Foot Care

Healthy feet are an important part of general well-being. Although we may not pay much attention to them when we're feeling fine, pain in the feet or ankles may stand in the way of everyday tasks and exercise. Our feet and ankles are our foundations, and so problems with these may actually cause pain in the legs, pelvis, or lower back. The first step to healthy feet is taking good care of them. 

Follow these 10 essential tips, and you'll be making great strides in achieving and maintaining foot health: 

  1. Remember that foot pain isn't normal, and shouldn't be ignored. Consult a podiatric physician about any pain that persists or reoccurs. 
  2. Inspect your feet regularly, paying close attention to color changes, foot temperature, and changes in the toenails, as well as cracks, cuts, peeling, scaling, or any growths. 
  3. Wash your feet daily, being sure to wash & dry thoroughly between your toes. 
  4. Toenails should be trimmed straight across...but not too short! Diabetics should get their toenails cut by a foot specialist. 
  5. Properly fitted shoes are important. Shop for new shoes later in the day when feet are at their largest, and replace worn shoes. 
  6. Select the right footwear for your activity. 
  7. Wear moisture-absorbing socks. 
  8. Don't walk barefoot, as this increases your chances of injury or infection.
  9. Care for your feet by moisturizing them (but not in between the toes) and using sunblock when at the beach.
  10. Don't attempt to treat ailments by yourself. See a professional foot specialist to avoid turning a small problem into a big one!

Flat Feet

WHAT ARE FLAT FEET?

The arch of your foot is its main supportive structure. If this arch loses strength, the bony framework begins to collapse, causing your foot to flatten. Like a sagging bridge, the weakness in the middle strains the joints at both ends of your foot.

Causes

There are many causes of flat feet. Some people are born with them. Others acquire flat feet as a result of arthritis, trauma, or musculoskeletal disease. Overuse or repeated pounding on hard surfaces can also weaken the foot’s arch.

Symptoms

Discomfort from flat feet often doesn’t appear for years. At some point, pain may be felt and walking may become awkward as increasing strain is put on your feet and calves.


Related Problems

The excess strain from flat feet can cause other foot problems, such as hammertoes, bunions, heel spurs, arch strain, corns, neuromas, and sagging joints. Flat feet can also affect other parts of the body, causing fatigue, pain, or stiffness in the ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.

Medical History and Physical Exam

To determine the best treatment for your problem, your podiatrist looks at your medical history, such as any medical problems you may have had in the past. He or she asks about the length and frequency of your symptoms, the types of activities you do, and any pain or problems you may have in other parts of your body. Your podiatrist does a complete examination of your foot, including a gait analysis to observe the movement and stability of your legs and feet as you walk.

Testing

If your problem is severe and your podiatrist suspects a bone problem, x-rays may be needed. If other problems are suspected, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) may be done, which reveals cross-sectional images of soft tissue and bone.

HOW DOES MY PODIATRIST TREAT FLAT FEET?

If flat feet are diagnosed at an early age, chances are good that nonsurgical treatment, such as strapping, custom shoe inserts (orthotics), or medication can help the problem.

Nonsurgical Care

  • Strapping: Taping your feet may help by temporarily maintaining the proper position of your feet.
  • Orthotics: Custom orthotics can readjust the weight-bearing position of your feet. Soft, semi-flexible, or rigid inserts may be used, depending on your weight and physical activity.
  • Medication: You may be given anti-inflammatory medication to temporarily relieve pain caused by flat feet.

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT FLAT FEET?

To help ease the pain of flat feet, try the following as part of your daily routine. If you have continuing problems, be sure to see your podiatrist.

Stretching
To stretch your soles and tendons, try this: Lean on something stationary, with one leg in front of the other and both heels flat. Bend the front knee. Hold for 10 seconds. Bend your back knee, bringing the heel up. Hold for 10 seonds. Do this 5 times with each leg.

Shoes
Be sure your shoes are supportive and comfortable, with enough space in the toe box for toes to wiggle. Women should wear low-heeled shoes, not pumps.

Soaking and Massage
Warm-water soaks or ice massages can help relieve pain. But if you have diabetes or a circulation problem, talk with your podiatrist first.

Exercises

It's important to keep your feet and ankles moving so they stay healthy and strong. The seven exercises below will help stretch and strengthen your feet and ankles. These exercises are not a substitute for professional podiatric or other medical care. Remember to breathe normally and not to bounce during these exercises. If you feel pain while performing these exercises, stop. Please consult your health care provider before beginning this or any other exercise regimen. 

1. Balancing Act

In bare feet, stand up straight, arms out to the side for balance. Lift your right foot up towards your rear, several inches off the ground. Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds, then return to starting position. Repeat with the left foot. Try to maintain your balance for longer, adding on a few seconds when you feel comfortable.

- Remember: Do this exercise near a wall or counter, in case you lose your balance. 

2. Ankle Alphabet

Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Resting your lower right calf on a thick rolled-up towel, write each letter of the alphabet in the air with your foot. Repeat with your left foot. 

3. Calf Stretch (straight knee) 

Stand facing the wall, about an arm's length away. Place both palms on the wall, then step forward about 12 inches with your right foot. Keeping both heels on the floor, slightly bend your right leg, keeping your left leg straight. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat with your left leg. 

- Remember: Don't arch your back or hunch your shoulders. 

4. Calf Stretch (bent knee) 

Stand facing the wall, about an arm's length away. Place both palms on the wall, then step forward about 12 inches with your right foot. Keeping both heels on the floor, slightly bend both legs. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax. Repeat with your left leg. 

5. Ankle Push

Sit in a chair near a hard, study surface such as a wall or chair leg. Keeping your heel on the ground, push the outside edge of your right foot against the sturdy surface and hold for 5 seconds. Next, keeping your heel on the ground, push the inside edge of your right foot against the sturdy surface and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat both exercises with your left foot. As you get stronger, try pushing for a few extra seconds. 

- Remember: Don't use your leg to push; only use your foot. 

6. Calf Raise 

Stand, facing a sturdy table or counter for balance, and lift your right foot back, bending your knee to a 90 degree angle. Slowly bring your left heel a few inches off the ground, hold for 1 count, then gently lower your heel back down to the floor. Repeat for a total of 10 of these exercises with your right foot. Repeat with your left foot. 

- Remember: Keep your back straight, and only use the counter for balance. 

7. Seated Calf Raise

Sit barefoot in chair and place your right heel on a dictionary, phone book, or other item (no more than 3 inches thick). Keep your heel on the book and raise the front of your foot up as high as you can, then slowly lower back to the ground. Repeat for a total of 5 of these exercises with your right foot. Repeat with your left foot. 

- Remember: the book or other item you place your heel on should not be more than 3 inches thick.