When Is Foot Pain Not Plantar Fasciitis?

Whenever there is foot pain it’s easy for people to point towards plantar fasciitis. While plantar fasciitis is commonly the reason why people’s feet hurt, especially athletes, there are also other causes behind it.

You don’t want to treat an issue that isn’t actually the issue, so it’s important to understand when you are suffering from plantar fasciitis and when it’s something else.

Alternative Causes

There are several reasons why you may be having foot pain that are actually related to other issues than your plantar fascia. The following causes could be reasons why you’re feeling the pain:

  • Toe mobility issues-If you have issues with your toes, you could also be feeling pain in other areas of the foot. The big toes often end up getting injured during running or sports but it’s not something that people pay much attention to. Runners often have issues with hypermobility in their toes, which can cause issues with your foot mobility in general.
  • Calf muscle issues-As you know, the muscles in your calf reach to your foot. The gastrocnemius muscles is the muscle that you can see in your calf; you know, the one that you try to make as present as possible. This muscle is attached to the Achilles tendon which is then attached to a bone in your foot. If you’re having calf muscle issues, possibly from an injury or overuse, you could also perhaps be feeling the pain in your feet as well.
  • Tarsal tunnel syndrome-Tarsal tunnel syndrome happens due to too much pressure on your tibial nerve, which runs through your ankle. If you’ve been feeling shooting pains, this could be a result of tarsal tunnel syndrome. Because plantar fasciitis often causes sharp pains, it’s easy to confuse the cause of your foot pain. It’s typically caused by injury, arthritis, diabetes, or even varicose veins.

The Most Probable Cause is Flexor Hallucis Brevis Pain

This kind of pain is one that is very easy to confuse with plantar fasciitis, due to the similar symptoms and pain. The flexor hallucis brevis runs throughout your foot, from the big toe to the cuboid bone and your midfoot. It’s what makes you able to bend your toe downward, such as what you would do when preparing to run or push off the ground for more power.

The thing about Flexor Hallucis Brevis pain is that it can lead to more serious issues since your toe is actually a stabilizer for your entire body. In fact, a dysfunctional flexor hallucis brevis can lead to issues with your arches, which is one major reason why people think that they’re suffering from plantar fasciitis, when in fact, they have issues with this very special muscle.

While the pain isn’t always excruciating, it’s still important to pay attention to it, whether it’s serious or not. What happens in one part of the body can affect other areas and you don’t want to end up with serious issues.

Treatment and Solutions for Flexor Hallucis Brevis Pain

Fortunately, you won’t have to live with this pain forever. There are things that you can do to help alleviate pain and even get rid of the issue altogether. Here are some of the most common forms of treatment:

  • Resting your feet-For many athletes, this could seem like an impossible feat but your feet will thank you for it. Injury and pain in your feet is often due to overuse and oftentimes simply resting your pained area could help you to feel better and have the pain subside.
  • Stretches-Stretching your muscle can go far in helping you to overcome the pain in your flexor hallucis brevis pain. Move it into hyper extension by stretching as much as you can, holding it for a few seconds, and then releasing. Repeat the process.
  • Wrapping-Wrapping your foot could be beneficial in protecting your foot from further impact and injury. It’s especially beneficial for decreasing inflammation in your foot, which is a big reason why you’re feeling pain.
  • Surgery-This should only ever be a solution for when you’ve tried everything else and nothing helps. You do want to take care of the use by surgery if it’s going to help you be able to use your feet again and prevent further damage.
  • Shoes-Check out the shoes that you’re wearing. They could be a factor in your pain level and why your flexor hallucis brevis has been causing you trouble. Speak to a professional about the shoes you should be wearing for your issue and particular sport. You can also see our product review guide (find details here).


If you’re feeling pain in your foot, be careful to not immediately think that it’s plantar fasciitis. You need to treat your injury or pain according to what is causing it, so if you’re go about treating plantar fasciitis when you really have issues with your flexor hallucis brevis, it’s probably not going to do much good.

My name is Michael Smith and I met both Sandra and Dave as clients. I’ve been working as a physiotherapist for the past 10 years now, which is a job I love doing.

See, I once had a promising football career which started with the Texas Longhorns, but unfortunately was cut short after just 1 semester when I suffered quite a serious knee injury.

I spent about 18 months going through 3 surgeries and endless hours of physiotherapy. Unfortunately, it was the end of my pro football career, but it opened my eyes to remaining involved in sports and helping athletes recover.

My main focus is sports injuries and I’m set up as a private practice. Maybe one day I’ll try and become involved in a college or pro football team, but at the moment I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being my own boss.

In my spare time I still coach football, but unfortunately, I cannot play anymore. The nature of my injury was quite severe and has significantly weakened my knee, so I just can’t take such risks anymore.

But coaching kids and teenagers, and helping them prepare for college try-outs is something I absolutely love doing. And reaching a wider audience with some tips on preventing sports injuries is what I hope to achieve on this site.

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