Almost all of us have experienced nerve pain in our foot before, whether it's from bad shoes or something anatomical like a neuroma.

Sciatic nerve pain in the foot is usually accompanied by a sharp pain in the leg.
Sciatica Animated Video

The nerve pain in your foot is often provoked by problems within the foot itself, but in some cases it may be caused by a problem with your lumbar spine.

Watch: Spinal Causes of Foot Pain Video

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Nerve pain caused by a spinal problem

If you’re like most people, you might be surprised to learn that the nerve pain in your foot may be caused by a problem in an area as far away as your lumbar spine (lower back). This type of foot pain occurs when an underlying medical problem related to your lumbar spine provokes sciatica symptoms along the large sciatic nerve in your leg. In turn, these painful symptoms may travel all the way down the nerve into your foot.

Watch: Sciatic Nerve Anatomy Video

Sciatica results from the compression of the lumbar spinal nerves that make up your sciatic nerve. Common spine-related causes of sciatica include:

See Sciatica Causes

Local causes of nerve pain

While a problem with your spine may be the cause of your foot pain, it is important to remember that there are multiple nerves in your foot, and any of these can be pinched or irritated within the foot itself. For example, tight shoes—and possibly high heels—can pinch a nerve and provoke a burning or electric-like sensation.

See Causes of Leg Pain and Foot Pain

Additionally, a corn may develop in or around your toes. Corns grow over time as a result of excessive friction, and they can compress nearby nerves and cause pain and other symptoms. Another possible cause of nerve pain in your foot is Morton’s neuroma, which is a thickening of the tissue around a nerve in your foot.

Simple tests can help reveal whether foot pain is the result of an underlying spine condition.
Diagnosing Causes of Foot Drop

Determining the source of your foot pain

With all the possible causes of nerve pain in your foot, how can you determine if your foot pain is provoked by an underlying lumbar spine problem? The primary indication as to whether your foot pain is caused by a problem with your spine is if you are also experiencing leg pain. Telltale signs can also include:

  • Difficulty bringing your foot up or walking on your tip-toes.
  • Foot heaviness or weakness—commonly referred to as foot drop.

See Foot Drop Symptoms, Steppage Gait & Other Warning Signs

It is also more common for foot pain related to a lumbar spine problem to present only on one side of the body. If both feet are affected, it is less likely sciatica, but spine-related conditions such as lumbar spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis can lead to symptoms in both legs.

See Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Symptoms

Schedule a visit with your doctor

It is important you schedule an appointment with your doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis as to the cause of your foot pain. This is because you need to treat the underlying cause of your foot pain, not just the symptoms—and treatments for the various causes of foot pain can differ wildly. For example, a lumbar herniated disc may require heat therapy and exercise, while a corn on your toe can often be treated with new shoes and warm water.

See Foot Pain Causes and Treatments

The good news is that most cases of sciatica resolve within 6 to 12 weeks; so if your foot pain is caused by sciatica you likely won’t have to put up with long-term symptoms.

Learn more:

Foot Drop Treatments

Sciatica Treatment