Your feet are the most important part of your body and carry out some of the most critical functions: supporting the body, balancing the body’s weight and allowing you to walk and be independently mobile. Your foot is made up of 26 bones, 42 muscles, 33 joints, around 50 tendons and ligaments, and 250,000 sweat glands. All of these parts work together to support your body and carry your weight. Your feet are at a higher risk of injury compared with other parts of your body. When your feet are neglected, they can cause other issues such as ankle pain, knee problems, and backache. Learn about ten common foot problems and how to avoid or treat them.
1. Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is a very common fungal infection, especially in people who wear closed shoes often. The infection can be identified when the skin between the toes or on the sides and soles of the feet becomes dry, red and flaky. Also, the infection can cause feet to become itchy and painful. The fungus thrives in conditions that are warm and damp, and it’s often picked up in showers, public pools, and gyms. Avoid the fungal infection in these locations by wearing shoes or shower shoes at all times. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly after exposure to avoid Athlete’s foot infections. Keep feet dry with open shoes or foot powder. Consult your doctor about treatment if you get athlete’s foot.
We have all had the experience of new shoes causing blisters on our feet. If your shoes fit correctly, they should not cause blisters at all. Blisters occur when a soft pocket of raised skin fills with clear liquid. They can be incredibly painful if located on the bottom of your foot and can make it difficult to walk. You should not pop a blister; wait for it to heal on its own. If the blister bursts, you’re at risk for picking up an infection, so apply antibiotic ointment to the area and cover it with a bandage to protect the skin.
Another common foot problem is bunions. Bunions usually occur on the big toe’s joint and can be identified as a very prominent bump, which is the bone protruding toward the inside of your foot. Symptoms include inflammation and pain on the big toe and can cause great discomfort and lead to walking improperly. A bunion can also form on the opposite side of the foot, causing the little toe to move inward. The main cause of bunions is wearing poor-fitting footwear. Treatment includes wearing supportive footwear, soaking feet in warm water to relieve pain or using products designed to treat bunions within the shoe. Doctors may also recommend surgery when the pain has persisted for over a year. The goal of surgery is to return the big toe to its correct position by removing the bump and putting bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves back into correct order.
4. Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses are patches of hardened skin on areas of the feet that experience a lot of friction between bone and shoe. The dead skin cells accumulate in the area, becoming thick and hard and often resulting in pain. Calluses form as a way of protecting the foot. The main causes of corns and calluses include shoes that are too small for your foot, high heels, abnormal walking motion, flat feet or high arches, and even obesity. Never attempt to cut off corns or calluses, as it’s dangerous and can worsen the condition. Effective treatment redistributes pressure away from the affected area with properly fitting shoes.
5. Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails occur when the nail grows into the skin, or the skin on the sides of the nail grows over the edge of the nail. This can be incredibly painful, and the area can become red and inflamed. Usually, the condition is a result of an infection and can even be chronic. The causes of ingrown toenails include toes that curl, nails that are too large for the toe, trauma from stubbing a toe or repeated trauma from running. The most common cause, however, is cutting toenails incorrectly. When the nail becomes ingrown, it creates a gateway for germs to infect the skin.
6. Toenail Fungus
Rare in children but very common in adults, particularly over the age of 70, toenail fungus occurs when microscopic fungi enter the nail after trauma. These fungi grow and spread rapidly in the warm, moist environment in closed shoes. Toenails may turn yellow, thicken, crumble or swell. The presence of spots or stripes on the nail may also indicate a fungal infection, and it’s possible to lose the entire nail. Ensure feet dry completely to prevent fungal infections.
7. Plantar Fasciitis
A painful condition, plantar fasciitis occurs when the tissue between the heel and the ball of the foot becomes inflamed. This condition can result from stretching this tissue, known as the fascia. This stretching causes pain to the heel or arch and can lead to heel spurs. This condition is often the result of an unusually high arch, flat feet, excessive weight, increased physical activity or incorrectly fitted shoes. Treatment depends on the cause, but good shoes, avoiding running and losing excess weight can help.
8. Heel Spurs
Since the heel bone is the largest in the foot, it absorbs the majority of shock experienced by your feet. Heel spurs can develop as a result of plantar fasciitis when the fascia pulls away from the heel. Calcium deposits form, causing abnormal growths on the heel bone. This can cause pain in the heel when walking or standing. This condition is common in people who have flat feet or higher arches than usual. Wearing supportive shoes can help reduce the pain caused by heel spurs. Local ice applications and anti-inflammatory medications, including injections of cortisone, are helpful when the pain is intense
9. Fallen Arches or Flat Feet
Flat feet occur when the arch of the foot has dropped, causing pain. Flat feet are usually an inherited condition, but they may also occur during pregnancy and with joint hypermobility syndrome, which causes connective tissue to become loose. Other conditions, like cerebral palsy, can cause flat feet. Even wearing shoes that don’t support feet correctly, like flip-flops, can be a cause. Flat feet can cause pain in the foot and ankle as well as the rest of the leg, knee, hip, and back. You can wear supportive inserts in your shoes to help correct this condition.
Gout is a form of arthritis that results from a buildup of uric acid in the joint fluid and joint tissues. It generally begins in the joint of the big toe. A gout attack can be identified when the temperature of your foot changes. Your big toe will get warm, become red and swollen and be incredibly painful to the lightest touch. To treat gout, apply ice to your toe, stay off your feet and keep yourself hydrated. Also, consult a doctor to investigate the cause of uric acid buildup, as it may be promoted by hypertension, obesity, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.