5 Simple Ways to Soothe Foot Pain

On your feet much of the day? Consider these quick pain relief tricks.

close up of nurses shoes walking

Updated on May 25, 2023.

Foot pain is a common issue, affecting up to 1 in 3 adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Women, older people, and those with obesity have a higher risk.  

Another big risk factor: spending a lot of time on your feet, which can cause discomfort and may even lead to issues like plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. No matter how comfortable your shoe, you’re more vulnerable if you’re consistently standing or walking for many hours each day.

You can both ease your pain and lower your odds of foot problems, however, by taking a few simple steps.

Experiment with shoe inserts

Shoe inserts help support the ball of your foot and allow your toes to spread out wider when you walk, meaning less pain at the end of the day. Over-the-counter inserts are typically easy to find, too, with numerous options in many drugstores and malls. 

Before choosing a shoe insert, consider the type of pain you have and the location of the pain:

  • Arch supports will support the foot’s natural arch, whether you have high or low arches.
  • Insoles slide into your shoe and offer cushion and support.
  • Heel pads, heel liners, and heel cups support and cushion your heel.
  • Foot cushions prevent your shoes from rubbing against your heels, toes, or sides of the foot.

Consider orthotics

If over-the-counter inserts aren’t working, prescription orthotics may be a good fit. Orthotics are custom-made inserts that help manage irregular foot mechanics so you can move better. The devices match the contours of your feet and the natural way they move.

A podiatrist can fit you for orthotics based on your condition and your level of pain. Functional orthotics help correct irregular motions and help ease injuries such as shin splints and tendinitis. Accommodative orthotics provide cushioning and support for painful issues like foot ulcers or foot calluses.

Use an Epsom salt bath

No matter what type of soreness you have, many people swear by a relaxing Epsom salt foot bath to relieve discomfort. Good old-fashioned Epsom salts are available at most grocery stores and pharmacies.

Try your hand at massaging

While you may not be a masseuse, even an amateur foot rub may help ease pain throughout your body, not to mention anxiety associated with that pain. Here’s a simple, step-by-step massage routine for beginners:

  1. Wash your feet with warm soap and water, then apply a small amount of lotion.
  2. Start rubbing at the bases of your little toes. Apply slight pressure on the flesh between your little toe and the next toe over. Move to your middle toe. Massage, stretch, and pull your middle toe in a circular motion, then do the same with your other toes.
  3. Once your toes are finished, knead your arches and soles using your thumbs, knuckles, or heel of your hand.
  4. With your fingertips or the palms of your hands, gently apply pressure to both sides of your heel just below the ankle, and then rub around your ankle clockwise.
  5. Finally, knead and squeeze your calf muscle to release tension.
  6. Repeat on the second foot.

Try not to rub too lightly, which won’t have much of an impact, or too hard, since it could injure your foot. If you have an existing health condition that affects your feet, such as arthritis or diabetic neuropathy, speak with a healthcare provider beforehand to make sure massage is the right choice for you.

Exercise your feet

It may be the last thing you want to do after a long day, but you might be surprised at the relief you’ll feel from moving your feet around. Here are a few exercises to strengthen feet and reduce soreness.

Tennis ball roll: Roll a tennis ball under your foot from heel to toe and back again. Keep repeating for 1 minute on each foot.

Big-toe stretch: Take a thick rubber band and place it on your two big toes. Pull the toes away from each other and towards your other toes. Hold the pose for 5 seconds and repeat the move 10 times.

Pick up marbles: Place 20 marbles on the floor near a small bowl. Use your toes to pick up one marble at a time and drop it in the bowl. Do it until all the marbles are cleaned up. 

Towel curls: Place a towel on the floor. Grip the towel between your toes and curl towards your body. Relax your grip and repeat the exercise five times.

Sand walking: When you’re at the beach, take every opportunity to walk in the sand—it’ll massage your feet and improve your toe strength.

Article sources open article sources

Gates LS, Arden NK, Hannan MT, et al. Prevalence of foot pain across an international consortium of population based cohorts. Arthritis Care & Research. 2019 May ; 71(5): 661–670. 
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. OrthoInfo. Plantar Fasciitis and Bone Spurs. Page last upated August 2022. 
Mayo Clinic. Plantar fasciitis. January 20, 2022.
American Podiatric Medical Association. Prescription Custom Orthotics and Shoe Inserts. Accessed on March 17, 2023.
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Foundation. Foot Flexibility Exercises. Accessed on March 17, 2023. 

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