Foot and Ankle Pain | MedStar Health
Close-up photo of a female doctor's hands examining a young person's foot injury

At our foot and ankle center, our fellowship-trained orthopedic specialists believe that if you are suffering from extreme ankle and foot pain or discomfort in your heel, you don’t need to live with it.

In fact, the more difficult and painful your foot and ankle issues are, the more you need to see our experts, especially if other treatments have failed. From big toe and arch pain to severe ankle arthritis, our foot and ankle specialists are experienced in diagnosing and treating a wide range of foot and ankle conditions.

Our newly renovated MedStar Health uses updated diagnostic imaging tools with dedicated foot and ankle-specific CT and X-ray. Better images lead to better diagnoses, which lead to better treatment.

Not sure what you need or who to see? Call us at 877-34-ORTHO and our helpful call center associates will guide you.

Achilles tendon tear (rupture)

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The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. It is used when you walk, run, and jump. Although it is strong, the Achilles tendon may tear, or separate, causing swelling and severe pain in the back of your ankle. You may even hear a pop or snap when the tendon tears. There are a variety of nonsurgical and surgical options for repairing an Achilles tear. Your foot and ankle specialist will recommend treatment based on the severity of your injury.

Ankle arthritis

Ankle arthritis occurs when tissue that surrounds the joint in your ankle becomes inflamed. As ankle arthritis worsens, the cartilage wears down, causing the end of the ankle bones to rub against each other. This can cause debilitating ankle pain, swelling, and stiffness, making it difficult to stand, walk, or jump.

Severe ankle arthritis can restrict your movement and impact your quality of life. However, with proper care, you can slow down arthritis and relieve painful symptoms. Our foot and ankle doctors will tailor a treatment plan to your needs, using the least invasive options, when possible.

Ankle fractures

An ankle fracture is a partial or complete break in one of your ankle bones. Fractures often occur as a result of trauma, such as a fall, blow, or severe twist. This can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Immediate and severe ankle pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising and tenderness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty walking or putting weight on the injured ankle
  • A lump or visible deformity

If you think you have a fractured ankle, it is important to have an X-ray. The type of treatment you need may vary based on where the bone is broken and the severity of the break.

Ankle sprains

An ankle sprain occurs when the ankle stretches or twists in an unnatural motion. Most commonly, ankle sprains occur during exercise or sports when the foot is awkwardly planted or is stepped on by another athlete. When this happens, you may experience bruising, swelling, itching, tenderness, and/or sharp pain in your heel and ankle.

A bunion is an inflamed bump that forms at the base of the big toe where it joins with the foot. A bunion results from the big toe pushing against the neighboring toe, pushing the big toe bone out of alignment. Bunions often develop as a result of genetics or a medical condition, such as arthritis in your feet. Symptoms may include:

  • Burning pain in the big toe
  • Inflammation
  • Numbness

Bunions tend to slowly worsen over time and while wearing tight shoes, so it is important to seek bunion treatment. If they become too severe, bunions can make it difficult to walk without discomfort. They may also increase the risk of developing arthritis and/or bursitis. When considering treatment, some of our minimally invasive bunion surgery options may allow you to bear weight on your foot immediately after surgery. Ask our foot and ankle physicians if this option is right for you.


You may have flatfoot if you have low arches or no arches in your feet. Flexible flatfoot is the most common type of flatfoot, which means your arch returns when there is no pressure on the foot. Symptoms may include:

  • Heel pain or discomfort in the arch and ankle
  • Rolled-in ankle
  • Pain along the shin bone
  • General aching in the foot or leg
  • Lower back, hip, or knee pain

It’s important to seek flatfoot treatment to prevent the development of bunions or hammertoe. Nonsurgical treatment may include rest, shoe inserts, braces, or physical therapy. For severe cases of flatfoot, surgery may be necessary to restore the arches in your feet and reduce your foot pain.

Foot arthritis

The foot contains more than 30 joints, making foot arthritis common, especially in adults over the age of 50. Foot arthritis occurs when the tissue surrounding the joints in the toes or feet becomes inflamed. The result is often excruciating pain, stiffness, and swelling, making it difficult to walk normally.

Foot arthritis or toe arthritis may lead to foot deformities, such as hammertoe. Foot or toe arthritis could also result in pain in the ball of the foot.

Foot fractures

A foot fracture, or break, may occur in any of the 26 bones found in the foot as a result of trauma or injury. Immediate and severe pain, swelling, bruising, or difficulty walking may be signs of a fracture. Because a severe sprain can often mask the symptoms of a fracture, you should be sure to see a foot specialist if you have a foot injury.


A hammertoe is a toe deformity that causes the second, third, or fourth toes to bend upward in the middle, resembling a hammer. Hammertoe symptoms may include extreme toe pain or irritation, inflammation, or a buildup of skin called calluses or corns on top of the toe. Hammertoe often occurs alongside other toe problems and it worsens over time.

High arches

Everyone has a slight curve between the heel and the ball of the foot, but for some people, an unusually high arch can cause pain and other foot issues. For example, high arches can cause plantar fasciitis, foot and ankle instability, or hammertoe. If you have painfully high arches, it’s a good idea to talk to one of our foot and ankle doctors about a treatment plan that’s right for you.

Morton’s neuroma

Morton’s neuroma is a growth of nerve tissues often found between the third and fourth toes. Sometimes referred to as a “pinched nerve,” Morton’s neuroma may result in a burning or sharp pain in the ball of your foot and toes while walking. You may also experience tingling or numbness between your toes and in the ball of your foot.

A neuroma may develop as a result of trauma, repeated stress, uncomfortable footwear, or a foot deformity, such as flatfoot. Most commonly found in women who wear high-heeled shoes, neuromas can worsen over time. Diagnosing and treating neuroma early can help to avoid surgery.

Neuromuscular disorders

Neuromuscular disorders include a variety of medical conditions that impact the muscles and nerves in the body, including your feet and ankles. And, symptoms such as cramps, pain, and tingling sensations may worsen over time.

For example, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a hereditary condition that may result in high arch feet and hammertoes or numbness and pain in the feet. Other neuromuscular disorders that affect the feet may include stroke or cerebral palsy. While there’s no cure, our experienced foot and ankle specialists will work with you to develop a treatment plan that may include a combination of physical therapy, shoe inserts (orthotics), or medication.

Ankle instability

Ankle instability is when the ankles become too weak to be reliable while walking. Some patients describe it as feeling like their ankle “gives out” or is fragile, flimsy, or wobbly. Many times, ankle instability is caused by a condition called osteochondral lesion of the talus.

Osteochondral lesions of the talus are injuries to the bottom bone of the ankle joint that involve both the bone and the overlying cartilage. They can occur after a traumatic injury, such as a fracture or sprain, or as a result of repeated trauma. Common symptoms include persistent pain, swelling, and/or a feeling of instability in the ankle.

If you have ankle instability, your doctor may advise you to restrict putting weight on your ankle. In other cases, you may need surgery to restore the normal shape and function of your ankle.


Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the tissue on the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. This tissue connects the heel bone to the toes, helping to absorb shock as you walk. However, too much pressure can cause damage. Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of severe heel pain, especially for runners. Age, obesity, and certain types of exercise may increase your risk of developing chronic plantar fasciitis.

In most cases, nonsurgical treatment can resolve severe heel and ankle pain caused by severe plantar fasciitis. Your foot and ankle physician may recommend a combination of physical therapy, medication, or night splints to help minimize inflammation and pain.

Sports injuries in the foot and ankle

Nearly 25 percent of athletic injuries are related to the foot and ankle, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Athletes that play sports involving running and jumping are at a higher risk for experiencing foot and ankle injuries. Sports injuries could include plantar fasciitis, foot and ankle sprains or fractures, and Morton’s neuroma, among others.

Our foot and ankle specialists are uniquely trained to care for a wide range of sports injuries. In fact, many of the area’s top sports teams and colleges trust us to care for their athletes, including the Baltimore Ravens, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Baltimore Blast.

Tarsal tunnel syndrome

Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in the wrist, tarsal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tarsal tunnel swells. The tunnel consists of tendons, veins, and arteries, leaving little room for expansion. This causes the tibial nerve to compress, resulting in severe pain, burning, and tingling along the inside of the ankle, heel, arch, and sole. Symptoms tend to increase as the day progresses and are usually worsened with prolonged standing or increased activity, such as walking or exercise.