Proper foot care can prevent injury and unnecessary pain
Most of us use our feet all day, every day – for work, for play, to get to the car, school, shopping, and to bed after a long day at the office. With all of this walking, it’s not surprising that there are more than 300 types of foot problems that can develop.
“One of the most common problems we would see in foot and ankle is plantar fasciitis. Approximately two million Americans have it every year. Only about one million will seek medical attention for it. Plantar Fasciitis is the most common musculoskeletal problem in the human body and presents as heel pain in the morning or after prolonged standing,” says Dr. Tatiana A. Wellens-Bruschavt, podiatrist at Central Florida Foot and Ankle Center in Winter Haven. “At our office, about 40 percent of all new patients will be diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. Achilles tendonitis, bunion deformities, hammertoes, and ingrown toenails are also in the top 300 types of foot problems and can be easily and successfully treated without surgical intervention if addressed early.”
With each step, the feet are forced to carry two times your body weight. When running, the pressure is six or seven times your body weight, or several tons.
“Weight can cause problems for the feet. It increases pressure per square inch and will cause a foot to pronate more causing abnormal biomechanical forces to be distributed throughout the foot,” Dr. Wellens says. “If you are overweight, functional orthotics would help distribute the pressure equally throughout the foot and will benefit and prevent, not only existing, but future foot problems, as well.”
Trying to avoid these problems is another reason to pick fresh fruit over French fries. Every pound gained adds to the pounding your feet take. “We see a significant amount of overweight patients with plantar fasciitis, but also healthy and fit runners who are not overweight are also very prone to different biomechanical foot problems. Being overweight does pre-expose you to foot problems but does not necessarily mean you will develop one if your lifetime,” Wellens observes. “We do know that certain surgical procedures do not work as well in overweight people, and therefore, we encourage our patients to lose as much weight as possible before surgical intervention.”
To avoid the pain in the first place, exercising and stretching can help. “I believe that a common overlooked condition is ankle equinus. This is essentially a tight Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon in the back of our heel and leg is the biggest and strongest tendon in our body. When it is tight, it can cause significant problems,” says Dr. Donald J. Adamov, an associate podiatrist at Central Florida Foot and Ankle Center. “Achilles stretching is simple: lean against the wall and put the leg you are stretching behind you, toes pointed towards the wall, heel on the ground and back straight.” Dr. Adamov recommends performing these stretches 10 seconds a leg, 10 times several times a day.
When purchasing shoes, Dr. Adamov recommends shopping in the evening. “This is the time of the day when your feet will be most swollen and will help make sure the shoes are comfortable. Also, people should realize that as we age our feet can get larger. This is due to the fact that our feet can flatten out over time,” explains Dr. Adamov. “In terms of socks, make sure if you are active that a cotton sock is worn to absorb moisture and prevent athlete’s foot or a fungal infection.”
Finally, Adamov recommends seeking medical attention for any type of foot pain.
“Foot pain is not normal. Prevention is the key,” Adamov points out. “It is much easier to treat and cure foot problems when they are caught early. If pain is noticed, do not delay treatment.”
story by ANITA WHITAKER and ANNA SACHSE