Aching feet are part of living an active life. They can symbolize the work you’ve put in, the distances you’ve covered and the fact you’ve honored your body with healthy movement.
But, for athletes or those who enjoy an active lifestyle, foot pain that lasts beyond a day or so can be more than just annoying discomfort—it can prevent you from performing your best or sabotage your adventures.
Whether you're pounding the pavement, hitting the trails or pushing your limits in the gym, taking care of your feet is an essential part of whole-body self-care.
In this blog, we’ll explore what causes chronic foot pain as well as some of the best natural remedies to stop foot pain in its tracks.
What Causes Foot Pain?
Not all foot pain is the same. Perhaps your feet are aching due to tight or overused muscles. Or maybe you have searing pain on the bottom, due to an inflamed plantar fascia. Or, maybe you’re recovering from a foot injury and feel soreness or numbness.
The key to getting lasting foot pain relief is understanding what type of pain you have, and the root cause of it. Here are the most common types of pain and the causes behind them:
Overuse injuries come from wear and tear on the muscles and joints of the feet. This type of pain is common in those who put repetitive stress on their feet, such as runners, dancers or soccer players. This may also be the cause of foot pain if you’ve recently increased your workout length or intensity.
Sprains and Strains
Accidents happen. And when they happen during athletic activities, foot sprains and strains are common. This is also a common issue for martial artists, jumpers and anyone who uses their feet to absorb or counter force.
Plantar fasciitis pain is typically on the sole of the foot, and occurs when the tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes becomes inflamed. This can be due to overuse or tightness in the lower leg.
Structural Issues & Weight
Issues such as flat feet or high arches can contribute to foot pain. Carrying around excess weight can also put more pressure and stress on the muscles and joints of the feet, which can lead to pain, weakness and inflammation.
While these are some of the more common potential reasons your feet may be aching, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can provide a different perspective, and treatment approach:
Common Causes of Foot Pain in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Qi Stagnation & Blood Stasis
When Qi becomes stagnant or gets blocked in the acupuncture channels of the feet, it can cause pain. But why does it become stagnant? Prolonged periods of inactivity, emotional stress, and injury are common issues that prevent the free flow of qi and blood through the channels. This type of foot pain is typically dull, sore, or stabbing. There may also be visible signs of stagnation, such as purple veins or bruising.
Excess Heat (Inflammation)
Inflammation is meant to be a healing process. But when it becomes chronic or out of control, it can create excessive internal heat that causes discomfort and other symptoms. This type of foot pain usually has a burning or searing quality. The feet themselves may look red or feel hot to the touch.
Liver, Spleen, or Kidney Deficiency
In TCM, the Liver system manages the tendons, the Spleen manages the muscles and the Kidney manages the bones. Deficiency or weakness in these organs can lead to imbalances that impact the structural integrity of the lower limbs. The goal is to restore strength and balance to these organ systems to heal the feet from the root.
5 Natural Remedies for Foot Pain
If foot pain is keeping you on the sidelines, it’s time to take action. While conventional treatments like painkillers and ice may help relieve pain temporarily, they don’t treat the root of the problem. With natural remedies and Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques, however, you can restore balance and encourage deep healing and lasting foot pain relief.
A foot massage isn't just a luxurious indulgence — it's a therapeutic practice that has significant healing benefits. Massage is an effective way to increase blood circulation quickly, promote lymphatic drainage, and ease muscle tension. Scientifically, massage stimulates the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, while also reducing inflammation and enhancing tissue flexibility. Whether using your hands, a massage ball, or a dedicated foot roller, regular massage helps combat the strain and stress on your feet.
Tui Na Massage
Tui Na is a form of Chinese therapeutic massage that targets specific acupressure points to promote the flow of Qi and blood circulation. This approach not only relaxes muscles and tendons but also addresses underlying imbalances in the body's qi flow. From a scientific standpoint, Tui Na encourages an increase in the production and release of pain-calming chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
Acupuncture is one of the most effective natural pain-relief therapies for all kinds of musculoskeletal pain – including foot pain. These tiny needles are inserted into specific points that stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissues of the feet to promote healing. Studies show that acupuncture works to stop pain by triggering the release of endorphins and quieting pain signals for issues like plantar fasciitis and other foot injuries. From a Chinese medicine point of view, acupuncture restores the free flow of qi and blood through the feet to relieve pain and stabilize the feet.
Herbal liniments use the power of Chinese herbs to relieve pain in a specific, local area. Different liniments offer different types of pain relief, but most help by promoting blood circulation and reducing inflammation.
- Ho Family Dit Da Jow | All-Around Foot Pain Relief
This liniment is designed to alleviate pain and promote healing in both muscles and joints. It is specifically helpful for inflammatory pain, tendonitis, and nerve pain.
- Herbal Ice | For Acute and Inflammatory Foot Pain
Herbal Ice liniment is inspired by the San Huang San – a traditional formula designed to powerfully cool inflammation, increase circulation and prevent bruising in new injuries. Rather than simply covering up the pain with actual ice or the icy feeling of menthol or camphor, this liniment contains therapeutically cooling herbs. They don’t feel cool to the touch, but instead counteract heat and inflammation within the tissue or area being treated.
- Ancestors Advanced Dit Da Jow | For Recovery and Prevention
This liniment has a wide range of use for pain relief, injury recovery, and prevention, which makes it a must-have for any martial artist, athlete, senior, or active person. It is based on a deeply nutritive herbal formula, which works to strengthen the muscles and joints over time to prevent pain, combat overuse, and reduce the risk of further injury.
Herbal Foot Soaks
What better way to ease sore feet than a warm bath? Herbal foot soaks combine the therapeutic benefits of herbs with the relaxing and circulating effects of warm water. Epsom salt is a key component of a healing foot soak, as it helps to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. The warming effect of a foot soak enhances blood flow and creates a soothing environment for tired and achy feet.
For even better results, infuse your foot soak with whole herb packs of Ho Family or Ancestors Advanced Formula. Decoct 20-30g of your chosen formula in 8-10 cups of water for 30 minutes to release their healing properties. Then add this water to your foot bath (top up with additional water if needed) and add Epsom salt.
Lifestyle Tips for Preventative Foot Care
The natural remedies above are great ways to naturally support healing and pain relief for your feet. But to effectively stop pain and keep it from coming back, incorporate these foot-friendly habits:
Update your footwear.
The foundation of foot health begins with the shoes you choose. If you’re struggling with foot pain, it may be time to rethink your footwear. Are your daily or workout shoes too tight? Is the arch support right for your feet? Do you need a wider fit or a firmer sole? Finding the right supportive footwear for your unique foot size, shape and preferred activities is key to preventing foot pain and improving your performance.
Practice daily foot stretches and strengthening exercises.
Did you know you can exercise your feet? Certain exercises can enhance the flexibility and strength of the muscles and ligaments in your feet, which helps to prevent injuries and weakness. What exercises should you do? Toe stretches, calf raises, and ankle circles are helpful daily exercises that can improve mobility and reduce the risk of injuries. Try picking up small objects with your toes to further enhance your foot dexterity and stability.
Treat your feet.
Tui na, acupressure, and foot soaks aren’t just for when your feet are in pain – they can also be used as regular self-care routines to keep your feet healthy, strong, and pain-free.
A 10-minute massage in the morning, evening or both can help boost circulation, ease tension and prevent stiffness. Use a gentle lotion or cream, mixed with a few drops of Ancestors Advanced Topical Arthritis and Conditioning Formula to promote healing and muscle relaxation. Then, spend extra time pressing on acupressure points such as Kidney 1, Liver 3, Spleen 4 and Urinary Bladder 60 to strengthen the feet.
Stop Foot Pain with Herbal Medicine
If aching feet are holding you back, it's time to take a step in a new direction. From external Dit Da Jow liniments and whole herb packs to acupressure and foot exercises, you can use these and other natural remedies to get back on your feet – pain-free.