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Painful feet and ankles - can menopause cause this?

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 6 minutes read
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For those going through menopause, the change usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, but can occur earlier or later too. It's a natural process that can lead to several physical and emotional changes, including hot flushes, anxiety, irregular periods and mood swings.

But, one thing that is less commonly talked about is the effects that menopause can have on the joints - specifically, the feet and ankles.

If you are wondering whether menopause can cause painful feet and ankles, you certainly aren't alone. It's actually something that some women going through menopause experience.

Menopause occurs due to a reduction in key hormone levels like estrogen. While foot and ankle pain may not be caused entirely by reduced hormone levels, it can definitely play a part. Let's take a closer look at the link between joint pain and menopause.

Doctor’s advice

What causes foot pain during menopause?

Sore feet during menopause is common and can be caused by some of the following:

  • Reduction of collagen - a protein that your body produces which has a vital role in the construction and function of skin, cartilage, bones, and connective tissue. The amount your body produces slows during menopause.
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis - where your bone density is lower than normal. This can be accelerated in women after menopause due to decreasing levels of estrogen, a hormone which helps to protect bone strength. This makes you more likely to have minor fractures, which can cause pain in your feet.
  • Plantar fasciitis - women with menopause commonly deal with this, due to decreased estrogen levels. This is because of reduced collagen which is important for connective tissue like the plantar fascia.
  • Weight gain - increased weight can put added stress on your feet and ankles.
  • Change in posture - injuries can change your body's posture and bad posture can result in soreness in your feet.
  • Corns or calluses - can also be the cause of pain underneath the feet.

Foot problems that can occur during menopause

  • Hot feet - Menopause can cause a hot sensation in the feet, alongside the hot flushes that can occur in other areas of the body. This can sometimes be accompanied by night sweats, and is often worsened by dehydration.
  • Dry callused skin - Dry skin is a common symptom of menopause which occurs when estrogen levels decline, reducing your body's ability to retain moisture. As a consequence, your skin dries out, particularly around your heels.
  • Arch pain - This can be caused by a variety of factors, for example, weight gain is common during menopause, which can increase the amount of pressure on your arches, ligaments and muscles that surround them. This can be particularly painful for sufferers of other joint problems such as arthritis.
  • Ball of foot pain - The natural cushioning in the ball of your foot starts to thin as you get older, causing discomfort when you walk.
  • Swollen feet and ankles - If this happens frequently, it could also be an indicator of high blood pressure, in which case, you should speak to your doctor. Dehydration can also cause swelling as our bodies store water.

How to treat feet and ankle pain during menopause

Menopause causes many changes to your body, but there are a few different things you can do to help deal with painful feet and ankles, such as:

Pain relief

Ankle and foot pain during menopause can be managed using pain relief medication, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. There are also pain relief gels available, which can be particularly handy for applying to the foot and ankle area. This is one of the most common ways to manage pain. But, if you feel as though your symptoms are still persisting, you might want to consider some other symptom management methods alongside this, such as wearing comfortable footwear, foot stretches, and weight management - which we touch more on below.

Anti-inflammatories

Anti-inflammatories can be used to alleviate pain alongside inflammation and swelling in the joints. If you experience these symptoms, anti-inflammatory gels such as FlexiSEQ and Voltaren can help reduce this. The gels are simply applied to the problem area to help reduce pain and inflammation.

Improve collagen production

Collagen production slows down during menopause; however, you can help encourage your collagen production through a variety of techniques; such as diet and supplements.

To encourage collagen production, it's recommended to eat foods that are high in protein, vitamin C, zinc, and copper. This can include foods like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, legumes, and soy. Your body is able to create collagen by merging amino acids, and with the right nutrients, you can help encourage this process.

Vitamin supplements

One way to counteract osteopenia and osteoporosis is to supplement with vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D helps by regulating the amount of calcium used for building bones. Calcium is stored inside bones, which helps form its hardness, which is why both of these are important for bones.

Weight management

Managing your weight can help reduce the amount of pressure on your feet. It is common to experience weight gain during perimenopause and menopause, which in effect, can lead to foot and ankle pain. This is due to the potential for increased pressure on the feet and ankle joints, as well as altered posture.

Wear comfortable footwear

Your shoes can make a big difference in reducing foot pain during menopause. Avoid high heels when possible and if you are wearing them you should use inserts, foot beds or cushioned soles to provide extra support.

Try not to do lots of walking or standing in heels, and ideally bring a pair of flats or athletic shoes if you're on a night out that will involve a fair bit of walking between venues.

Also try to walk on softer surfaces when walking or running. A hike in the countryside might sound pleasant but the bumpy and uneven ground could really aggravate your foot pain so don't push yourself too hard.

Start stretching your feet

Incorporating daily stretches for your feet can really help with foot pain during menopause. Doing some gentle stretches to your calves and muscles in your feet can help loosen them up. They're ideal to do in the morning to start your day and then in the evening, especially if you've done a good amount of walking or simply been on your feet a lot that day.

It's especially helpful if you have plantar fasciitis where you have regular discomfort when walking. Kinesiology tape and putting ice packs on your feet can also help ease pain.

Avoid walking barefoot

The arches in your feet need support, and cushioned shoes are designed for this. Even when you are at home, it might be a good idea to wear slippers that provide this extra support. This is a particularly good idea if you have hard or wooden floors.

When should I see a doctor?

Some self-treatment should help ease your painful feet and ankles as a result of menopause. Speak to your doctor or healthcare professional if your symptoms do not improve and are impacting your daily life to see what treatments are available.

We're here to help, so if you have any questions about painful feet and ankles as a result of menopause, please get in touch with our caring team of medical experts.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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