth toes of the feet. These are other common diseases of the foot.

In a toe deformity, the discomfort from ill fitted shoe results in redness and soreness in the area. Over the time, this condition becomes worse which leads to calluses.
Initial treatment in these foot disorders include the shoe geared changes, (such as those with higher toe boxes, protective padding in the shoes, reduction of callus to help accommodate the deformities of the foot. If the initial therapy doesn’t help in the stages, then surgical intervention becomes necessary.

The hammer and the claw toes can also be flexible (though the toes can be manually straightened). A flexible deformity only requires for a soft correction in the tissue whereas a rigid sort of deformity requires the reconstruction of the bone so as to straighten the toe and then also reduce the painful symptoms of the foot.

Hallux Valgus

When the tendons and ligaments of the foot do not stabilize the great toe, the big toe. In such cases it can rotate/deviate resulting in a bunion along the side of foot. The great or big toe is seen protruding towards one side. Mal-alignment of great or bigger toe causes proliferation in bone which results in the development of the classic protrusion of a side of bigger toe joint. This leads to an increased swelling and immense pain in the region. This can be by birth or can erupt due to wearing tight or narrow fitting shoes. It is a common diseases of foot experienced by ballet dancers, as they have to wear tight and narrow shoes.

Treatment of this condition includes relieving symptoms and correcting the deformity, if required. The pain in the region can be eased with icing at the inflammation area, rest and selecting proper shoes for wearing. If the flares of the feet worsen, then anti- inflammatory medications are prescribed to the patients. And if the pain and symptoms still persist, then surgical intervention becomes necessary. The surgical procedure involves the reconstruction and stabilization of greater toe joint.

Hallux Limitus

In this foot deformity, there is an increased change at the top great toe joint, limiting the ability of the great toe to bend backwards. During any normal walking and lifting of the feet above the ground, the greater toe dorsiflexes and the MTP joint bends. If the joint of the great toe bends, then there is also a great and heavy reduction in the range of motion ROM of the toe. It increases the pressure at the top of the toe joint. The symptoms usually include pain within the joint of the foot which is associated with an increased activity of the foot.

The conservative treatment includes using the anti- inflammatory medications, wearing of shoes which have stiff soles that the ROM of greater toe is controlled. And even if then, the pain persists or worsens, surgical intervention becomes necessary here. The surgical procedure is adopted to reduce the growth and the decompression of the greater joint. These procedures also help in restoring the ROM in the greater toe joints so as to prevent the symptoms.

As these diseases of the foot vary in their nature, so does their treatment. Getting the deformity identified and seeking early treatment can help.


  1. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Foot Pain https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/foot-pain/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050792
  2. MedlinePlus. (2021). Foot Injuries and Disorders https://medlineplus.gov/footinjuriesanddisorders.html
  3. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). (2021). Foot Pain and Problems https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/foot-pain-and-problems

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 17, 2023

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