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October is Foot Health Month - a time to look after, and love your feet (even though we should be doing this all the time!) After all, they carry A LOT of weight, and keep you going throughout the day!

So, let’s talk about foot pain. According to a study by My FootDr and Balance Podiatry, almost half of Australians (48%) wake up with heel, arch or foot pain at least once a week, and 6% of those say they experience it every day. Around half of respondents reported having sore feet after work, or after exercise. Despite these figures, 58% of respondents have never visited a podiatrist for specialist treatment or advice. Wow!

My FootDr co-founder and CEO Darren Stewart says the report revealed a clear information gap about the importance of podiatry in foot health.

“Most foot conditions are preventable, but they are being ignored because there is a distinct lack of awareness around proper care of feet and knowing who to turn to for professional advice,” Mr Stewart says.

“Feet are a foundation for your body and taking them for granted could lead to lifestyle-limiting permanent issues such as arthritis or conditions in other parts of your body including legs, knees, hips and lower back.”

So the moral of the story… look after your feet! There are many types of foot pain, but in this blog we’ll just discuss a few of them, how you can treat them, and what you can do to keep your feet healthy!

Heel Pain/ Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common sources of heel pain. It's is a disorder that results in pain in the heel and bottom of the foot.

The plantar fascia is the flat fibrous band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot and helps to make the foot more stiff and rigid during walking. You normally first notice early plantar fasciitis pain under your heel or in your foot arch in the morning or after resting.

What causes it?

Plantar Fasciitis is most often associated with impact and running sports. It can also occur from wearing unsupportive footwear, and in individuals with poor foot biomechanics (flat feet or weak foot arch control muscles) which stress the plantar fascia, so they become over-stretched and strained, resulting in micro-tears and injury. It is the strain, damage and injury to the tissue that you feel as pain.

Treatment

It is wise to consult a doctor or podiatrist to confirm that what you have is in fact plantar fasciitis, in which they can then develop a treatment plan to decrease your chance of future flare ups.

A physiotherapist is the expert in foot assessment and its dynamic biomechanical correction, whereas a podiatrist may be consulted for orthotics.

Some other options include:

Rest – reduce the amount and the intensity of activities that you may be doing.

Ice – a simple and effective method to reduce your pain and swelling. Apply for 20-30 minutes each 2-4 hours. A frozen water bottle is recommended as an ice foot roller.

Wear supportive shoes with a cushioned sole. Grundy’s Shoes has a wide range of shoes suited for orthotics and support. Click here to see the range.

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome

Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by a pinched nerve, where a person may experience shooting, burning, aching, numb and/or tingling pain that goes from the inside of the ankle into the arch and sole.

What causes it?

In most cases the cause is unknown, but can be the result of sprains, fractures, arthritic bone spurs, ganglions and foot deformities.

Treatment

Anti-inflammatory medications and possibly an injection of cortisone in the area around the nerve. Orthotics/supportive footwear can also help to relieve the symptoms.

Metatarsalgia (Ball of the Foot Pain)

When foot pain occurs under the ball of the foot, it is called metatarsalgia. It often occurs in association with deformities of the foot, although it can still occur without any abnormalities.

What causes it?

Metatarsalgia occurs in the region between the arch and the toes – the metatarsals (which are the long bones at the base of each toe). It can be caused by increased pressure on the metatarsal heads, which can be due to deformities of the foot, or from pressure on the outside of the foot, such as unsuitable footwear.

Treatment

Anti-inflammatory medications and possibly an injection of cortisone in the area around the nerve. Orthotics/supportive footwear can also help to relieve the symptoms.

 

Morton Neuroma

An enlargement or thickening of a nerve in the foot area between the toes, usually the third and fourth toes, which causes shooting or burning pain between the toes. Overpronation and/or wearing tight shoes is also associated with Morton Neuroma.

What causes it?

A Morton's neuroma is thought to be caused by an injury to the nerve.. The injury may be caused by damage to the metatarsal heads, the deep transverse intermetatarsal ligament (holds the metatarsal heads together) or an intermetatarsal bursa (fluid-filled sac). These can cause compression and injury to the nerve, initially causing swelling and damage to the nerve, but later leading to enlargement and thickening of the nerve.

Other causes of injury to the nerve may be having an incorrect walking style or an awkward foot structure, such as overpronation (foot rolls inward), hypermobility (too much motion), or a high arch.

Treatment

Getting orthotics, and/or wearing a pair of shoes that are wide and deep in the toe box so they don’t put pressure on the toes and metatarsals. Taping the toes with athletic tape to relieve pressure is also an option, as are anti-inflammatory medications.

Hammer Toe

Hammer Toe is a common condition that occurs in the smaller of the toes, when the joint closest to where the toe becomes the foot extends upwards, which the next joint as you move up the toe flexes downward – making the toe bent like a hammer.

What causes it?

It can be caused by hereditary leg and foot structure, but tight shoes are also a key cause of hammer toe. Sometimes it arises as a result of another medical condition like a stroke, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Treatment

Wearing sensible shoes with a wider and deeper toe box to accommodate your foot’s shape. Orthotics can also help counteract the imbalances that lead to hammer toes.

Foot exercises such as gently pulling on your toes to stretch the bent joints (for example if a joint bends up, gently stretch it down). Also putting a towel flat under your feet and using your toes to crumple it is good for flexibility.

With foot pain as a whole, alignment of your feet may be causing the pain you are experiencing.

The Foot & Leg Centre explain:

When your foot alignment is out, it puts extra strain on muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and joints. This extra load on the tissues and joints can lead to many of the types of foot pain mentioned above. It is best to find the underlying cause for your pain. Foot Mobilisation Therapy helps correct poor foot alignment. Click here to find out how Foot Mobilisation Therapy helps fix your feet!

 

Self-care for foot pain

Stretch your muscles in the feet! Try exercises such as writing your name in cursive using your big toe (repeat on each foot). This helps flush away some of the waste products that build up overnight.

Massage your feet over a tennis ball in the morning, which also flushes away painful, inflammatory fluids that can build up overnight.

How to keep your feet healthy

Walking – not only is it good for your feet, but for your overall health!

Strengthening foot muscles by picking up small objects with toes.

Stretching. Wrapping an elastic band around toes to provide resistance. Stretch your toes against the band for five seconds, then release. Repeat five times each foot.

Massaging – roll a frozen bottle of water under your heel and arch for 10-20 minutes per day to sooth muscles and loosen arches.

Check feet regularly for cuts, sores, swelling and infected toenails

Clean and dry them thoroughly when bathing/showering.

Wear supportive footwear.

Don’t wear shoes that are too tight for you – your shoes shouldn’t hurt your feet!

Rotate your shoes so you’re not wearing the same pair everyday.

Trim your toenails straight across with a nail clipper and then file to smooth the corners, which will prevent the nail from growing into your skin.

Check out our other blog posts here.

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