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Don’t let foot pain mess up your life. If you love to run, enjoy taking walks, want to be slim or just plain happy, your feet need a little TLC.
If you’re like most people, you probably just walk all over them, taking them for granted, day after day until they shout back. Then suddenly, runs are no longer fun. Walks are excruciating. If the pain continues, you’re likely to get less active-a surefire way to pack on the pounds-and you’ll start to feel miserable. Your feet are an important part of a happy, healthy lifestyle: Don’t ignore them. Even if you haven’t had a problem so far, chances are good that foot pain is in your future; 75% of Americans get it at some point. “Foot ailments develop primarily from neglect and a lack of awareness about proper foot care,” says Glenn Gastwirth, DPM, executive director of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). The good news: There is a lot you can do. Use our guide to keep you and your feet happy.
In a recent APMA survey, heel pain ranked #1 among all foot problems.
Pain in the heel and arch is most severe in the morning or after sitting for a long time and decreases with activity.
Inflammation of the fascia (a band of fibrous connective tissue) on the bottom of the foot, usually caused by excessive pronation (rolling in of the foot and ankle) and poor fitting shoes. This is the most common type of heel pain.
Stretch your calves. (See other side for an exercise.) Put on supportive shoes before you get out of bed, and wear them all day. Talk to your doctor about OTC or custom-made shoe inserts. Lose weight if needed.
Pain at the back and slightly above the heel with or without a bump. Pain can radiate into the ankle area and may be sharp when walking.
Inflammation of the Achilles tendon usually caused by overuse that results in the fibers being torn or stretched.
Rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication for acute pain, and daily stretching. Orthotics may help.
Get relief from acute pain; take an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin or ibuprofen when hurting is at its worst.
Sharp pain on the bottom of your heel when walking.
Often accompanies plantar fasciitis and is a result of repeated tearing away of the membrane that is attached to the heel bone, resulting in the development of a bony protrusion (spur).
Properly fitted shoes can reduce irritation, but you should see a doctor for an x-ray evaluation to assess the need for further treatment, including orthotics, surgery, or appropriate pain medication.
A painful reddish bump (bony growth under the skin) on the back of your heel, in the area where the Achilles tendon attaches to the bone.
Repeated pressure from poorly fitted or constructed shoes.
Avoid shoes that irritate your heel area. Wear supportive backless shoes or ones with a low back, but not flip-flops. (See our shoe review in “Walking Fit” for a brand we like.) You may see a reduction in the swelling of the area, but the bony growth will not go away, so taking care in future selection of shoes must be a priority. Surgical correction may be an option.
SKIN CONDITIONS OF THE FOOT
Most of the time, our feet are like mushrooms, stuck in dark, moist places, making them susceptible to all sorts of bacteria, fungi, or irritation.
Can occur anywhere on the foot. Those on the bottom are called plantar warts and look similar to calluses but have one or more tiny black pinpoints and can feel like you are walking on a pebble.
A virus that is usually picked up in moist places such as public pools. Can be spread from person to person.
May disappear on their own or by using an OTC treatment containing salicylic acid. For stubborn painful warts, see a doctor about laser treatments, surgical removal, or freezing of the warts.
Corns and Calluses
Raised bumps or ridges of compacted dead skin cells. Corns are usually found on the top or sides of toes, and calluses on the soles of feet. Friction and pressure from shoes can burn or be painful.
Repeated friction and pressure from poorly fitting shoes or from rubbing against an irregularity in a shoe. Can also be caused by friction from skin rubbing against bony areas on foot during repeated activity such as walking or running.
Use moleskin as padding. Never cut corns or calluses with any instrument. A doctor can trim large ones.
Don’t go barefoot!
It’s the most important thing you can do to protect your feet from injuries and infections.
Dry scaly skin, itching, inflammation, and small blisters, usually on the bottom of the foot and between the toes.
Fungus that breeds in warm, dark, moist places such as feet that perspire heavily and shoes that don’t get aired out. Can also be in public places, such as gyms and pool locker and shower rooms.
Use an OTC antifungal cream. If you don’t get relief within 2 weeks, ask your doctor about a prescription antifungal. Powders work best between toes; creams work better on exposed skin. You can also try tea tree oil (found in health food stores). Stop using if irritation occurs.
One or more toes permanently bent at the first joint. May be painful to wear shoes; may have corns on these toes.
Usually due to muscle imbalance. Tight shoes, high heels, and nylons that squeeze the toes can aggravate it. Heredity and arthritis can also be factors.
Shoes with lots of toe room. Avoid wearing high heels. Hammertoe pads available at drugstores can help reduce pressure. Ice can ease acute pain. See a doctor to discuss treatment options such as taping and padding, custom orthotic devices, or surgery.
Burning pain in the toes; may also be in the ball of the foot. Pain generally gets worse when wearing shoes or walking. Night pain is rare.
Enlarged benign growth of nerves, most often between the third and fourth toes, due to irritation or pressure from shoes.
Avoid high heels and tight shoes; wear shoes with a wide toe area, low heels, and a soft sole. Consider shoe inserts or orthotics. Ask your doctor to show you how to properly tape and pad the area. If pain interferes with daily activities, ask your doctor about corticosteroid injections to reduce the swelling and inflammation.
Yellow discolored and thickened toenails; may also have white marks. May be painful when wearing shoes. Can also have a foul smell.
Fungal infection beneath the surface of the nail. Result of contact with microscopic fungi in the environment, especially in damp areas where people walk barefoot (showers, locker rooms, swimming pools). Can be spread by sharing nail clippers with an infected person. Often starts in the skin as athlete’s foot.
Varies depending on severity. Daily cleansing over many months and following the hygiene tips on the other side may relieve or suppress mild infections. You can also try tea tree oil (found in health food stores). OTC topical creams for nail fungus (available in pharmacies) are safe and may help. The infection is best treated with oral medication and a prescribed topical therapy. If nails are thick enough to be painful, see a doctor to discuss removal of the nail and medications.
With thanks to Prevention