Walking. Since you first made the difficult transition from crawling to being able to totter around on your own two feet, you’ve probably taken it for granted. It’s not something you consciously have to think about, and in fact, if you’ve ever thought about it in exercise terms (à la “I think I’ll go for a walk!”), you may have even considered it to be a bit boring.
For some, however, this basic yet
necessary mode of transport can no longer be taken for granted. If you
suffer from foot pain, you would probably count yourself within this
group. When every step is a painful one, it really makes you think about
what you’ve lost.
number of Americans who suffer from this debilitating condition is far
greater than you might think. A recent survey by the American Podiatric
Medical Association (APMA) revealed that 77 percent of Americans have
experienced foot pain at some point in their lives but only one-third of
these people sought out expert care by a podiatrist. That leaves
two-thirds of the group to either suffer in silence or attempt to
self-diagnose or treat the source of their foot pain.
For those people, here are three
possible reasons for why your feet hurt and suggestions for what you can
do to alleviate the problem or ease the pain.
This condition is the king of
discomfort in the foot world, easily accounting for the most cases of
pain or inflammation in the feet. It’s a symptom of overuse, resulting
in painful inflammation of the band of fibrous tissue on the bottom of
the foot, anatomically known as the plantar fascia.
Because it is this region of your
foot that absorbs all your weight and any supplemental force (such as
the gravitational force from jumping,
running or stamping your feet), repeated pressure in this area can
cause the tissue in your foot to become less elastic, leading to
inflammation and hence pain. It is particularly common in those between
the ages of 40 and 65, especially if those people are overweight.
Luckily, because this condition is so
common, there is a fair amount of information out there on what you can
do to ease the pain caused by plantar fasciitis. Massaging and
stretching both your feet and calves regularly throughout the day can
provide oxygenation of the inflamed regions by encouraging additional
blood flow. This helps to reduce inflammations and additionally helps to
lengthen the plantar flexor muscles, allowing you to move more freely
and with less pain.
Bunions and hammertoes
Perhaps the next most common cause of
foot pain is either bunions, which relate to your big toe, or
hammertoes, which relate to the other smaller toes. This painful
condition can be genetic, but it can also be caused by or made much
worse by wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes.
Bunions can develop when shoes rub repeatedly against the joint of the
toe, causing the joint to become inflamed, swell up and develop a bump
that can have the potential to misalign your big toe. Hammertoe occurs
when the muscles of one or more of your smaller toes become weak,
putting pressure on the joints and causing them to stick up or out at
The solution is as simple as choosing
the right shoe. There should be plenty of room at the end of the shoe,
allowing your toes some space and ensuring they don’t scrunch up
together. Orthotics can help to keep your toes where they should be and
help to spread the load to reduce pressure on your squiggly digits.
Better yet, move away from shoes altogether where possible — walk
barefoot on safe surfaces such as grass and sand, or get yourself a pair
of Vibrams, which are customized to fit your individual toes and should
help you prevent or even recover from bunions or hammertoes.
Somewhat ironically, calluses develop
on our feet to protect pressure points and prevent the development of
painful blisters; however, they have the potential to become painful
themselves if left untreated. They typically develop on the balls of
your feet, heels or on top of large bunions or hammertoes (yikes!), and
can really make walking, running or sporting an unenjoyable experience.
The best way to treat painful
calluses is to soak your foot in warm water at home, either in a large
dish or in the bath. Once the foot has soaked to the point where the
skin is soft, rub a moisturizing lotion containing either urea, lactic
acid or glycolic acid into the callus. A moisturizer containing these
ingredients should help to penetrate the callus and soften it, and with
repeated application the callus should start to recede.
Feeling a little bit guilty that you haven’t been giving your feet the attention they deserve? Find out how you can give your feet some long overdue TLC.