The aim of this study was to evaluate the relative contribution of structural foot characteristics and comorbidities to the presence of disabling foot pain in older people. One hundred seventy-two people (55 men and 117 women) aged 62 to 96 years (mean +/- SD, 80.1 +/- 6.4 years) who lived in a retirement village underwent tests of foot posture, range of motion, and deformity in addition to completing a medical history questionnaire. Disabling foot pain was determined using the Manchester Foot Pain and Disability Index. Thirty-eight subjects (22%) reported disabling foot pain. Subjects with disabling foot pain had a higher body mass index and were more likely to be female; to report osteoarthritis in the spine, hips, hands or wrists, and feet; and to report pain in the back, hips, and hands or wrists. The only significant difference between the groups regarding structural foot characteristics was that those with disabling foot pain exhibited more severe hallux valgus deformity. The strongest determinants of disabling foot pain revealed by a discriminant function analysis were foot osteoarthritis, pain in the hips, and pain in the hands or wrists. These findings indicate that disabling foot pain in older people is more closely related to pain and osteoarthritis in other body regions than to structural characteristics of the foot, and they suggest that more severe forms of foot pain in older people may be a component of a general chronic pain syndrome or a polyarticular form of osteoarthritis.