Foot and Ankle

Your foot and ankle is made up of a lot of different bones, joints and soft tissues.

We have designed a three-step approach to help you understand your options and encourage you to think about all of the things that might be affecting your problem.

Where is it felt?

The foot and ankle is normally separated into 4 areas and pain can be felt in any of these areas:

There are 26 bones in the foot, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as nerves and blood vessels. Foot and ankle pain can be felt in your lower leg, around your ankle and into your foot and toes.


The largest joint (ankle) is formed between the bones of the lower leg (Tibia & Fibula) and the Talus bone. It is the joint between the foot and the leg. It is a hinge type joint that allows upward and downward movement of the foot.

an image of a foot with the ankle region highlighted


The forefoot is composed of the five metatarsal bones, the toes and soft tissues. The forefoot acts as a shock absorber and adapts to walking on uneven ground, it also plays an important role in push off when walking or running.


Image shows forefoot


The mid-foot area goes from the base of the metatarsals up to the front of the ankle. The mid-foot not only manages the forces from the body weight above, but also the twisting forces caused as the foot adapts to moving over uneven ground.

an image of a foot with the top of the foot area highlighted


The rearfoot area is made up of the subtalar joint, calcaneus (heel bone) and soft tissues. The subtalar joint sits directly under the ankle and allows the foot to roll inwards (pronation) and outwards (supination) which helps us to walk on uneven surfaces and helps with shock absorption.

a foot with the heel area highlighted

How can an MSK problem affect me?

The symptoms can be felt with simple day-to-day activities such as walking, standing, exercising or moving your foot and ankle. Foot and ankle pain can affect our ability to carry out daily activities, including work and hobbies.

At times the pain can feel severe and for some be ongoing.  This can affect our general well-being and mental health.

Why does it happen?

Feet are complex and can sometimes give us aches and pains. There are many causes of foot and ankle pain. It can affect any of us at any age.

Foot and ankle pain can start because of an injury (for example a trip or fall), from doing more than you normally do (for example increased activity or exercise) or it can also start for no obvious reason.

For many people foot and ankle pain comes on gradually, with no specific injury. This can be caused by:

  • Normal age related changes
  • The job or sports that you do
  • If you have previously had a foot or ankle injury
  • The way you walk or run

Is it serious?

Although the pain and disability caused by an episode of foot and ankle pain can be severe at first, it is not usually a sign of serious injury or damage.

However, you will need to see your GP if:

  • If you have a hot, significantly swollen and painful foot, ankle or toe or a new and unusual lump on your foot and ankle
  • If you are feeling unwell, sick or have a fever with foot and ankle pain

It is important that you do not ignore persistent foot pain.

If you have had a recent foot and ankle injury and you are unable to weight bear you need to be assessed in a minor injuries department. Go to your local minor injuries unit if:

  • You heard a snap, crack or pop noise at the time it happened
  • You are unable to stand or walk on it
  • Your foot has changed shape

Will it get better?

The answer for most people is yes as most symptoms will ease in the first 2 to 6 weeks for a new onset of foot and ankle pain or a flare-up of longstanding foot and ankle problem.  It can take some people longer to get back to their normal and some describe ongoing problems.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to help as many of these aches and pains can be managed very easily at home. Taking steps to look after your physical and mental health can give the best opportunity of a successful recovery.

Seniors exercising in the park

Reducing painful activity.

In order that you give your foot and ankle a chance to recover from an injury it is important to reduced activities that make your symptoms much worse such as running or walking and standing for long periods. However it is also important to keep the foot and ankle moving to avoid stiffness of your joints and a weakening of your muscles. Consider some of the self help information below to guide you through the recovery process.

Pair of trainers


Choosing the correct shoe is one of the most important features to get right when you have foot & Ankle pain – They are like the foundations of a building – everything else you do that follows will rely on the correct shoe being used.

lady at home with feet up on a stool. Image shows her foot and lower leg bandaged

Acute Injury Management

In the days, weeks and months following an injury there are lots of things that you can do to help yourself. Following the advice set out in Acute Injury Management will guide you through the ‘what to do and when to do it’  so that you give the injured structure the best chance of recovering.

Male doing a calf stretch

Calf Stretching

The two calf muscles at the back of your leg are connected to your heel via the Achilles tendon.  Calf muscles are very active during every day activities – lifting us up, driving us forward and stabilising our ankles. They can become tight as a result of daily activity, normal aging and some medical conditions such as diabetes.

Tight calf muscles place increased pressure on the foot and ankle and it is important to stretch them regularly to help improve the range of motion and reduce pain.

two feet on a rolling massage tube

Learn more about:

What can be done to help me?

An assessment of your problem and treatment may be necessary if the self-management advice in Step 3 does not help. Consider seeking further help.

If you continue to be concerned about the symptoms you are experiencing and are unsure what to do contact your GP practice or ring NHS Wales 111.