Signs You Might Have a Foot Injury

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Below are symptoms from the key parts of the foot that may be signs of another injury. It is important that you do not attempt to diagnose and treat ailments by yourself. Seeing a professional foot specialist can help you avoid turning a small problem into a big one.

Common Foot Injuries 

With plantar fasciitis, the bottom of your foot may hurt when you stand, especially first thing in the morning. Pain usually occurs on the inside of the foot, near the spot where your heel and arch meet. Pain may lessen after a few steps, but can come back after rest or with prolonged movement. Poor foot mechanics often causes plantar fasciitis.

Sinus tarsi syndrome is characterized by pain and a feeling of instability in the area on the outside of the foot between the heel and the ankle bone and is often caused by an ankle sprain. With sinus tarsi syndrome, uneven surfaces may be difficult to walk on.

Stress fractures, or hairline cracks in the bone, are more common in women than in men. They most frequently occur in the lesser metatarsal bones, which are located on top of the feet. The main symptoms are swelling and pain. Probably the most common injury for aerobics instructors, and can be  caused by poor shoe selection, hard surfaces, and overuse.

Tendonitis is another injury that has pain and inflammation of the tendons of the foot or ankle. Any tendon can be involved, but would result in pain with motion and activity.  

Another overuse injury that can occur in the feet is metatarsalgia or pain in the front (ball) of the foot. This often results in pain and swelling. Sometimes there is associated numbness and burning.

Sudden, intense pain in the joint at the base of the big toe is a symptom that’s indicative of gout. 

If you experience pain, prickling, tingling, or numbness that starts in the feet, perhaps spreading into the legs, you could have peripheral neuropathy, a disorder that occurs when nerves malfunction because they’re damaged or destroyed. Peripheral neuropathy can come with many other symptoms and could be a sign of a more significant underlying disorder, so appropriate diagnosis is important. 

Causes of Heel Pain

Heel pain may be due to ligament, tendon, and/or bone injuries from a direct blow or sudden twist. Ligament and tendon problems that cause heel pain can also arise due to stress from poor foot function or daily use. Being overweight may aggravate such problems. Treatment goals for tissue problems include reducing abnormal pull on the ligaments and tendons and/or reducing abnormal stress on bones. Note that heel pain could also be due to arthritis. 

One specific type of injury that could cause heel pain is Achilles tendonitis. The main symptom of this injury is pain and swelling on the backside of your heel when you walk or run. Secondary symptoms are tight calf muscles, a limited range of motion when flexing your foot, and skin on the heel that is overly warm to the touch.

Heel pain, numbness, or tingling may also arise from nerve problems – even in different areas of your body. For example, a nerve pinched in your back may cause a sensation in your heel.

Issues with Your Toes

Severe pain or numbness in the inner toes – most commonly in the area between the third and fourth toes, and between the second and third toes – can be a sign of neuromas. The pain from neuromas may start gradually, causing burning, tingling, cramping, or numbness. Symptoms often occur after you’ve been walking or standing for an extended period of time. It might feel like you’re stepping on a lamp cord. You may need to take your shoe off and rub your foot. In some cases, the pain radiates from the tip of the toes to the ankle. Commonly called Morton’s neuroma, this problem begins when the outer coating of a nerve in your foot thickens. This thickening is usually caused by irritation that results when two bones repeatedly rub together (often due to ill-fitting shoes or abnormal bone movement). Nerve problems due to diabetes or alcoholism may also cause neuroma-like symptoms.   

Turf toe is a hyperextension of the great toe at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. This injury occurs most often with football athletes, though it can also happen with other field sports that are played on artificial turf. Depending on the force and direction of impact, a variety of injuries can occur ranging from strain or sprain of the plantar capsule to outright dislocation of the toe. This injury is often misdiagnosed by athletic staff, which is why it’s critical to visit us for a proper diagnosis by one of our foot and ankle specialists.  

What Your Nails Are Telling You

Thickened or crumbling nails may be caused by injuries. Along with thickening, the nail may appear rigid, brittle, or yellowish. The nail may also feel pain when pressure is put on it. Eventually, the nail may loosen and fall off. This condition could be caused by injury or pressure from shoes, fungal infections, or conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, or vascular disease. Because thickened nails may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, it’s important for your podiatrist to assess this condition and to look at your medical history for possible related problems.

A black-and-blue nail is usually caused by sudden or repetitive injury to a toe. This might occur during sports that involve running or stopping quickly. The injury may also result from a heavy object falling on a toe. If your toe is black and blue but not injured, see your doctor immediately.

While this list of symptoms and injuries is extensive, it’s not exhaustive – and self-diagnosis is never recommended. If you notice any unusual pain, swelling, or other sensation in your feet and ankles that don’t go away with a day or two of rest and ice, please contact us promptly to set up an appointment.

Things Your Feet Are Telling You About Your Overall Health

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**Please note that this article is intended to informative, not diagnostic. A diagnosis can only be made once we’ve had the chance to inspect and observe your feet in person. If you’ve noticed any of these changes in your feet, please make an appointment to discuss your concern with a physician in one of our locations throughout West Michigan.**

You should never forget about your feet. Not only do your feet support you day-in and day-out, but they can also act as a window into your overall health.

Early warning signs of health issues can show up on your feet first. For example, nerve issues affect the feet first because they’re farthest from our heart and spines. Similarly, our bodies send blood to internal organs and the brain before the extremities, so our feet are readily jeopardized when our bodies experience danger or threats. 

Therefore, paying attention to changes in your feet can help you catch serious problems before they manifest elsewhere.

The following symptoms could be signs of larger concerns:

Dry, flaking, itchy, or peeling skin

Dry, flaking, itchy, or peeling skin may be a sign of a thyroid condition or a fungal infection. Dry, cracked or flaky skin around the heel or on the ball of the foot could signal a thyroid condition. Other symptoms associated with thyroid conditions are weight gain, numbness in the hands, and vision problems. Itchiness and peeling are signs of athlete’s foot, though they could also be symptoms of eczema or psoriasis.  

Balding or hairless feet and toes

Balding or hairless feet and toes may be a sign of circulation problems such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). While men tend to have more toe hair than women, we all tend to have fine hairs on our toes and feet. Losing this hair could be a sign of poor blood flow, and one cause of this is PAD. Leg pain and cold lower legs are also symptoms of PAD.

Foot numbness

Foot numbness may be a sign of circulation problems like PAD, peripheral neuropathy associated with type 2 diabetes, other neurological problems, arthritis, or long-standing alcoholism. If you experience foot numbness regularly, especially while you’re active, you shouldn’t ignore it.

Neuropathy is a complication of nerves that is caused by diabetes. It damages the skin and causes loss of sensation in the feet.

Toenail discoloration

Toenail discoloration may be a sign of malignancy, injury, a fungal infection, or too many pedicures.

Black spots or lines under your toenails

Always check your feet for suspicious moles, as you would your body and face. Melanoma specifically can show up as dark spots beneath the toenails. If you’ve recently dropped something on your toe or had another injury that could cause dried blood to pool under the toenail, that could also create a similar discoloration. However, blood under the nail will grow out; skin cancer won’t.

Yellow toenails

Yellow toenails could be a sign of a fungal infection like athlete’s foot, especially if accompanied by brittleness or flaking. They could also mean that you’ve been wearing toenail polish for months in a row, without a break. As mentioned in our recent skin care tips blog post, some nail polishes contain formaldehyde, which can turn your nails yellow. 

Yellowness can also occur naturally with age.

Morning foot or heel pain

Foot or heel pain upon standing or rising in the morning may be a sign of arthritis, plantar fasciitis. If you pain occurs with the first steps out of bed, it could be related to one of these conditions.  

Foot cramping

Frequent foot cramping may be a sign of dehydration, nutrient deficiency, circulation issues, or nerve damage. Foot pain can come from cramps caused by dehydration or a lack of calcium, potassium, and magnesium in your diet. If you’re drinking enough water, especially when you exercise, and eating a healthy diet, you should make an appointment to determine if there is a more significant issue.  

Sores or Wound

A sore that won’t heal may be a sign of diabetes or skin cancer. Nerve damage from diabetes can lead to sores that you don’t feel and that can become worse or infected. Another cause of non-healing wound could be a form of malignancy. 

Cold feet

Feet that are always cold may be a sign of hypothyroidism, poor circulation (PAD), or Raynaud’s disease. Hypothyroidism is also associated with hair loss, fatigue, unexplained weight gain, and depression. If your toes are cold and turn colors (white, blue, or red), it could be due to Raynaud’s disease. This is a common condition in which blood vessels spasm and constrict when experiencing cold temperatures. 

Enlarged big toe

Suddenly enlarged big toe may be a sign of gout, inflammatory arthritis, infection, or trauma. The toe joint may be red, hot, swollen, and painful.

Increasing foot pain

Foot pain that gets worse throughout the day may be a sign of arthritis. Progressive foot pain could also be due to stress injury or fracture. Pain from fractures usually abates with rest and intensifies when bearing weight.

Changes in your gait

Changes in your gait may be a sign of neurological problems like a stroke or multiple sclerosis or a herniated disc in your back. Whenever your gait is causing you to be unstable or to experience pain, you should consult us immediately.

Swelling

Swelling could be a sign of many problems such as a stress fracture or tendon tear; circulation issues; thyroid problems; a reaction to a medication; or congestive heart failure. Swollen feet are common after standing for a long time, or a small or more substantial injury may cause it. However, excessive swelling not due to an injury should be assessed.

**Please note that this article is intended to informative, not diagnostic. A diagnosis can only be made once we’ve had the chance to inspect and observe your feet in person. If you’ve noticed any of these changes in your feet, please make an appointment to discuss your concern with a physician in one of our locations throughout West Michigan.**

Foot Care Tips for Healthcare Professionals

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As a healthcare worker, you have a mentally tough job; it’s easy to forget that being on your feet all day can also be tough on your body.

Not only do you need to take care of your feet and body to extend your daily endurance and your career – you want to avoid taking your work home with you in the form of pain.

Fortunately, proper preparation, the right footwear, and simple self-care will go a long way in keeping you happy and productive on your feet.

Finding the proper shoes

Overall, it’s imperative for foot health and to avoid injury that you find proper-fitting shoes made for standing all day. Use the following tips:

  • Find shoes with sufficient arch and heel support.

  • Shoes with a low, broad heel often provide better support and allow for more comfortable walking and standing than flat shoes. It can also decrease strain on the Achilles tendon. Health and occupational studies vary in their suggestions for heel height; the consensus is to look for heels that are at least quarter inch but less than two inches high.

  • Avoid narrow-toed or high-heeled shoes. This leads to compression of the toes which can lead to pain for worsening of deformities such as hammer toes.  

  • Shoes that absorb shock and weight distribution are particularly helpful for those that walk or stand on hard surfaces, such as an athletic shoe.

  • Other tips on fit include finding shoes with a firm grip on the heel and a fastening, such as laces or Velcro, over the instep. Both will help you avoid slipping.

Other practical gear

  • Use a mat or carpeting over a hard surface if you tend to stand in the same place or places with frequency. Look for anti-fatigue mats, which are often made of rubber, carpeting, vinyl, or wood. Thicker, softer mats may actually cause more fatigue, so be sure to do your research.

  • Consider using orthotics. See our recent blog post for information on the benefits of custom orthotics.

  • Wear socks that are made of materials that breath, that fit properly, and that are clean and dry. Tight socks or socks that bunch up because they are too big can cause blisters and other problems.

  • Consider wearing compression socks. They help decrease muscle fatigue and swelling (edema) build up for those who stand at their jobs.  

Regular practices that will help you stay on your feet

  • Rotate shoes daily. By wearing different shoes, rather than the same pair day after day, your feet will experience different pressure points and areas of support. This will give areas that are overused in one pair of shoes a rest and will ensure different muscle groups are working. This practice also allows your shoes to air out on the days when you are not wearing them.

  • Replace shoes that have worn down. Shock absorbency decreases when shoes have been worn for a long time, meaning old shoes provide little to no protection for your feet.

  • Switch between standing, walking, and sitting when possible. Walking stimulates blood flow that standing does not, and sitting gives your feet a break. Consider shifting from one foot to the other, giving one leg a chance to rest. Also, try standing with one foot in front of the other. Raise the front foot if possible. This shifts your weight from the heel to the ball of the foot, which helps with weight-bearing.

Self-care

  • Stretch throughout the day. Stretch your toes and feet out in the morning, or before your shift. Take a moment every hour or so while on the job to stretch, which will relax and lengthen the muscles in your lower legs and feet, increasing your endurance and decreasing your chances of injury. Try doing calf raises, which help pump blood that has pooled in your feet back to the body. Runner’s stretch can also be done quickly and unobtrusively in the workplace. At home, either before or after your shift, consider doing more extensive stretching.

  • Use good posture and walk with good form. Keep your back straight and your head up. Avoid slouching your shoulders. Walk from heel to toe.

  • Strengthen the lower body and core, and build up your physical endurance. Squats, weight lifting, and Pilates will strengthen your body and help with endurance for standing all day while on the job. Swimming is an excellent way to stay fit while allowing your bones and muscles to take a break from gravity and bearing your bodyweight. Furthermore, if you are overweight, your joints will experience more stress while standing all day. Healthy weight reduction will reduce this strain.

  • Elevate your feet at home after your shift.

  • Massage your feet. Give yourself a small foot massage in the morning, perhaps while you’re still in bed, to warm them up, increase blood flow, and prevent micro-tears.

  • Ice your feet if you’re experiencing swelling or inflammation. Ice them for around 10 minutes right after you get home from work and before bed.

  • Care for your feet, including proper skin care and toenail care.  

Finally, one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to check your feet regularly. Please make an appointment to discuss any concerns or issues with us. It’s important to address issues before they get worse.  

Skin Care Tips for Your Feet

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Our recent blog posts on winter foot care discussed tips for proper maintenance and finding supportive winter footwear. The former touched on one of the most important parts of keeping your feet healthy when it’s cold outside: skin care.  

Think about how you change your skincare routine for the dry heat and harsher winter conditions. Maybe you keep a hand lotion at the kitchen sink after washing dishes – it could be there year-round, but you likely use it more, or more of it, in the winter. Perhaps you use cuticle oil on your fingernails and deep conditioner or oils in your hair. You likely use lip balm more often in the winter and integrate more hydrating face masks, oils, or creams into your day or week.

Now think about what you do for your feet in the winter. Kudos to you if you’re doing anything at all! Feet are often the unsung heroes of our bodies, carrying us around all day but forgotten during our self-care regimens.

Skin care for your feet doesn’t have to be lavish or time-consuming – though we highly recommend indulging if you are inclined. The foot skincare tips we’ve provided below range from basic to more spa-like. Add any of these home care treatments, even one of them, to your daily or weekly winter skincare routine, and you will reap the benefits. Your feet will carry you through the winter with ease.

Tips for Your Feet

  1. Wash your feet daily, being sure to wash and dry thoroughly between your toes. 

  2. Use a pumice stone or foot scrub to smooth out natural calluses and dry skin, which are often worse in the winter due to dry heat. Be careful not to overdo it as scrubbing too hard or too often may irritate your skin. Ask your doctor if you have concerns – we are happy to answer your questions.

  3. Give yourself a foot bath with Epsom salts to give your feet a chance for an extra soak. Use essential oils (suggestions include tea tree oil, lavender, lemon, and mint) for a spa-like treat at home.

  4. Moisturize your feet, but not in between the toes. Use a moisturizer immediately after a wash or bath and scrub, when your skin barrier is open to receiving moisture and hydration before sealing itself off, for maximum results. Apply your moisturizer in circular motions from your heel to your toes as a form of foot massage that will help with circulation.

  5. One form of moisturizer can come in the form of a hydrating foot mask, which should also be applied after your shower or foot bath. There are many options for foot masks, including homemade and store-bought, individually packaged or in bulk format. Some of these are left on for 30 minutes to an hour, while others can be left on overnight beneath socks, allowing your skin to soak in the moisture while you sleep. Even basic, store-bought emollients like Aquaphor be used as a hydrating mask when used in this way. The next morning, simply rinse your feet and pat them dry. Note: Beware that some masks and creams may discolor your socks.

  6. One other type of foot mask is the foot peel mask. These exfoliate the dead skin on the feet, which will eventually shed off. Often these masks are meant to stay on for an hour or so, though the skin may shed over the next three to seven days. Be sure to read instructions and plan accordingly.

Tips for Your Toenails

  1. Clean beneath your toenails.

  2. Trim your toenails straight across, but not too short!

    • Note that people with diabetes should get their toenails cut by a foot specialist. 

    • Toenails with a tendency to pinch or grow should be handled by a professional.

  3. Use oil on your toe cuticles. Keeping your cuticles hydrated will help them stay strong and will prevent snags, breaks, and hangnails. Coconut oil works well because it’s antibacterial and antimicrobial.

  4. Skip the toenail polish. While your toes are bundled away in socks and boots, give your nails a break. This is helpful to your foot health for three reasons. First, leaving your toenails bare allows them to soak up creams and lotions better. Next, some nail polishes contain formaldehyde, which can turn your nails yellow – the time off will enable discolored nails to grow out. Finally, many nail polish removers can lead to nail dryness. 

These tips are suggestions and starting points. If you’re having issues with the skin on your feet or with your toenails and want to speak directly with our specialized physicians, please contact us to set up an appointment. We’re happy to help with cracks and fissures or nail and callus maintenance and to provide you with personalized care and treatment. Keep in mind that dry, cracked skin is more prone to bacterial and fungal infections and should be treated right away before the condition worsens. 

If you’re looking to relax and get pampered, either after treatment with us or otherwise, consider making an appointment at Cure – The Physician’s Salon, which adjoins our Grand Rapids Southeast location. Cure ensures safe sanitation levels through the use of medical-grade sterilizing techniques and processes overseen by board-certified podiatrists. Their environment protects those at high risk for infection, including clients living with diabetes, compromised immune systems, vascular disease, or nerve damage.