BACKGROUND: Few population-based studies have examined the prevalence of foot pain in the general community. The aims of this study were therefore to determine the prevalence, correlates and impact of foot pain in a population-based sample of people aged 18 years and over living in the northwest region of Adelaide, South Australia. METHODS: The North West Adelaide Health Study is a representative longitudinal cohort study of n = 4,060 people randomly selected and recruited by telephone interview. The second stage of data collection on this cohort was undertaken between mid 2004 and early 2006. In this phase, information regarding the prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions was included. Overall, n = 3,206 participants returned to the clinic during the second visit, and as part of the assessment were asked to report whether they had pain, aching or stiffness on most days in either of their feet. Data were also collected on body mass index (BMI); major medical conditions; other joint symptoms and health-related quality of life (the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 [SF-36]). RESULTS: Overall, 17.4% (95% confidence interval 16.2 - 18.8) of participants indicated that they had foot pain, aching or stiffness in either of their feet. Females, those aged 50 years and over, classified as obese and who reported knee, hip and back pain were all significantly more likely to report foot pain. Respondents with foot pain scored lower on all domains of the SF-36 after adjustment for age, sex and BMI. CONCLUSION: Foot pain affects nearly one in five of people in the community, is associated with increased age, female sex, obesity and pain in other body regions, and has a significant detrimental impact on health-related quality of life.