A Step in the Right Direction
It’s no surprise that our feet often hurt considering that an average day of walking exerts a force on the feet that’s equal to several hundred tons. All that dashing around makes feet more prone to injury than any other part of the body.
Studies show that 75 percent of people experience foot problems at some time in their lives. But despite the millions of aching feet out there, many of us don’t seek the medical attention we need for relief. Foot pain is never normal, and you shouldn’t be resigned to teetering around on sore feet. We believe that neglect and improper care — including ill-fitting shoes — bring on most foot problems.
No matter what causes your feet to ache, a podiatrist can help. A Podiatrist is a health care professional whose training focuses on the foot, ankle, and the muscles and tendons governing foot function. Specifically, a Podiatrist can help with the following issues:
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that usually starts between the toes or on the bottom of the feet. The fungus can, however, spread to other parts of the body. Signs of athlete’s foot include itchy, scaly skin, and thick, white nails. Ward off infection by washing your feet daily with soap and warm water; drying carefully, especially between the toes; and changing shoes and hose regularly to decrease moisture. A podiatrist may prescribe medication or recommend nail surgery.
Blisters are caused by skin friction. Don’t break them because you may create an opening for bacteria. Instead, apply a moleskin pad for protection, keep your feet as dry as possible and wear thick socks for extra padding. When the blister pops, leave the broken skin in place, but keep the area clean and apply an antibiotic cream. Cover it with a sterile gauze bandage.
Bunions are misaligned big toe joints that can become swollen and tender. The deformity causes the first joint of the big toe to slant outward, and the second joint to angle toward the other toes. Bunions tend to run in families, but the tendency can be aggravated by shoes that are too narrow in the forefoot and toe. Wearing wide shoes and protective pads can ease the pressure, but surgery is often required to correct the problem.
Corns and calluses are caused by underlying bone problems that cause excessive irritation. Where shoes repeatedly rub, dead skin cells pile up, creating calluses on the bottom of the foot and corns on the toes. You should never attempt to cut or dissolve corns or calluses at home. Your podiatrist can trim or protect them if they become painful, but they usually grow back unless the underlying problem is corrected surgically.
Foot odor results from excessive perspiration from the more than 250,000 sweat glands in the foot. Daily hygiene is essential to keep feet clean. Air out shoes daily to evaporate moisture, and change your socks a couple of times a day. Foot powders, antiperspirants, and soaking in vinegar and water can help lessen odor too.
Hammertoes buckle into a claw-like position and corns form at the bent joint when these toes rub against the tops of shoes. Claw toes are the result of an inherited muscle imbalance, too-small shoes or a bunion-bearing big toe that slants inward. Usually, the second toe bends into this unnatural shape, but any of the other three smaller toes can be affected as well. Square, open-toed, or prescription shoes may increase comfort.
Ingrown nails result when the corners or sides of nails dig painfully into the skin. They are frequently caused by improper nail trimming, but also by shoe pressure, injury, fungus infection, heredity, and poor foot structure. Use toenail clippers to trim nails with a slightly rounded edge. Leave nails slightly longer than the end of the toe and don’t cut into the corners.
Plantar Neuroma is a condition that occurs when two metatarsal bones — most frequently the third and fourth ones — rub together and irritate a nerve. The resulting enlargement of the nerve can produce pain, burning, tingling, or numbness between the toes and in the ball of the foot. Conservative treatment includes orthotic devices (shoe inserts that help realign the foot and distribute body weight evenly) and/or cortisone injections, but surgical removal of the growth is sometimes necessary.
Warts are caused by a virus that enters the skin through small cuts. Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to warts than adults. Most warts are harmless and benign, though they are unsightly and may be painful. Warts often come from walking barefoot on dirty surface. A podiatrist can dissolve warts painlessly with topical acid treatments or remove them surgically.
Heel pain is usually caused by a walking stride that exerts excessive stress on the heel bone. Discomfort can also result from poorly made shoes, obesity, a stress fracture of the heel bone, bruises of the fat pad under the heel, or a disease such as rheumatism or gout. To ease heel pain try wearing well-fitted shoes with soft, shock-absorbent soles. Orthotic devices may absorb some of the impact on the heels. A doctor may also prescribe nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, or suggest applying heat and/or cold to the heel. Surgery may be necessary as a last resort if heel pain is severe.
If you are suffering from any of these ailments, don’t continue to “doctor” yourself. Book an appointment with a Podiatrist today.