Foot Pain: Help when every step hurts

A woman is holding her hurting foot.

© Niran Phonruang |

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This article aims to identify the causes of conditions in the feet and to offer exercises to help with all kinds of foot pain.

1. The Foot

Our feet are a masterpiece of evolution, but with so many components, things can get out of balance causing injury and foot pain.

To take a step, we put the heel down and roll the whole foot until the toes are off the ground again.

The Achilles tendon, the body’s strongest tendon, buffers every step like a spring. When we lift our heels for the next step, energy is released from the spring movement and gives us new momentum.

2. Identifying Problems

✅ Step 1: Where do you have foot pain?

Roughly identify the location of the pain – in the toes, the middle of the foot, or the heel.

✅ Step 2: Find out where the pain originates and understand the causes of your problems.

✅ Step 3: Watch one of our exercise videos that applies to your specific problem. If symptoms are severe, or you are unsure whether you should do the exercises, get checked by one of our trained pain therapists.

  • For information about pain in the front of the foot or toes, click here.
  • For information about pain in the middle of the foot, click here.
  • Foot pain in the heel or Achilles tendon? Click here.

3. Pain in the Front of the Foot & Toe Pain

3.1 Hallux Valgus

Wearing high heels or tight shoes can have painful consequences – hallux valgus, also known as a bunion. The big toe bends towards the outside of the body and the medical term for this position is valgus. Surgery is often suggested, but medical intervention might not be necessary.

Instead, Liebscher & Bracht exercises can help to stretch the connective tissue and muscles of the foot and prevent the tendon from slipping further, thereby avoiding the need for surgery or other medical intervention. To help offset the common causes of this injury, find our detailed article on hallux valgus and our exercise video here.

3.2 Hallux Rigidus (Arthritis in the Joint of the Big Toe)

The medical condition hallux rigidus – literally “stiff big toe” – is caused by arthritis of the big toe joint. Those affected by this type of arthritis complain of pain and swelling or redness of the joint. 1)

Over time, those suffering from arthritis find that muscles and fasciae become increasingly inflexible and “shorten”. But arthritis in your foot does not mean that you have to suffer pain. Doing specific foot exercises can improve foot health and inflammation can be helped by eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

3.3 Hammer Toe

With hammer toes, patients often describe their toenails hitting the ground when walking. 2)

This is because your toe is pulled forward or down toward your foot’s sole due to the excessive pulling of the calf muscles.

3.4 Claw Toe or Mallet Toe

Claw toe is similar to hammertoe as painful calluses and pressure sores appear on the feet. However, a claw toe has no contact with the ground.

“Shortened” tendons, ligaments, and fasciae on the upper side of your foot are the result of a one-sided movement. Our targeted exercises help you work your way back into the stretch, allowing your foot health to return to normal.

4. Pain in the Middle of the Foot

4.1 Flat Foot / Overpronation / Fallen Arches

A flattening or lowering of the longitudinal arch is referred to as flat foot.

Symptoms include pain and swelling in the inner ankle. Standing on the ball of the forefoot causes great discomfort.3) As flat foot conditions progress, the muscles, fasciae, and tibialis posterior tendon weaken.

Monotonous and sedentary activities are common triggers for changes in the longitudinal arch of the foot. Movement, particularly walking barefoot, is important for foot health. Train the foot muscles with a tiptoe walk and stretch the calf muscles with a heel walk.4) 

4.2. Flat Foot / Lower Splayfoot / Splayfoot

With splayfoot, the transverse arch of the foot is lowered. Painful calluses between the balls of the big and small toe are typical, often described as feeling like a small stone under the foot. Your foot then becomes too wide to fit into your usual shoes.

Walking in well-padded shoes on smooth, flat surfaces means the muscles and fasciae in our feet are no longer properly challenged and become weaker. Muscles and fasciae around the metatarsal bones no longer give the foot enough support and stability, and the foot lowers causing splayfoot. Besides barefoot walking and running on different surfaces, you can try exercises to make splayfoot a thing of the past.

4.3 Metatarsalgia

Metatarsalgia is the medical name given to all load-dependent pain and foot deformities under the metatarsal heads, i.e. the balls of the feet. It is a collective and common term for many conditions in the front and middle of the foot. A painful metatarsus bone is usually the consequence of splayfoot, hammertoe, claw toe, hallux valgus, or hallux ridigus.

4.4 Hollow Foot

In the case of a hollow foot, the longitudinal arch of the foot is strongly contracted, which means that the affected foot has little contact with the ground. The greatly increased pressure on the heel and the ball of the foot can lead to pain. Long term hollow foot causes an unsteady gait, which can lead to further injuries.

We aim to normalize the fascial and muscular tensions in your foot with our bottleneck stretching and fascial roll massages. The back of your foot drops back to normal and weight is better distributed over the entire foot. Your discomfort decreases and your symptoms disappear. Click here for the exercises.

5. Pain in the Back of the Foot, Heel Pain & Ankle Pain

5.1 Achilles Tendon Pain

A typical cause of Achilles tendon pain is a strain. If symptoms continue, the tendon can become inflamed. Movements that stretch the Achilles tendon, like climbing stairs, cause particularly severe pain. If it is inflamed, you may feel a thickening of your tendon and pain if you press on it. In extreme cases, it might crunch or have bumps caused by fiber deposits.

The bursa, located between the heel bone and the Achilles tendon, can also become inflamed. The medical term for this is anterior bursitis.

As your calf muscles and Achilles tendon are connected, when the calf muscles are very tense or “shortened” and pull upwards, they pull the Achilles tendon too.

But muscles that lift the foot forward at the shin also affect the Achilles tendon. Therefore, if both the calf muscles at the back and the shin muscles at the front are strained and the fasciae become tangled, the Achilles tendon suffers injury.

To eliminate the pain permanently, the muscular-fascial tension must be normalized.

Find more about the Achilles tendon as well as treatment and exercises to relieve your pain here.

5.2 Heel Spur

With a heel spur, many people feel agonizing pain, like a nail poking into the foot with every step. Worst in the morning, the foot pain usually diminishes during the course of the day but will become stronger when the foot is strained. With heel conditions, patients cannot roll the foot properly or put weight on it, and so they protect it. People who have to stand a lot at work are plagued by a penetrating, deep pain in the back sole of the foot.

Lower heel spur: If your foot sinks too low, the tendon plate (running from the heel bone to your toe) is stretched. To relieve the strain, the foot forms a small bony calcaneus spur, a so-called plantar heel spur.

Upper heel spur: If the pull on the tendon between the heel bone and calf muscles, i.e. the Achilles tendon, becomes too great, the calcaneal spur forms at the top, where the tendon attaches. This is called a dorsal heel spur.

Both plantar and dorsal heel spurs are a response to lack of, or monotonous, movement. If you always walk in shoes and on smooth surfaces, the lack of variety of surfaces means the foot easily develops a heel spur. You can get rid of it as quickly as it came. Find out in our article our article on heel spurs.



Plantar fasciitis is a common inflammation of the tendon plate in the sole of the foot. The symptoms are almost identical to a lower calcaneal spur. Plantar fasciitis manifests itself through heel pain, which commonly occurs under pressure and stress.

5.3 Haglund Heel

Haglund heel, also known by the medical term Haglundexostosis, is an oversized bony lump at the tarsal, in the direction of the Achilles tendon. It is very similar to the foot pain caused by an (upper) heel spur as patients typically suffer from pain in the morning. But foot pain also increases during or after long periods of stress. Due to the bulge at the heel, shoes no longer fit properly and pressure points and blisters occur.

Haglund heel is caused by insufficient or overly monotonous movement. We hardly ever walk barefoot and even then, often only on smooth, flat surfaces. It is important for foot health that the foot adapts to various surfaces.

6. Development and Treatment of Foot Pain According to Liebscher & Bracht Pain Therapy

The leading cause of foot pain is one-sided movements resulting in excessive tension in your muscles and fasciae. In osteopressure, the manual therapeutic technique used by Liebscher & Bracht, signal pain receptors in the periosteum are pressed. As a result, muscular-fascial tensions can be normalized, and your foot pain will be significantly reduced or may disappear entirely after the first treatment.

Our goal is to improve foot health permanently, so you must change the patterns of one-sided movement that have led to the pain. We have developed various treatments that specifically counteract the muscular-fascial shortening that causes foot pain. In the next chapter, we show you some stretches to relieve your foot pain at home.

7. Exercises for Foot Pain

A woman is massaging her feet with a mini massage ball.

Exercise #1 Foam Roll Massage:

Take the mini ball from our foam roller set and put it on the floor. Now roll your whole foot over the mini ball. Alternatively, concentrate on the sole of your foot.

A woman is stretching her foot.

Exercise #2 Toe Bending:

Bend one leg comfortably over the other so you can grip your toes. Grip them with the whole hand and pull them towards you as far as you can. Hold for two minutes, and then change sides.

A woman is bending her toes to stretch her foot.

Exercise #3 Toe Stretch:

The counter-movement to Exercise #2: Cross one leg again, so you can grip your toes. Now push your toes down as far as possible. Stay in the stretch for two minutes and then change sides.

Liebscher & Bracht's Five Pillars of Practice


Roland Liebscher-Bracht is performing a pain-free exercise.

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Roland Liebscher-Bracht is performing a pain-free exercise.

Sign up for The Pain Relief Advisor and each week we’ll deliver free expert pain management content right to your inbox.

All gain. No pain.

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