When it comes to maintaining foot health, wearing properly-fitting shoes is important. While wearing the appropriate pair of shoes may seem like a trivial concern, the reality is that improperly fitted shoes cause an astounding amount of injuries to the feet. The overall structure and the biomechanics of our bodies are directly affected by our posture, gait, and feet. Because of this, pain and discomfort felt throughout the body are often related to a problem in the feet. And, most foot problems usually stem from improper footwear.
Shoes should not be purchased with the expectation that they will easily stretch and contort to the size and shape of your feet. When shopping for footwear, look for shoes that fit correctly and comfortably as soon as you put them on. Do not purchase shoes that are too large or that slip in the heel area when you walk. Do not choose shoes that are loose with the intention of wearing thicker socks to compensate for the space. The widest portion of the shoe, the ball of the foot, must be made sure to fit comfortably in the shoe.
Keeping all of these suggestions in mind may be difficult when shopping and when trying to select from a wide array of different shoes. Nonetheless, your time and money will be wasted if you purchase a pair of shoes that are too uncomfortable for you to actually wear them. After finally selecting and purchasing a pair of shoes, try them on at home. To truly ensure whether or not your shoes fit comfortably with normal activity, walk around on a carpeted surface to determine how they feel on your feet.
The possibility of damaging your feet’s 33 joints, 26 bones, and 100+ ligaments is much higher than many people suspect. Finding an appropriate and properly-fitted pair of shoes is perhaps the single most important action you can take to maintain excellent foot health and help prevent injury. The fact that our feet continue to change with age is one that many people often forget. Even if our feet no longer change in size when we mature, our feet will still change in shape.
If you already have pre-existing foot problems, there is a greater possibility that wearing improperly-fitted shoes will worsen those problems. The good news, however, is that appropriate footwear is not difficult to find. While shopping for shoes, remember that improper footwear can detrimentally affect the feet, the entire body and its biomechanical structure as well. The shoes you wear can greatly impact your legs, back, and entire body, as your posture and gait are related to your feet. Finding and selecting the best properly-fitted shoes is necessary in achieving optimal health.
Diabetes affects millions of people every year. Blood vessels located all over the body are damaged due to diabetes—even the blood vessels of the feet. Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can result from slower blood flow in the legs and feet. In diabetic patients, neuropathy is very important to monitor, as diabetics are at risk for developing ulcers.
Always washing and thoroughly drying the feet are pertinent parts of diabetic foot care. There should be a focus on cleaning between the toes. Even if no pain is felt, the entire foot should be examined for redness and sores. Neuropathy can often mask the pain of sores and ulcers and can cause these conditions to be overlooked. Use a mirror to examine the underside of your feet if needed. It is recommended that diabetics wear well-fitting socks.
Patients with diabetes should have their doctor monitor their blood levels because blood sugar levels play a huge role in diabetic care. Monitoring these levels on a regular basis is highly advised. It is very important to keep your blood sugar levels in the normal range, which can be determined by your physician. There are medications that may be prescribed to help with any neuropathy experienced by the diabetic patient. It is also advisable to visit a podiatrist if one is experiencing any conditions involving the feet, such as ingrown toenails, which in more severe cases can cause infection.
Diabetic feet must be inspected daily. Diabetic foot care at home is possible if a patient is provided with instructions from their podiatrist. Patients can relieve dry heels with creams or ointments. Suspected wounds should warrant an immediate call to the podiatrist. Gangrene is a serious problem for diabetics and can lead to sepsis and amputation in its worst cases. Early treatment and daily inspection of diabetic feet are keys to staying healthy.
Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.
Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow and spread, this is the most commonly affected area. It is, however, known to grow in other places. The term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.
The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. The extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.
Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.
Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. You can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, to prevent the growth of tinea. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, opt for using topical medicated creams, ointments or sprays. These treatments help eliminate and prevent it from coming back.
Although rheumatoid arthritis attacks multiple bones and joints throughout the entire body, ninety percent of people who actually develop this condition usually do so in the foot or ankle area. Those who develop this kind of arthritis in the feet usually develop symptoms around the toes and forefeet first, before anywhere else. Rheumatoid arthritis appears to have a genetic component. If it runs in the family, then you will be more likely to develop it as well.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints. This causes inflammation of the membrane lining, and the gradual destruction of the joint’s cartilage and even bone.
Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with RA include pain and swelling of the feet. Stiffness in the feet is also another common symptom that people experience. Those who have RA in the feet usually feel the pain in the ball or sole of their feet. This can get to be very painful at times. A person's joints can even shift and become deformed after a period of time.
In order to properly diagnose RA in the feet it is usually necessary for a doctor or podiatrist to evaluate the area. Your doctor will also question you about your medical history, occupation, etc., to determine whether anything in your lifestyle may have triggered the condition. There are a number of tests that may be performed to help diagnose RA, such as a rheumatoid factor test. There is, however, no one single test that will tell you for sure if you have RA. There are different X-rays that can be taken as well to determine if a person has RA in their feet.
There is a range of treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of RA is usually a lifelong process that includes a variety of methods of treatment and therapy. Your doctor can prescribe special shoes that should help with arch support as well as heel support. A physical therapist can help those with this condition learn exercises which will keep their joints flexible. Surgery may be needed to correct some of the issues with the feet, such as bunions, and hammertoes. Fusion is usually the most successful surgical option for rheumatoid arthritis. However, people need to keep in mind that there are some risks associated with these surgeries.
While proper foot care is important for everybody, senior citizens have the tendency to be more susceptible to certain foot conditions. The elderly should therefore be well informed about any problems that may arise and about what they can do to properly avoid or treat them.
Some of the most common foot problems seniors are susceptible to include foot ulcers, ingrown toenails, fallen arches, and fungal nails. A foot ulcer is an open sore on the foot and can be a result of diabetes and decreased sensation in the feet. An ingrown toenail is defined as when the nail grows into the side of the toe. Fallen arches are indicated by the instep of the foot collapsing. A fungal nails is a condition that results in deformed and discolored toenails.
In order to avoid these conditions it is recommended that the feet be inspected by the patient on a regular basis. If these inspections are carried out routinely, there is a good likelihood that problems can be identified before they become severe, or can even be avoided altogether. If any abnormality is discovered, it is important that the individual consult a podiatrist for diagnosis and information on treatment options.
Proper foot hygiene is also important. Making sure that you always have clean, dry socks on can be a major deterrent to many different problems including bacterial infections, foot odor, and certain types of fungus. Wet feet are a major cause of many of these problems. If your socks get wet, it is important to change them. Walking around in wet socks may not only lead to various infections, but can irritate the skin and result in a number of various complications. Clean, dry feet are less likely to be affected by fungal and other infections.
As people age, the fat present on your feet begins to deteriorate. The protective nature of this fat keeps the feet healthy by providing a barrier between your bones and the ground. This also aids in giving the skin on the feet a certain amount of elasticity. This is one factor that causes elderly people to develop some serious foot issues. Foot moisturizers can be helpful to avoid certain problems associated with this. However, water-based moisturizers do not work as well for elderly people as they do for the young. Instead, it is more effective to use an emollient instead. An emollient is effective because it binds the water in the foot, keeping it from becoming absorbed too readily which will result in dry skin. Emollients also have a special property called occlusion, which provides a layer of oil on the skin. This layer prevents the foot from drying up and can be very effective in treating dry skin disorders. If you can keep the skin on your feet healthy, this will substantially reduce the number of foot problems you will encounter in old age.
Proper footwear is another way to keep feet healthy. Shoes that fit well and provide proper support help prevent ingrown toenails and fallen arches.
Certain medical conditions such as diabetes or poor blood circulation increase the risk for foot issues. For individuals with any of these conditions it is extremely important to conduct regular foot inspections to make sure that there are no sores or infections present.
During your lifetime, you will probably walk about 75,000 miles, which is quite a lot of stress to put on your feet. As you get older, the 26 bones and 30 joints in each of your feet will lose flexibility and elasticity. Your foot’s natural shock absorbers will wear down as well. Having arthritis added to this mix only makes matters worse. Your joints will become distorted and inflamed, which is why arthritic foot care needs to be something to think about every day.
When dealing with arthritis, having additional foot complications, such as bunions, hammertoes, or neuroma, can be a serious detriment. To avoid these, buy well-fitting shoes with a lower heel and good support. Arthritis causes you to lose your arch, so having shoes with good arch support is also highly recommended.
Aside from getting good arch support, the shoes need to fit comfortably and properly as well. A good place to start is by leaving a finger width between the back of the shoe and your foot to gauge proper size. It is also helpful to have a square or rounded toe box in the front to provide even more comfort. Another thing to look for is a rubber sole that can provide a cushion and absorb shock as you walk. This adds flexibility to the ball of your foot when you push off your heel to walk.
Exercise is another key aspect of arthritic foot care. Exercise not only strengthens and stretches your muscles and joints, but helps to prevent further injury and pain as well. Stretching the Achilles tendon, the tendon located in the back of your heel, will give you added mobility and reduce pain due to stress. Another thing you can do is massage your feet, kneading the ball of your foot as well as your toes from top to bottom.
Stretching the Achilles tendon is a simple exercise that you can do at home anytime. Lean against the wall with your palms flat against the surface while placing one foot forward, towards the wall, and one foot behind you. Bend your forward knee towards the wall while keeping your back knee locked straight, and make sure both your heels are completely touching the ground at all times. This will stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles as well. You will feel the stretch almost immediately. You can also stretch your toes in a couple ways. One involves taking a rubber band and wrapping it around both your big toes while your heels remain together. Then, pull them apart to stretch your big toe. You can also place a rubber band around all the toes of one of your feet. Then, try to separate each individual toe, stretching them all.
A final step you can take to help your arthritis is taking non-steroid, non-inflammatory drugs or topical medicines with capsaicin. Unfortunately, there is no complete way to remove all of your arthritic pain. However, following some of this advice can go a long way in staying as pain-free as possible.
Hyperhidrosis of the feet, also termed plantar hyperhidrosis, is characterized by excessive sweating of the feet that can be onset by any cause, such as exercise, fever, or anxiety. Most people suffering from hyperhidrosis of the feet also experience hyperhidrosis of the hands, or palmar hyperhidrosis. Approximately 1-2% of Americans suffer from this disorder.
Sweating is a healthy process utilized by the body in order to cool itself and maintain a proper internal temperature, which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. In individuals with hyperhidrosis, the sympathetic nervous system works in "overdrive", producing far more sweat than is actually needed.
Plantar hyperhidrosis is considered primary hyperhidrosis. Secondary hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating that occurs in an area other than the feet, hands, or armpits, and this indicates that is related to another medical condition, such as menopause, hyperthyroidism, or Parkinson's disease.
Symptoms of hyperhidrosis of the feet can include foot odor, athlete's foot, infections, and blisters. Because of the continual moisture, shoes and socks can rot which creates an additional foul odor and can ruin the material, requiring shoes and socks to be replaced frequently. In addition to the physical symptoms, emotional health is often affected as this disorder can be very embarrassing.
If left untreated, hyperhidrosis will usually persist throughout an individual's life. However, there are several treatment options available. A common first approach to treating hyperhidrosis of the feet is a topical ointment. Aluminum chloride, an ingredient found in antiperspirants, can be effective at treating hyperhidrosis if used in high concentration and applied to the foot daily. Some individuals can experience relief this way, while others encounter extreme irritation and are unable to use the product. Another procedure is the use of Botulinum Toxin A, commonly referred to as Botox. This is injected directly into the foot, and is effective at minimizing the sweat glands in the injected area. These injections must be repeated every 4 to 9 months.
If these treatments are ineffective, oral prescription medications may be taken in an effort to alleviate the symptoms. Again, some will experience relief while others do not. Going barefoot reportedly provides relief for most sufferers.
A final approach to combating hyperhidrosis of the feet is through surgery. Surgery has been less successful on patients with plantar hyperhidrosis than on those with palmar hyperhidrosis. It is only recommended when sweating is severe and other treatments have failed to work. This kind of surgery usually involves going into the central nervous system, and cutting nerves to stop the transmission of signals telling the foot to sweat.
The forefoot is composed of five metatarsal bones and fourteen phalanges. Each toe has three phalanges except for the big toe which only has two. Our toes play an essential role to the walking process, which is why a broken toe could seriously disrupt one’s ability to move around. Toe fractures are common and can be very painful. Fortunately, these injuries rarely require surgery and usually heal with rest and a change in activity.
Broken toes typically result from a traumatic event such as falling, stubbing the toe, or dropping something on the toe. Traumatic toe fractures may be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. At times, one may hear a “pop” or “crack” sound when the bone breaks. Common symptoms of a traumatic toe fracture include pain, throbbing, bruising, swelling, and redness.
Another type of toe fractures is a stress fracture. These injuries usually appear in the form of small hairline breaks on the bone. Stress fractures develop after repetitive activity instead of a single injury. Stress fractures occur when the muscles in the bone become too weak to absorb impact. Consequently, the toe bone becomes vulnerable to any pressure and impact it endures. Symptoms for a stress fracture in the toe include swelling without bruising, tenderness to the touch, pain that goes away with rest, and pain after walking or running.
If you suspect that you have a broken toe, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist. He or she will likely diagnose you by performing a physical exam and an X-ray. Treatment for a broken toe may include the R.I.C.E. method, buddy taping, surgery, or antibiotics. The R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is a common treatment method for many injuries because it decreases pain. Buddy tapping involves wrapping the injured toe next to an adjacent toe to keep it supported and protected. These two methods have proven to be effective in the healing process for toe fractures. The estimated healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. If the injury becomes infected or requires surgery, the estimated healing time may take eight weeks or more.
Gout is a form of arthritis that is caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. This considered to be one of the most frequently recorded medical illnesses throughout history. Gout occurrences in the US have risen within the past twenty years and the condition now affects 8.3 million people which is 4% of all Americans. Researchers have found that gout affects men more than women and African-American men more than white men.
Symptoms of gout are warmth, swelling, discoloration, and tenderness in the affected joint area. The small joint on the big toe is the most common place for a gout attack to occur.
People who are obese, gain weight excessively, drink alcohol heavily, have high blood pressure, or have abnormal kidney function are more likely to develop gout. Furthermore, certain drugs and diseases are likely to increase levels of uric acid in the joints which eventually leads to gout. You are also more likely to develop gout if you eat a lot of meat and fish.
Many who experience gout attacks will experience repeated attacks over the years. Some people who have gout symptoms, may never have them again, but others may experience them several times a year. If you have gout symptoms throughout the year, you may have recurrent gout. Those who have gout should also be careful about their urate crystals collecting in their urinary tract, because this may lead to kidney stones.
Diagnosis for gout is done by checking the level of uric acid in the joints and blood. Your podiatrist may also prescribe medicine to reduce uric acid buildup in the blood, which will help prevent any gout attacks.
To treat gout, your podiatrist may also prescribe you Anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) which will relieve the pain and swelling of a gout episode and it can also shorten a gout attack. Maintaining a healthy diet is also a proven method to prevent gout attacks.
Foot and ankle pain can be a nuisance in a person’s life, especially if it happens frequently. The best way to prevent this type of pain, is to exercise often. Regular exercise of the foot includes stretching and strength exercises. Stretching exercises can help prevent injuries such as a sprained ankle, while strength exercises can prevent ailments such as plantar fasciitis.
Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and the foot and ankle’s range of motion. These exercises can certainly help with those who participate in high-energy activities such as sports. Many athletes routinely perform foot and ankle exercises to prevent injuries like sprained ankles, which are common injuries where the tendons in the ankle are over stretched. Strength exercises help develop foot muscles for better support and protection.
Most exercises are simple and can be done at home, either standing or sitting. One chair exercise is called “limber up”. In this exercise, a person would start by sitting down with their feet flat on the floor. Then lift one leg up so the feet are not touching the floor, then rotate your foot clockwise 15-20 times, and 15-20 times counterclockwise. Repeat the same process with the opposite leg. Another sitting exercise helps stretch the back of your heel and requires an exercise band. It begins by looping the band around a heavy piece of furniture, or something stable that will not be moved when the band is tugged or pulled. Then sit directly in front of it, and slide one foot into the loop, so that the band curves around the forefoot. Start by pulling the forefoot back and holding it for 5-10 seconds. Doing this 10-15 times on each foot, will stretch the back of your heel, increasing your flexibility.
Foot exercises that require standing are also just as easy and simple. Referred as the “Achilles Stretch”, this exercise stretches the Achilles tendon, making it more flexible, helping prevent foot, ankle, and leg pain. It begins by first standing and facing the wall, with the arms outstretched and the palms on the wall. Then place one foot behind another keeping the back leg straight, and the forward leg bending at the knee. Make sure both heels are flat on the floor and adjust your stance accordingly. With your hips, lean forward to feel the stretch, you can also adjust the distance from your feet to feel the stretch in various parts of the calf. Make sure to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat the same process 3 times with each leg. An even easier foot exercise is simply walking on sand. Walking barefoot on sand both strengthens and stretches your feet.
Doing these exercises regularly can help prevent many foot and ankle problems. Other foot exercises can even relieve pain. For example, those affected with plantar fasciitis can simply sit down on a chair, and then place a tennis ball below their affected foot. By rolling the ball under the foot, and increasing or decreasing pressure, pain will be relieved. With any exercise, it is always important to do a small warmup such as walking a few laps around the house to get the blood flowing. If after doing an exercise to relieve pain such as the tennis ball exercise, or are unsure that your execution is correct, be sure to contact a podiatrist for further instruction.