Day-to-day walking, jumping, running and climbing make feet vulnerable to different problems.
Different types of defects and damages may lead to traumas, inflammations or other issues.
Up to 26 bones per foot make them one of the most complicated body parts. However, according to the College of Podiatry we walk around 150 000 miles in our lifetime which is approximately 6 walks around the Earth.
Diabetes, aging and ill-fitting shoes greatly affect the appearance of foot issues. Going forward we will tell you more about the foot issues, their causes and when it’s time to get treatment.
1. Ringworm of the feet (Athlete's feet)
Usually, ringworm infection is caused by walking in a damp area.
Ringworm of the feet is a fungal infection that usually affects the space between the toes but may also be found on the other parts of the feet and if left untreated may cause itching, discomfort and pain.
There is a high possibility of catching ringworm infection at the gym, in a shower or pool as fungus usually spreads very well in damp and warm areas. Avoid wearing warm and wet shoes as it may cause the infection to grow and affect other areas of your body such as groin, hands and scalp due to its high contagiousness.
The ringworm infection usually starts between the 4th and 5th toes and may have symptoms such as feet peeling, blistering, cracking and itching and sometimes foot skin cracking.
The first step is to keep your feet clean and dry using a separate towel. You can find antifungal topical treatment at any pharmacy: lotions, powders, sprays.
In case fungus keeps spreading or getting worse you should seek medical attention and start an oral medication for the infection.
2. Toe bursitis (bunions)
Toe bursitis also called “hallux valgus” is a pathological change in feet that has a specific distinction of a bump on the large toe joint which can turn big toes a bit inwards. Because of the tight and narrow shoe women are more affected by toe bursitis.
Improper footwear i.e tight and narrow shoes may greatly contribute to the development of toe bursitis. To be more specific, shoes with a narrow forepart put pressure on the part where the foot bone is connected to the big toe bone also known as metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP).
You are more likely to be affected by toe bursitis if there is a family history or some conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and polio.
You may experience the following symptoms:
- visible growth on the big toe bone;
- soreness around the big toe;
- callus or corn slightly below the big toe bone;
- troubles moving the big toe;
- pain while walking;
Toe bursitis may be treated with conservative measures such as proper shoes, getting a bunion pad from a pharmacy or a shoe store which may help protect this area from extra pressure.
If there is an inflammation you may try to apply ice covered with a piece of cloth for 10 minutes.
Podiatrist (aka foot doctor) can help you with straightening the big toe by prescribing a special insert or a splint. In some cases if the traditional ways of treatment are not working surgery might be recommended.
3. Diabetic neuropathy
As diabetics suffer from blood sugar irregularities, they also have diabetic neuropathy which is a combination of health conditions caused by diabetes and which affect foot health.
With age blood sugar fluctuations may damage nerves all around the body and especially in the feet. It may also be worsened by a history of smoking, excessive drinking and family history or diabetic neuropathy.
The most common symptoms of diabetic neuropathy include numbness, tingling and foot pain. People with diabetic neuropathy are also more prone to foot injuries and cuts due to worsened feeling
If one is suffering from diabetic neuropathy it can not be reversed however some ways of treatment may be recommended by a medical professional to prevent it from getting worse. You may also improve your diabetic neuropathy by maintaining good health and controlling sugar levels.
Diabetics also need to follow up with podiatrists to check on their feet, sometimes trim the toenails professionally or make sure there are no wounds.
4. Ingrown toenails
If the toenail starts growing into the nail’s groove you may experience a lot of pain and discomfort.
In most cases, ingrown nails are caused by improper footwear which is too tight as it applies a lot of pressure on the top of the foot.
Among other reasons that may contribute to the appearance of ingrown nails are improperly trimmed toenails (cut too short) or feet traumas due to activities like running. If there is an issue of ingrown nails running in the family it may also increase one’s risks.
The most common symptoms include swelling, redness, pain or even drainage from the toenail which is a sign of infection.
In order to prevent or treat ingrown toenails you must do the following:
start using antibacterial soap and patting your feet dry;
trim your toenails right after taking a bath while they are still soft;
don’t trim your toenails in round shapes as it increases the chances of getting ingrown toenails.
wear proper shoes which are not too narrow and don't have a pointy tip.
You may need to see a podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon in case it's not getting better and OTC medications are not helpful. Doctors may need to cut a piece of a toenail and prescribe you an antibiotic for the infection.
5. Plantar fasciitis
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, plantar fasciitis also known as policeman's heel is one of the most common reasons for foot pain.
It happens when the ligament responsible for supporting the foot’s arch-plantar fascia- gets inflamed.
Idiopathic plantar fasciitis as it’s called by doctors is an inflammatory disease with unknown causes of it.
However, there are some risk factors: obesity, high arch, tight calf muscles and repetitive heel stress like jogging.
When plantar fasciitis occurs the person experiences severe pain in the heel especially first thing in the morning and after physical activity.
In most cases plantar fasciitis can be treated at home with the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, rest and ice compress.
Proper stretching before and after any physical activity may also help with pain reduction.
If there are no improvements physical therapy can be beneficial. A podiatrist or an orthopedic surgeon may also offer you some other types of treatment.
Your doctor may also recommend steroid injections in order to reduce the inflammation or you might be offered to get customized insoles to help your heels.
Blisters are so common that most people experience them in their lifetime.
A lot of times blisters appear after walking or jogging especially for a long distance when the feet get sweaty or when the shoes are ill-fitting.
A blister is a harmless skin bulge filled with a liquid. Let the blister heal on its own without bursting it or applying a bandage.
However, if you notice flu-like symptoms and blisters keep appearing regularly you should follow up with your doctor.
When your body tries to protect an area of your foot from developing blisters it forms parts of thickened skin which are painless.
Toe bursitis, hammer toe and improper shoe can be the reason for corn appearance and after some time treatment may be necessary. In that case, you can use OTC corn plasters which can be found at a pharmacy. They are used for pressure relief. In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgical removal.
8. Prominent heel (heel spur)
You may get an outgrowth of calcium between the heel bone and foot arch which consists of calcium- a prominent heel or a heel spur. Heel spur may cause pain and inflammation in some people. However, some may not feel anything.
To diagnose a prominent heel you would need to do some imaging.
Heel spurs are usually caused by long-term strains on ligaments and muscles but there are some other factors that may contribute to it: arthritis, obesity, worn out or ill-fitting shoes.
The way to treat a prominent heel is resting, applying a cold compress, anti-inflammatory injections, over-the-counter pain medications and corrective insoles.
9. Claw toe
There is a condition which for some people can be congenital and for others appear in their adult life- a claw toe or a claw foot. A claw toe is when the first toe joint points up but the second one points down which sometimes can be painful and uncomfortable.
You must be attentive if you have a claw foot as it might also be a symptom of other conditions like cerebral palsy, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Speaking of treatments, you may be offered exercises, medications, splints, corrective shoes or even surgery.
10. Stone bruise (metatarsalgia)
You may get metatarsalgia or a stone bruise after high-impact physical exercises. It can also be caused by improper shoes but sometimes it’s a symptom of other health issues.
The symptoms of metatarsalgia usually include numbness and sharp pain between the toes and the arch of the foot which may get worse after some time.
To help these symptoms you need to find a pair of proper shoes, apply an ice compress and rest but if the symptoms don’t get better seek medical attention.