HEALTH & WELLNESS Middle Age Maladies recent-post2  >  Putting a Sock on Foot Problems – Problems with Your Feet Don’t Have to Slow You Down

Putting a Sock on Foot Problems – Problems with Your Feet Don’t Have to Slow You Down

Putting a Sock on Foot Problems – Problems with Your Feet Don’t Have to Slow You Down
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Illustration by Sarah Stevens

BY KATHLEEN HEINS

Seventy percent of Americans say they want to be healthier five years from now but just 51 percent recognize that foot health is a huge part of that goal according to the results of an American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) survey. The APMA reports that while eight in 10 of us have experienced some kind of foot problem, close to three in 10 choose to simply live with it. Not good, especially as you age. Having a problem with lower extremities is huge when it comes to older adults slowing down. Foot problems can create a domino effect; resulting in other problems including those involving your knees, hips and lower back. Another good reason for not only taking care of your feet, but becoming better acquainted with them, is that health problems including diabetes, arthritis and circulatory issues are often first detected there.

Jane Andersen, DPM, a spokesperson for the APMA, says a number of factors contribute to foot problems as we age. ai???Our immune system is weaker, making us more susceptible to things like fungus; our muscles in the foot weaken and we develop hammertoes; and minor arthritic changes lead to changes in the mechanics of the foot contributing to the development of bunions,ai??? she states. ai???All the deformities lead to friction from shoes and the development of corns and calluses.ai???

Bottom line, itai??i??s time to stop taking our feet for granted. By making some simple changes, you can do a great deal to protect your feet, treat existing ailments, and minimize your risk of compromising your ability to remain mobile and independent as you age! The top issues as we age include:

Bunions

These swollen, sore bumps appear on the joint that connects your big toe to your foot. Theyai??i??re particularly common among women especially those with a penchant for tight, narrow, or high-heeled shoes and are not, says Katy Bowman, MS, author of Every Womanai??i??s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, due to genetics.

What to do: Ditch shoes that add salt to the wound. If itai??i??s progressed to the point that youai??i??re having problems walking, or are in pain, you may require surgery. Oftentimes it can be done on a same day basis. Bowman also recommends investing in a pair of toe alignment socks. Designed to separate, stretch and align your toes, they minimize the daily stressors we impose on our feet and are helpful for a variety of foot ailments.

Calluses and Corns

Corns and calluses form as a result of rubbing or pressure. When the surface layer of the skin thickens, irritation of the underlying tissues can result. Corns typically occur on the top of the toes or on the side of the small toe. Soft corns may look like open sores and occur between toes as they rub together. Calluses are the flat and broad cousins of the corn and are typically found on the bottom of the feet which sustains the most pressure.

What to do: Take a good look at your shoe collection. If you have an impressive selection of designer shoes, but chronic foot problems, it may be time to give them the boot (no pun intended) or at least consign them! Soak feet in warm water and try gently exfoliating the affected area. Moisturizers can also be used to keep the lesions soft. If the condition has progressed, have a doctor shave off the dead skin layers. Donai??i??t try to do this yourself if you have bad eyesight, poor circulation, or lack of feeling in your feet. ai???Over-the-counter products for corns and calluses have acid in them and should be used with caution,ai??? says Dr. Andersen. ai???They should be avoided completely in individuals with diabetes or vascular disease.ai???

Hammertoes

A deformity of the second, third, fourth, or little toe, the afflicted toe is bent at one or both joints.

What to do? Ask your doctor for toe exercises that can be done at home to stretch and strengthen the muscles says the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS). Your doctor might also recommend the use of drug store straps, cushions or non-medicated pads to relieve symptoms. Surgical options are also available; typically on an outpatient basis.

Fungal Infections

ai???Fungus is mainly caused by two fungal species,ai??? says Dr. Anderson. You want to address this one quickly because untreated it can spread to other toes. Over time infected toenails become thicker and a yellow-brown discoloration clouds the nail. White, green and black flecks can also appear. Untreated, they can cause pain, numbness, tingling and cause trouble walking. To reduce your risk of developing toe fungus, avoid walking barefooted in public areas, especially the gym. Wear shower sandals in the locker room and public showers. Wash feet daily and dry them thoroughly; particularly between the toes. Change your socks daily and more often if you go to the gym or your feet get wet.

What to do? If the infection is mild, try over-the-counter antifungal creams to treat the infection. If the condition advances you need to seek a doctor to get a prescription medication.

Heel Pain

Inflammation in the heel of the foot, known as plantar fascilitis or joggerai??i??s heel, is often most uncomfortable first thing in the morning. It can be caused by overuse, an increase in an exercise routine, and obesity.

What to do? Exercise to stretch the plantar tendons, apply cold compresses, and use shoe inserts to cushion the soles of your feet. Walking, swimming, and cycling are also beneficial (lay off pounding exercises until the pain subsides). In more severe cases, your doctor might recommend night splints, leg supports and cortisone shots. Surgical options are also available for more advanced cases.

Pain on ball of the foot

Metatarsalgia is an inflammation of the ball of your foot caused by poorly fitting shoes, or running and jumping, among other causes. The Mayo Clinic says that in some cases you may experience shooting pain, numbness or tingling and even the feeling that you have a pebble in your shoe.

What to do? Rest your foot when you can and swap uncomfortable shoes for a pair of comfortable flats. In most cases, it can heal fairly easily with rest and stretching the foot. If not, treatment may include orthotics, splinting, steroid injections, or, in some cases, surgery.

The APMA offers the following suggestions for being a better friend to your feet:

Go shoe shopping! Take an inventory of your shoes and eliminate those harming your feel (no matter how spectacular they look). Bowman recommends tracing your foot on a piece of paper (without shoes or socks) and seeing how the drawing compares to your shoe collection. ai???Many times people will find their footwear is much narrower, especially at the toe box, than their foot actually is wide,ai??? she states. Get the help of a professional for the correct fit. For shoes that meet the APMAai??i??s Seal of Acceptance, see www.apma.org/seal. Shop for shoes later in the afternoon because feet tend to swell during the day and look for those that provide support and wiggle room for your toes.

Be vigilant. Keep abreast of changes in your feet that may indicate diabetes such as a change in coloring, swelling, numbness, pain, sores that arenai??i??t healing well, ingrown or fungal toenails, bleeding corns and calluses, and dry cracks in skin; particularly at the heels.

Donai??i??t be a stiff. Be aware of joint swelling, pain or tenderness as well as redness or heat in joints, restricted movement, morning stiffness, and skin changes such as rashes and growth which may be a sign of arthritis.

Spa, aahhh! You donai??i??t have to pay for a pricey spa treatment to take good care of your feet. Wash your feet daily in warm water with a mild soap. Follow up with a moisturizer. Trim or file your nails straight across and take a good look at your feet every day. Give your feet a breather between nail polish applications. If you do plan to visit a spa, do your homework and make sure the facilities are pristine or you may come home with more than a pedicure.

Lose Weight! The AOFAS says that walking puts pressure on your feet thatai??i??s equal to 1.5 times your body weight. No wonder feet take a beating.

Andersen says that you should see a doctor for ai???any foot pain that doesnai??i??t resolve quickly including any redness, swelling or warmth, any unusual skin lesions on the foot or ankle, or nail changes.ai??? Be sure to also partner with your doctor before beginning any new foot care regimen.

Bowman recommends and illustrates a variety of exercises you can do at home in her book Every Womanai??i??s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet. For footwear suggestions see Kalso Earth Shoes at www.earthbrands.com. For information about toe alignment socks, see My-Happy Feet Original Alignment Sock at www.my-happyfeet.com.

 

 

 

 

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