Foot Health

Definition

Achilles tendonitis causes inflammation and degeneration of the achilles tendon. The achilles tendon is the large tendon located in the back of the leg that inserts into the heel. The pain caused by achilles tendonitis can develop gradually without a history of trauma. The pain can be a shooting pain, burning pain, or even an extremely piercing pain. Achilles tendonitis should not be left untreated due to the danger that the tendon can become weak and ruptured. Achilles Tendonitis is aggravated by activities that repeatedly stress the tendon, causing inflammation. In some cases even prolonged periods of standing can cause symptoms. It is a common problem often experienced by athletes, particularly distance runners. Achilles Tendonitis is a difficult injury to treat in athletes due to their high level of activity and reluctance to stop or slow down their training. Individuals who suffer from achilles tendonitis often complain that their first steps out of bed in the morning are extremely painful. Another common complaint is pain after steps are taken after long periods of sitting. This pain often lessens with activity.

Cause

There are several factors that can cause achilles tendonitis. The most common cause is over-pronation. Over-pronation occurs in the walking process, when the arch collapses upon weight bearing, adding stress on the achilles tendon. Other factors that lead to achilles tendonitis are improper shoe selection, inadequate stretching prior to engaging in athletics, a short achilles tendon, direct trauma (injury) to the tendon, and heel bone deformity.

Treatment And Prevention

Athletes, particularly runners, should incorporate a thorough stretching program to properly warm-up the muscles. They should decrease the distance of their walk or run, apply ice after the activity and avoid any uphill climbs. Athletes should use an orthotic device, heel cup, or heel cradle for extra support. A heel cup or heel cradle elevates the heel to reduce stress and pressure on the achilles tendon. The device should be made with light-weight, shock absorbing materials. An orthotic device can be used to control over-pronation, support the longitudinal arch, and reduce stress on the achilles tendon.

Definition

The term arch pain (often referred to as arch strain) refers to an inflammation and/or burning sensation at the arch of the foot.

Cause

There are many different factors that can cause arch pain. A structural imbalance or an injury to the foot can often be the direct cause. However, most frequently the cause is a common condition called plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue located along the bottom surface of the foot that runs from the heel to the forefoot. Excessive stretching of the plantar fascia, usually due to over-pronation (flat feet), causes plantar fasciitis. The inflammation caused by the plantar fascia being stretched away from the heel often leads to pain in the heel and arch areas. The pain is often extreme in the morning when an individual first gets out of bed or after a prolonged period of rest. If this condition is left untreated and strain on the longitudinal arch continues, a bony protrusion may develop, known as a heel spur. It is important to treat the condition promptly before it worsens.

Treatment And Prevention

This is a common foot condition that can be easily treated. If you suffer from arch pain avoid high-heeled shoes whenever possible. Try to choose footwear with a reasonable heel, soft leather uppers, shock absorbing soles and removable foot insoles. When the arch pain is pronation related (flat feet), an orthotic designed with a medial heel post and proper arch support is recommended for treating the pain. This type of orthotic will control over- pronation, support the arch and provide the necessary relief.

Definition

Arthritis is a disease characterized by the inflammation of the cartilage and lining of the body's joints. Inflammation causes redness, warmth, pain and swelling. There are about 40 million Americans who suffer from arthritis. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, estimates that by the year 2020, about 60 million Americans will have arthritis. The primary targets for arthritis are people over the age of 50. Arthritis is a major cause of foot pain because each foot has 33 joints that can become affected by the disease.

Osteoarthritis

There are many different types of arthritis. The most common type is called osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis causes excessive strain and the wearing away of cartilage in the joints of the foot. Movement becomes very difficult and painful. The pain and swelling worsens while standing or walking, and stiffness usually occurs after periods of rest.

Gout

Gout is another form of arthritis that also leads to foot complications. Excess uric acid crystals collect in and around the joints of the big toe. The big toe joint is commonly the focal point due to the stress and pressure it experiences during walking and other weight bearing activities. This often leads to severe pain in the big toe. Men are more likely to develop gouty arthritis than women.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Another type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. It can develop at any age and there is no known cause for this condition. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most crippling form of the disease that can affect people of all ages. It can cause severe deformities of the joints with associated fatigue of the entire body. People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis often develop severe forefoot problems such as bunions, hammer toes, claw toes, and others.

Cause

There are many causes of arthritis. Heredity plays a major role. However, arthritic symptoms can develop due to many other factors. Some of these include bacterial and viral infections, prescription and illegal drugs, traumatic injuries, and bowel disorders such as ileitis and colitis.



Forefoot problems such as hammer toes, claw toes, mallet toes, and bunions often develop as a result of arthritis, particularly Rheumatoid arthritis. Problems can also develop in the heel and ankle area due to the erosion of the involved joints.

Treatment And Prevention

Conservative treatment (non-surgical treatment) of the arthritic foot includes proper footwear, orthotics, and/or forefoot supports. Arthritic footwear should provide the following benefits: 

High, wide toe box (high and wide space in the toe area) Removable insoles for fitting flexibility and the option to insert orthotics if necessary. Rocker Soles designed to facilitate ambulating (walking) and to reduce stress and pain at the ball-of-the-foot. Arthritic footwear should also accommodate swelling of the foot. Orthotics designed to provide comfort, support and extra cushioning are also recommended. Orthotics made with a material called Plastazote are often recommended because they mold to your feet to provide customized comfort. The proper footwear and orthotics will reduce pressure to provide a comfortable and healthy environment for the foot. 

Forefoot supports such as gel toe caps, gel toe shields, gel toe straighteners and others can often provide relief.

Definition

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that causes red, dry, flaking skin, sometimes accompanied by pain or itching. The condition usually occurs between the toes or on the soles or sides of the feet. In its acute stage, the infected foot exhibits blisters that itch or "weep". Athlete's Foot can spread to the toenails, causing chronic fungal infections. Often when a patient thinks the feet are only dry and cracking, Athlete's Foot is responsible for the problem.

Cause

Fungal infections like Athlete's Foot are often contracted in showers, gyms, dressing rooms, swimming pool lockers, or other warm, damp areas where fungus can thrive. The name of the condition comes from the fact that athletes spend the most time in these environments and therefore are at a higher risk of fungal infection. 

Once fungal spores are present on the feet, they can enter fissures or sores and remain there to spread, unless the feet are carefully washed and thoroughly dried after exposure. 

Athlete's Foot can spread from the toes to the toenails. If the patient touches or scratches the infection and then touches other parts of the body, the fungus can spread to fingernails or other parts of the body, including the groin or underarms. 

Like any foot condition, Athlete's Foot is of special concern to people with diabetes and compromised immune systems who are more susceptible to developing infections that can lead to serious medical problems.

Treatment And Prevention

Vigilant foot hygiene can prevent Athlete's Foot. Daily washing of the feet with soap and water followed by thorough drying, especially between the toes, is important. Wearing dry, airy shoes and socks, not borrowing footwear from others, avoiding tight hosiery and using foot powder all help to keep the feet dry and infection-free. When using public showers or pool areas it is a good idea to wear protective shoes. 

Once an infection has occurred, it is important to see a doctor, have the problem diagnosed correctly, and treat it promptly. Fungal infections can be stubborn and difficult to treat, and can become chronic. Treatment plans include prescription antifungal medications, either topical or oral, and continued attention to keeping the feet clean and dry.

Definition

Bunions, referred to in the medical community as Hallux Valgus, are one of the most common forefoot problems. A bunion is a prominent bump on the inside of the foot around the big toe joint. This bump is actually a bone protruding towards the inside of the foot. With the continued movement of the big toe towards the smaller toes, it is common to find the big toe resting under or over the second toe. This causes a common forefoot condition called overlapping toes. Some of the symptoms of bunions include inflammation, swelling, and soreness on the side surface of the big toe. The discomfort commonly causes a patient to walk improperly. 

Another type of bunion which some individuals experience is called a Tailor's Bunion, also known as a Bunionette. This forms on the outside of the foot towards the joint at the little toe. It is a smaller bump that forms due to the little toe moving inwards, towards the big toe.

Cause

Bunions are a common problem experienced mostly by women. The deformity can develop from an abnormality in foot function, or arthritis, but is more commonly caused by wearing improper fitting footwear. Tight, narrow dress shoes with a constrictive toe box (toe area) can cause the foot to begin to take the shape of the shoe, leading to the formation of a bunion. Women who have bunions normally wear dress shoes that are too small for their feet. Their toes are squeezed together in their shoes causing the first metatarsal bone to protrude on the side of the foot. 

It is important for men and women to realize that wearing dress shoes and boots, which are tapered in the toe area, can cause the bunion to worsen to the point where surgery is necessary.

Treatment And Prevention

In the early stages of the formation of a bunion, soaking feet in warm water can provide temporary relief. The best way to alleviate the pain associated with bunions is to wear properly fitting shoes. Shoes designed with a high, wide toe box (toe area) are recommended for people suffering from forefoot disorders, such as bunions. Shoes with rocker soles will unload pressure to the bunion area. Orthotics are also recommended for this condition to provide extra comfort, support, and protection. 

Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products designed to accommodate and relieve bunions such as bunion shields, bunion night splints, and bunion bandages. These conservative treatments can limit the progression of the bunion formation, relieve pain and provide a healthy environment for the foot.

Definition

The formation of calluses is caused by an accumulation of dead skin cells that harden and thicken over an area of the foot. This callus formation isthe body's defense mechanism to protect the foot against excessive pressure and friction. Calluses are normally found on the ball-of-the-foot, the heel, and/or the inside of the big toe. Some calluses have a deep seated core known as a nucleation. This particular type of callus can be especially painful to pressure. This condition is often referred to as Intractable Plantar Keratosis.

Cause

Calluses develop becuase of excessive pressure at a specific area of the foot. Some common causes of callus formation are high-heeled dress shoes, shoes that are too small, obesity, abnormalities in the gait cycle (walking motion), flat feet, high arched feet, bony prominences, and the loss of the fat pad on the bottom of the foot. 

Once fungal spores are present on the feet, they can enter fissures or sores and remain there to spread, unless the feet are carefully washed and thoroughly dried after exposure

Treatment And Prevention

Many people try to alleviate the pain caused by calluses by cutting or trimming them with a razor blade or knife. This is not the way to properly treat calluses. This is very dangerous and can worsen the condition resulting in unnecessary injuries. Diabetics especially should never try this type of treatment. To relieve the excessive pressure that leads to callus formation, weight should be redistributed equally with the use of an orthotic. An effective orthotic transfers pressure away from the "hot spots" or high pressured areas to allow the callus to heal. The orthotic should be made with materials that absorb shock and shear (friction) forces. Women should also steer away from wearing high-heeled shoes. As always, surgery should be the very last resort.

Definition

Charcot-Marie-Tooth, or CMT, is inherited peripheral neuropathy and is found worldwide among all races and ethnic groups. Discovered in 1886 by three physicians, Jean-Martin Charcot, Pierre Marie, and Howard Henry Tooth, CMT affects an estimated 2.6 million people. 

CMT usually isn’t life-threatening and almost never affects brain function. It is not contagious, but it is hereditary and can be passed down from one generation to the next. 

CMT patients slowly lose normal use of their extremities as nerves degenerate and muscles weaken because the affected nerves no longer stimulate the muscles. Many patients also have some loss of sensory nerve functions.

Symtpons

Although there are many different genetic causes of CMT, all types tend to have remarkably similar symptoms. 

A high arched foot is generally one of the first signs of this disorder, although in some instances extremely flat feet are also typical of CMT. As the disease progresses, structural foot deformities take place. The patient may develop a pes cavus (high-arched) foot and hammertoes.

 The progressive muscle wasting of CMT also leads to problems with walking, running, and balance. Ankle weakness and sprains are common, and many patients develop foot drop. Later in the course of the disease, hand function may become affected. Tasks requiring manual dexterity become difficult. The loss of nerve function is often accompanied by tingling and burning sensations in the hands and feet. This usually causes little more than mild discomfort, but some people experience severe neuropathic pain and require medication to control it. Weakness of the respiratory muscles is in rare in people with CMT, but when present, it can cause life-threatening problems. If shortness of breath is an issue, a patient should be checked by a respiratory specialist to see if the use of a ventilator is recommended. 

It is important to note that the severity of symptoms can vary greatly from patient to patient, even within the same family. A child may or may not be more severely disabled than his/her parent. Some family members may experience significant impairment and require bracing while others have no noticeable symptoms but are found to have CMT upon examination by EMG or nerve conduction studies.

Treatment And Prevention

Although there is no cure for CMT at the present time, there are many therapies that can greatly improve life and function for CMT patients. 

Physical therapy can maintain what movement, muscle strength and flexibility they have. Many people benefit from occupational therapy which helps people accomplish the tasks of daily living with the use of assistive devices. Bracing is another non-invasive form of correcting problems caused by CMT. Often gait abnormalities can be corrected by the use of either articulated (hinged) or unarticulated, molded braces called AFOs (ankle-foot orthoses). These braces help control foot drop and ankle instability and often provide a better sense of balance for patients. Appropriate footwear is important for people with CMT, but they often have difficulty finding well-fitting shoes because of their high arched feet and hammered toes. Falls can generally be avoided by watching where one walks and by wearing appropriate footwear. It is important for CMT patients to control their weight. Not only does extra weight make physical activity more difficult, but it also increases the stress on already compromised joints and muscles. Patients should try to maintain as much strength and flexibility as possible. Generally, patients should consult a physical therapist or physician before beginning an exercise program, and avoid strenuous activity and overwork. Moderate activity and physical exercise can be beneficial, but patients must be conscious of their physical limitations. Finally, stress management is important in maintaining a healthy body. 

Any disabling condition can affect the way people think and feel about themselves, but having a chronic illness like CMT, which is often unseen, places stress on individuals and often causes depression. People with CMT can suffer from low self-esteem and relationships with others can be affected. Even when a person has learned to live with CMT, the progressive nature of the disorder may bring about more loss and the grieving process can begin again. 

Some patients cope successfully on their own or with the support of family and friends; others find it therapeutic to talk to a professional counselor or to participate in a support group. To find additional information about CMT, please visit the CMTA’s webiste at www.cmtausa.org.

Definition

A claw toe is a toe that is contracted at the PIP and DIP joints (middle and end joints in the toe), and can lead to severe pressure and pain. Ligaments and tendons that have tightened cause the toe's joints to curl downwards. Claw toes may occur in any toe, except the big toe. There is often discomfort at the top part of the toe that is rubbing against the shoe and at the end of the toe that is pressed against the bottom of the shoe. Claw toes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joints. There are two types - flexible and rigid. In a flexible claw toe, the joint has the ability to move. This type of claw toe can be straightened manually. A rigid claw toe does not have that same ability to move. Movement is very limited and can be extremely painful. This sometimes causes foot movement to become restricted leading to extra stress at the ball-of-the- foot, and possibly causing pain and the development of corns and calluses.

Cause

Claw toes result from a muscle imbalance which causes the ligaments and tendons to become unnaturally tight. This results in the joints curling downwards. Arthritis can also lead to many different forefoot deformities, including claw toes.

Treatment And Prevention

Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in the treatment of claw toes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe box (toe area) is high and broad, and can accommodate the claw toes. A shoe with a high, broad toe box will provide enough room in the forefoot area so that there is less friction against the toes. Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products designed to relieve claw toes, such as toe crests and hammer toe splin ts. These devices will help hold down the claw toe and provide relief to the forefoot. Gel toe shields and gel toe caps are also recommended to eliminate friction between the shoe and the toe, while providing comfort and lubrication.

Definition

Corns like calluses develop from an accumulation of dead skin cells on the foot, forming thick, hardened areas. They contain a cone-shaped core with a point that can press on a nerve below, causing pain. Corns are a very common ailment that usually form on the tops, sides and tips of the toes. Corns can become inflamed due to constant friction and pressure from footwear. Corns that form between the toes are sometimes referred to as soft corns.

Cause

Some of the common causes of corn development are tight fitting footwear, high heeled footwear, tight fitting stockings and socks, deformed toes, or the foot sliding forward in a shoe that fits too loosely. Soft corns result from bony prominences and are located between the toes. They become soft due to perspiration in the forefoot area. Complications that can arise from corns include bursitis and the development of an ulcer.

Treatment And Prevention

There are very simple ways to prevent and treat the corns. You should wear properly fitted footwear with extra room in the toe box (toe area). Avoid shoes that are too tight or too loose. Use an orthotic or shoe insert made with materials that will absorb shock and shear forces. Also avoid tight socks and stockings to provide a healthier environment for the foot. Try to steer away from corn removing solutions and medicated pads. These solutions can sometimes increase irritation and discomfort. Diabetics and all other individuals with poor circulation should never use any chemical agents to remove corns.

Definition

A hammer toe is a toe that is contracted at the PIP joint (middle joint in the toe), potentially leading to severe pressure and pain. Ligaments and tendons that have tightened cause the toe's joints to curl downwards. Hammer toes may occur in any toe except the big toe. There is often discomfort at the top part of the toe due to rubbing against the shoe. Hammer toes are classified based on the mobility of the toe joints. There are two types - flexible and rigid. In a flexible hammer toe, the joint has the ability to move. This type of hammer toe can be straightened manually. A rigid hammer toe does not have that same ability to move. Movement is very limited and can be extremely painful. This sometimes causes foot movement to become restricted leading to extra stress at the ball- of-the-foot, and possibly causing pain and the development of corns and calluses. Follow this link to learn more about hammer toe products.

Cause

Hammer toes result from a muscle imbalance which causes the ligaments and tendons to become unnaturally tight. This results in the joint curling downward. Arthritis can also lead to many different forefoot deformities, including hammer toes.

Treatment And Prevention

Changing the type of footwear worn is a very important step in the treatment of hammer toes. When choosing a shoe, make sure the toe box (toe area) is high and broad, and can accommodate the hammer toes. A shoe with a high, broad toe box will provide enough room in the forefoot area so that there is less friction against the toes. Other conservative treatments include using forefoot products designed to relieve hammer toes, such as hammer toe crests and hammer toe splints. These devices will help hold down the hammer toe and provide relief to the forefoot. Gel toe shields and gel toe caps are also recommended to eliminate friction between the shoe and the toe, while providing comfort and lubrication.

Definition

Heel fissures, also known as cracked heels can be a simple cosmetic problem and a nuisance, but can also lead to serious medical problems. Heel fissures occur when the skin on the bottom, outer edge of the heel becomes hard, dry and flaky, sometimes causing deep fissures that can be painful or bleed.

Cause

Heel fissures can affect anyone, but risk factors include: Living in a dry climate Obesity Consistently walking barefoot or wearing sandals or open- backed shoes Inactive sweat glands Like many foot conditions, heel fissures can become more dangerous if they go untreated and become deep or infected. This is especially dangerous for people with diabetes or compromised immune systems.

Treatment And Prevention

Moisturizing the feet regularly can prevent heel fissures. Once they occur, you can use a pumice stone daily to gently decrease the thick and flaky layer of skin. Avoid going barefoot or wearing open-backed shoes, sandals or shoes with thin soles. Shoes with strong shock absorption can help to improve the condition. Moisturizing the feet at least twice a day and wearing socks over moisturizer while sleeping can also help.

Definition

The heel bone is the largest bone in the foot and absorbs the most amount of shock and pressure. A heel spur develops as an abnormal growth of the heel bone. Calcium deposits form when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel area, causing a bony protrusion, or heel spur to develop. The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue located along the bottom surface of the foot that runs from the heel to the forefoot. Heel spurs can cause extreme pain in the rearfoot, especially while standing or walking.

Cause

Heel spurs develop as an abnormal growth in the heel bone due to calcium deposits that form when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel. This stretching of the plantar fascia is usually the result of over-pronation (flat feet), but people with unusually high arches (pes cavus) can also develop heel spurs. Women have a significantly higher incidence of heel spurs due to the types of footwear often worn on a regular basis.

Treatment And Prevention

The key for the proper treatment of heel spurs is determining what is causing the excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. When the cause is over- pronation (flat feet), an orthotic with rearfoot posting and longitudinal arch support is an effective device to reduce the over-pronation, and allow the condition to heal. Other common treatments include stretching exercises, losing weight, wearing shoes that have a cushioned heel that absorbs shock, and elevating the heel with the use of a heel cradle, heel cup, or orthotic. Heel cradles and heel cups provide extra comfort and cushion to the heel, and reduce the amount of shock and shear forces experienced from everyday activities.

Definition

The heel bone is the largest bone in the foot and absorbs the most amount of shock and pressure. A heel spur develops as an abnormal growth of the heel bone. Calcium deposits form when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel area, causing a bony protrusion, or heel spur to develop. The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue located along the bottom surface of the foot that runs from the heel to the forefoot. Heel spurs can cause extreme pain in the rearfoot, especially while standing or walking.

Cause

Heel spurs develop as an abnormal growth in the heel bone due to calcium deposits that form when the plantar fascia pulls away from the heel. This stretching of the plantar fascia is usually the result of over-pronation (flat feet), but people with unusually high arches (pes cavus) can also develop heel spurs. Women have a significantly higher incidence of heel spurs due to the types of footwear often worn on a regular basis.

Treatment And Prevention

The key for the proper treatment of heel spurs is determining what is causing the excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. When the cause is over-pronation (flat feet), an orthotic with rearfoot posting and longitudinal arch support is an effective device to reduce the over-pronation, and allow the condition to heal. Other common treatments include stretching exercises, losing weight, wearing shoes that have a cushioned heel that absorbs shock, and elevating the heel with the use of a heel cradle, heel cup, or orthotic. Heel cradles and heel cups provide extra comfort and cushion to the heel, and reduce the amount of shock and shear forces experienced from everyday activities.

Definition

Known to physicians as onychocryptosis, ingrown toe nails are a common, painful condition that occur when skin on one or both sides of a nail grows over the edges of the nail, or when the nail itself grows into the skin. This condition is usually very painful and can be associated with infection of the toe. Some ingrown toenails are chronic, with repeated episodes of pain and infection. Irritation, redness, an uncomfortable sensation of warmth, as well as swelling can result from an ingrown toenail.

Cause

Ingrown toenails develop for many reasons. In some cases the condition is congenital, such as toenails that simply are too large. People whose toes curl, either congenitally or from diseases like arthritis, are prone to ingrown toenails. Often trauma, like stubbing a toe or having a toe stepped on, can cause a piece of the nail to be jammed into the skin. Repeated trauma, such as the pounding to which runners typically subject their feet, also can cause ingrown nails. 

The most common cause is cutting your toenails incorrectly, causing them to re-grow into the skin. Tight hosiery or shoes with narrow toe boxes only make matters worse. If the skin is red, painful or swollen on the sides of the nail, an infection may be present. This occurs because the ingrown nail is often in a warm, moist and bacteria-rich environment. When the nail penetrates the skin, it provides a convenient entry for germs that can cause infection. Untreated, the nail can go under the skin, causing a more severe infection. In either case, the infection needs to be cured with sterile instruments and antibiotics.

Treatment And Prevention

Ingrown toenails should be treated as soon as they are recognized. In many cases, people with uninfected ingrown toenails can obtain relief with the following simple regimen: 

• Soak the feet in warm salt water 
• Dry them thoroughly with a clean towel 
• Apply a mild antiseptic solution to the area 
• Bandage the toe 

If excessive inflammation, swelling, pain or discharge is present, the toenail probably is infected and should be treated by a physician. A podiatrist can trim or remove the infected nail with a minor in-office surgical procedure. He or she can remove the offending portion of the nail or overgrown skin with a scalpel and treat the infection. Unless, the problem is congenital, the best way to prevent ingrown toenails is to protect the feet from trauma and wear shoes with adequate room for the toes. 

Cutting toe nails properly goes a long way toward the prevention of ingrown toenails. Using a safety nail clipper, cut the nails straight across, so that the nail corner is visible. If you cut the nail too short, you are inviting the nail corner to grow into the skin. It is the natural tendency, when the edge of the nail starts to grow in, to cut down at an angle at the nail edge, to relieve the pain. This does relieve the pain temporarily, but it also can start a downward spiral, training the nail to become more and more ingrown

Definition

Many disorders can affect the joints in the toes, causing pain and preventing the foot from functioning as it should. A mallet toe occurs when the joint at the end of the toe cannot straighten. Excessive rubbing of the mallet toe against the top of the shoe can lead to pain and the development of a corn. The tip of the toe is often turned down against the shoe causing pressure and discomfort.

Cause

Many disorders can affect the joints in the toes, causing pain and preventing the foot from functioning as it should. A mallet toe occurs when the joint at the end of the toe cannot straighten. Excessive rubbing of the mallet toe against the top of the shoe can lead to pain and the development of a corn. The tip of the toe is often turned down against the shoe causing pressure and discomfort. Arthritis can also lead to many forefoot deformities including mallet toes. Mallet toes can cause extreme discomfort, and can be aggravated if restrictive or improperly fitting footwear is worn for a prolonged period of time.

Treatment And Prevention

Any forefoot problems that cause pain or discomfort should be given prompt attention. Ignoring the symptoms can aggravate the condition and lead to a breakdown of tissue, or possibly even infection. Conservative treatment of mallet toes begins with accommodating the deformity. The goal is to relieve pressure, reduce friction, and transfer forces from the sensitive areas. Shoes with a high and broad toe box (toe area) are recommended for people suffering from forefoot deformities such as mallet toes. This prevents further irritation in the toe area from developing. Other conservative treatment includes forefoot supports such as gel toe caps, gel toe shields and toe crests. Gel forefoot supports provide immediate comfort and relief from common forefoot disorders without drying the skin.

Definition

Metatarsalgia is a general term used to denote a painful foot condition in the metatarsal region of the foot (the area just before the toes, more commonly referred to as the ball-of-the-foot). This is a common foot disorder that can affect the bones and joints at the ball-of-the-foot. Metatarsalgia (ball-of-foot- pain) is often located under the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th metatarsal heads, or more isolated at the first metatarsal head (near the big toe).

Cause

With this common foot condition, one or more of the metatarsal heads become painful and/or inflamed, usually due to excessive pressure over a long period of time. It is common to experience acute, recurrent, or chronic pain with metatarsalgia. Ball-of-foot pain is often caused from improper fitting footwear, most frequently by women's dress shoes and other restrictive footwear. Footwear with a narrow toe box (toe area) forces the ball-of-foot area to be forced into a minimal amount of space. This can inhibit the walking process and lead to extreme discomfort in the forefoot. Other factors can cause excessive pressure in the ball-of-foot area that can result in metatarsalgia. These include shoes with heels that are too high or participating in high impact activities without proper footwear and/or orthotics. Also as we get older, the fat pad in our foot tends to thin out, making us much more susceptible to pain in the ball- of-the-foot.

Treatment And Prevention

The first step in treating metatarsalgia is to determine the cause of the pain. If improper fitting footwear is the cause of the pain, the footwear must be changed. Footwear designed with a high, wide toe box (toe area) and a rocker sole is ideal for treating metatarsalgia. The high, wide toe box allows the foot to spread out while the rocker sole reduces stress on the ball-of-the-foot. Unloading pressure to the ball-of-the-foot can be accomplished with a variety of footcare products. Orthotics designed to relieve ball-of-foot pain usually feature a metatarsal pad. The orthotic is constructed with the pad placed behind the ball- of-the-foot to relieve pressure and redistribute weight from the painful area to more tolerant areas. Other products often recommended include gel metatarsal cushions and metatarsal bandages. When these products are used with proper footwear, you should experience significant relief.

Definition

Morton's Neuroma is a common foot problem associated with pain, swelling and/or an inflammation of a nerve, usually at the ball-of-the-foot between the 3rd and 4th toes. Symptoms of this condition include sharp pain, burning, and even a lack of feeling in the affected area. Morton's Neuroma may also cause numbness, tingling, or cramping in the forefoot.

Cause

Morton's Neuroma is a foot condition caused from an abnormal function of the foot that leads to bones squeezing a nerve usually between the 3rd and 4th metatarsal heads. Symptoms of Morton's Neuroma often occur during or after you have been placing significant pressure on the forefoot area, while walking, standing, jumping, or sprinting. This condition can also be caused by footwear selection. Footwear with pointed toes and/or high heels can often lead to a neuroma. Constricting shoes can pinch the nerve between the toes, causing discomfort and extreme pain.

Treatment And Prevention

The first step in treating Morton's Neuroma is to select proper footwear. Footwear with a high and wide toe box (toe area) is ideal for treating and relieving the pain. The next step in treatment is to use an orthotic designed with a metatarsal pad. This pad is located behind the ball-of-the-foot to unload pressure, and relieve the pain caused by the neuroma.

Definition

Morton's Toe is a common forefoot disorder where the second toe is longer than the Big Toe (the Hallux).

Cause

Morton's toe leads to excessive pressure on the second metatarsal head (behind the second toe at the ball- of-the-foot) resulting in pain similar to the discomfort associated with metatarsalgia. The constant pressure placed on the longer second toe while walking or standing can lead to callus formation under the second metatarsal head due to this excessive pressure.

Treatment And Prevention

Proper treatment of Morton's Toe starts with selecting proper footwear. Footwear with a high and wide toe box (toe area) is ideal for treating this condition. It may be necessary to buy footwear a half size to a size larger to accommodate the longer second toe. Orthotics that feature arch support to keep the foot aligned, and a metatarsal pad to reduce stress on the ball-of-the-foot are often recommended when treating this condition. Proper footwear combined with a effective orthotic will provide relief from pain associated with Morton's Toe.

Definition

Of the 16 million Americans with diabetes, 25% develop foot problems related to the disease. This is primarily due to a condition called neuropathy. Diabetic Neuropathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the nerves. The most common type of diabetic neuropathy is called peripheral neuropathy and affects the peripheral nerves. Peripheral nerves are the nerves that go out from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles, skin, internal organs, and glands. Peripheral neuropathy impairs proper functioning of these sensory and motor nerves. The most common symptoms of neuropathy include numbness and loss of feeling, usually in the feet and hands.

Cause

Diabetic Neuropathy can cause insensitivity or a loss of ability to feel pain, heat, and cold. Diabetics suffering from neuropathy can develop minor cuts, scrapes, blisters, or pressure sores that they may not be aware of due to the insensitivity. If these minor injuries are left untreated, complications may result and lead to ulceration and possibly even amputation. Neuropathy can also cause deformities such as Bunions, Hammer Toes, and Charcot Feet. It is very important for diabetics to take the necessary precautions to prevent all foot- related injuries. Due to the consequences of neuropathy, daily observation of the feet is critical. When a diabetic patient takes the necessary preventative footcare measures, he or she reduces the risk of developing serious foot conditions.

Treatment And Prevention

The most successful way to prevent diabetic neuropathy from occurring is to control the diabetes. It is important to maintain blood sugars at normal levels and maintain normal blood pressure. In addition to this, it is important to: 

• Stop smoking 

• Limit the amount of alcohol you drink 

• Have regular physical exams 

• Have regular blood and urine tests 

Exercise regularly, according to your doctor's recommendation It is important for diabetics to treat their feet properly to avoid any future problems. Footwear and foot orthotics play an important role in diabetic footcare. Footwear that fits poorly can cause irritation and injury. Orthotics designed with Plastazote®, the #1 material for protecting the insensitive diabetic foot, are also frequently recommended. Plastazote is a material designed to accommodate pressure "hot spots" by conforming to heat and pressure. By customizing to the foot, Plastazote provides the comfort and protection needed in diabetic footcare. Footwear constructed with Plastazote is often recommended for the diabetic patient. Diabetic footwear should also provide the following benefits: High, wide toe box (high and wide space in the toe area) Removable insoles for fitting flexibility and the option to insert orthotics if necessary Rocker soles, designed to reduce pressure in the areas of the foot most susceptible to pain, most notably the heel and the ball-of-the-foot. Firm Heel Counters for extra and support and stability. It is important for diabetics with neuropathy to take the necessary precautions to prevent injury and keep their feet healthy.

Definition

Over-pronation, or flat feet, is a common biomechanical problem that occurs in the walking process when a person's arch collapses upon weight bearing. This motion can cause extreme stress or inflammation on the plantar fascia, potentially causing severe discomfort and leading to other foot problems.

Cause

Over-pronation is very prominent in people who have flexible, flat feet. The framework of the foot begins to collapse, causing the foot to flatten and adding stress to other parts of the foot. As a result, over-pronation, often leads to Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Metatarsalgia, Post-tib Tendonitis and/or Bunions. There are many causes of flat feet. Obesity, pregnancy or repetitive pounding on a hard surface can weaken the arch leading to over-pronation. Often people with flat feet do not experience discomfort immediately, and some never suffer from any discomfort at all. However, when symptoms develop and become painful, walking becomes awkward and causes increased strain on the feet and calves.

Treatment And Prevention

Over-Pronation can be treated conservatively (non-surgical treatments) with over-the-counter orthotics. These orthotics should be designed with appropriate arch support and medial rearfoot posting to prevent the over-pronation. Footwear should also be examined to ensure there is a proper fit. Footwear with a firm heel counter is often recommended for extra support and stability. Improperly fitting footwear can lead to additional foot problems.

Definition

Many disorders can affect the joints in the toes, causing pain and preventing the foot from functioning as it should. People of all ages can experience forefoot problems. Overlapping toes can occur in any of the toes and can cause extreme irritation if not corrected.

Cause

Many disorders can affect the joints in the toes, causing pain and preventing the foot from functioning as it should. People of all ages can experience forefoot problems. Overlapping toes can occur in any of the toes and can cause extreme irritation if not corrected.

Treatment And Prevention

Any problems that cause pain or discomfort in the toes should be given prompt attention. Ignoring the symptoms can aggravate the condition, and lead to a breakdown of tissue or even infection. Conservative treatment (non-surgical treatment) of overlapping toes begins with accommodating the disorder. Shoes with a high, broad toe box (toe area) are recommended for people suffering from overlapping toes. Forefoot supports such as gel toe straighteners, gel toe caps and toe combs are often recommended to keep overlapping toes apart. These effective devices are designed to reduce friction to help relieve the discomfort.

Definition

Plantar Fasciitis is an inflammation caused by excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a broad band of fibrous tissue which runs along the bottom surface of the foot, attaching at the bottom of the heel bone and extending to the forefoot. When the plantar fascia is excessively stretched, this can cause plantar fasciitis, which can also lead to heel pain, arch pain, and heel spurs.

Cause

Plantar Fasciitis often leads to heel pain, heel spurs, and/or arch pain. The excessive stretching of the plantar fascia that leads to the inflammation and discomfort can be caused by the following: Over-pronation (flat feet) which results in the arch collapsing upon weight bearing A foot with an unusually high arch A sudden increase in physical activity Excessive weight on the foot, usually attributed to obesity or pregnancy Improperly fitting footwear Over-pronation (flat feet) is the leading cause of plantar fasciitis. Over-pronation occurs in the walking process, when a person's arch collapses upon weight bearing, causing the plantar fascia to be stretched away from the heel bone. With Plantar Fasciitis, the bottom of your foot usually hurts near the inside of the foot where the heel and arch meet. The pain is often acute either first thing in the morning or after a long rest, because while resting the plantar fascia contracts back to its original shape. As the day progresses and the plantar fascia continues to be stretched, the pain often subsides.

Treatment And Prevention

The key for the proper treatment of plantar fasciitis is determining what is causing the excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. When the cause is over- pronation (flat feet), an orthotic with rearfoot posting and longitudinal arch support is an effective device to reduce the over-pronation and allow the condition to heal. If you have usually high arches, which can also lead to plantar fasciitis, cushion the heel, absorb shock and wear proper footwear that will accommodate and comfort the foot. Other common treatments include stretching exercises, plantar fasciitis night splints, wearing shoes that have a cushioned heel to absorb shock, and elevating the heel with the use of a heel cradle or heel cup. Heel cradles and heel cups provide extra comfort, cushion the heel, and reduce the amount of shock and shear forces placed during everyday activities. Every time your foot strikes the ground, the plantar fascia is stretched. You can reduce the strain and stress on the plantar fascia by following these simple instructions: Avoid running on hard or uneven ground, lose any excess weight, and wear shoes and orthotics that support your arch to prevent over-stretching of the plantar fascia.

Definition

Post-Tib Tendonitis is a strain placed on the posterior tibial tendon. The posterior tibial tendon runs along the inside of the ankle and the foot. When there is post-tibial tendon disfunction, the tendon does not function to hold up the arch, resulting in flat feet. This can lead to heel pain, arch pain, plantar fasciitis and/or heel spurs. With post-tib tendonitis, pain will be more severe upon weight bearing, especially while walking or running.

Cause

Post-Tib Tendonitis occurs when the muscle is overused and the tendon (soft tissue) that connects the muscle to your bone is strained. Years of over- pronation (flat feet) can also lead to posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. If you keep overusing the muscle, damage to the tendon builds up and tendonitis develops. At first the pain or swelling may come and go quickly, but eventually the problem may become more permanent.

Treatment And Prevention

To treat post-tib tendonitis, you can reduce your symptoms by limiting activity to control the pain and swelling. Stay off your feet a few days, then slowly increase your activity. Rest allows the tissues in your foot to heal. Conservative treatments (non-surgical treatments) include wearing a foot orthotic with rearfoot posting and longitudinal arch support to reduce strain on the post tibial tendon and prevent excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. The orthotic should also be designed with materials to comfort the foot and absorb shock. Listed below are tips to prevent Post-Tib Tendonitis from recurring: Wear shoes that provide cushioning, support and shock absorption. Use orthotics with sufficient arch support that are constructed from shock absorbing, cushioning materials. Vary exercise routines. The variety will keep one set of muscles from being under continuous stress.

Definition

Pregnancy triggers many different changes in a woman's body. Many women have common complaints throughout their pregnancy. One of these complaints, often overlooked, is foot pain. Due to the natural weight gain during pregnancy, a woman's center of gravity is completely altered. This causes a new weight-bearing stance and added pressure to the knees and feet.Two of the most common foot problems experienced by pregnant woman are over- pronation and edema. These problems can lead to pain at the heel, arch, or the ball-of-foot. Many women may also experience leg cramping and varicose veins due to weight gain. Because of this, it is important for all pregnant women to learn more about foot health during their pregnancy to help make this nine month period more comfortable for them. Two of the most common foot problems experienced by pregnant woman are over-pronation and edema. These problems can lead to pain at the heel, arch, or the ball-of-foot. Many women may also experience leg cramping and varicose veins due to weight gain. Because of this, it is important for all pregnant women to learn more about foot health during their pregnancy to help make this nine month period more comfortable for them.

Cause

There are effective ways to treat both over-pronation and edema during pregnancy. Over-Pronation can be treated conservatively with "ready-made" orthotics. These orthotics should be designed with appropriate arch support and medial rearfoot posting to correct the over-pronation. Proper fitting footwear is also very important in treating over-pronation. Choose comfortable footwear that provides extra support and shock absorption. It is important to treat over-pronation for pain relief but also to prevent other foot conditions from developing such as Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Metatarsalgia, Post-Tib Tendonitis and/or Bunions. Edema in the feet can be minimized by the following methods: Elevate your feet as often as possible. If you have to sit for long periods of time, place a small stool by your feet to elevate them. Wear proper fitting footwear. Footwear that is too narrow or short will constrict circulation. Have your feet measured several times throughout your pregnancy. They will probably change sizes. Wear seamless socks that do not constrict circulation. If you are driving for a long period of time, take regular breaks to stretch your legs to promote circulation. Exercise regularly to promote overall health; walking is the best exercise. Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated. This helps the body retain less fluid. Eat a well-balanced diet and avoid foods high in salt that can cause water retention. Swelling is normally similar in both feet. If swelling is not symmetrical in both feet, this may be a sign of a vascular problem and a doctor should be contacted immediately.

Treatment And Prevention

To treat post-tib tendonitis, you can reduce your symptoms by limiting activity to control the pain and swelling. Stay off your feet a few days, then slowly increase your activity. Rest allows the tissues in your foot to heal. Conservative treatments (non-surgical treatments) include wearing a foot orthotic with rearfoot posting and longitudinal arch support to reduce strain on the post tibial tendon and prevent excessive stretching of the plantar fascia. The orthotic should also be designed with materials to comfort the foot and absorb shock. Listed below are tips to prevent Post-Tib Tendonitis from recurring: Wear shoes that provide cushioning, support and shock absorption. Use orthotics with sufficient arch support that are constructed from shock absorbing, cushioning materials. Vary exercise routines. The variety will keep one set of muscles from being under continuous stress.

Definition

Sesamoiditis is a common ailment that affects the forefoot, typically in young people who engage in physical activity like running or dancing. Its most common symptom is pain in the ball-of-the-foot, especially on the medial or inner side. The term is a general description for any irritation of the sesamoid bones, which are tiny bones within the tendons that run to the big toe. Like the kneecap, the sesamoids function as a pulley, increasing the leverage of the tendons controlling the toe. Every time you push off against the toe the sesamoids are involved, and eventually they can become irritated, even fractured. Because the bones are actually within the tendons, sesamoiditis is really a kind of tendinitis - the tendons around the bones become inflamed as well.

Cause

Sesamoiditis typically can be distinguished from other forefoot conditions by its gradual onset. The pain usually begins as a mild ache and increases gradually as the aggravating activity is continued. It may build to an intense throbbing. In most cases there is little or no bruising or redness. One of the major causes of sesamoiditis is increased activity. You've probably stepped up your activity level lately, which has forced you to put more pressure on the balls of your feet. Speedwork, hillwork, or even increased mileage can cause this. If you have a bony foot, you simply may not have enough fat on your foot to protect your tender sesamoids. Also, if you have a high arched foot, you will naturally run on the balls-of-your-feet, adding even more pressure.

Treatment And Prevention

Treatment for sesamoiditis is almost always noninvasive. Minor cases call for a strict period of rest, along with the use of a modified shoe or a shoe pad to reduce pressure on the affected area. This may be accomplished by placing a metatarsal pad away from the joint so that it redistributes the pressure of weight bearing to other parts of the forefoot. In addition, the big toe may be bound with tape or athletic strapping to immobilize the joint as much as possible and allow for healing to occur. It is recommended to decrease or stop activity for awhile. This will give your sesamoids time to heal. You should apply ice to the area for 10 to 15 minutes after exercise, or after any activity that aggravates the area. As with icing, anti-inflammatories will help the swelling go down so healing can begin. While the injury is healing, women should wear flat shoes on a daily basis.

Definition

Diabetes is a serious disease that can develop from lack of insulin production in the body or due to the inability of the body's insulin to perform its normal everyday functions. Insulin is a substance produced by the pancreas gland that helps process the food we eat and turn it into energy. Diabetes affects approximately 16 million Americans and is classified into 2 different types: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 is usually associated with juvenile diabetes and is often linked to heredity. Type 2, commonly referred to as adult onset diabetes, is characterized by elevated blood sugars, often in people who are overweight or have not attended to their diet properly. Many complications can be associated with diabetes. Diabetes disrupts the vascular system, affecting many areas of the body such as the eyes, kidneys, legs, and feet. People with diabetes should pay special attention to their feet.

Neuropathy

Of the sixteen million Americans with diabetes, 25% will develop foot problems related to the disease. Diabetic foot conditions develop from a combination of causes including poor circulation and neuropathy. Diabetic Neuropathy can cause insensitivity or a loss of ability to feel pain, heat, and cold. Diabetics suffering from neuropathy can develop minor cuts, scrapes, blisters, or pressure sores that they may not be aware of due to the insensitivity. If these minor injuries are left untreated, complications may result and lead to ulceration and possibly even amputation. Neuropathy can also cause deformities such as Bunions, Hammer Toes, and Charcot Feet. It is very important for diabetics to take the necessary precautions to prevent all foot related injuries. Due to the consequences of neuropathy, daily observation of the feet is critical. When a diabetic patient takes the necessary preventative footcare measures, he or she reduces the risks of serious foot conditions.

Poor Circulation

Diabetes often leads to peripheral vascular disease that inhibits a person's blood circulation. With this condition, there is a narrowing of the arteries that frequently leads to significantly decreased circulation in the lower part of the legs and the feet. Poor circulation contributes to diabetic foot problems by reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrition supplied to the skin and other tissue, causing injuries to heal poorly. Poor circulation can also lead to swelling and dryness of the foot. Preventing foot complications is more critical for the diabetic patient because poor circulation impairs the healing process and can lead to ulcers, infection, and other serious foot conditions.

Treatment And Prevention

Footwear and orthotics play an important role in diabetic footcare. Orthotics designed with Plastazote foam, the #1 material for protecting the insensitive diabetic foot, are usually recommended. Plastazote is a material designed to accommodate pressure "hot spots" by conforming to heat and pressure. By customizing to the foot, Plastazote provides the comfort and protection needed in diabetic footcare. Footwear constructed with Plastazote is also recommended frequently for the diabetic patient. Diabetic footwear should also provide the following protective benefits: 

• High, wide toe box (high and wide space in the toe area) 
• Removable insoles for fitting flexibility and the option to insert orthotics if necessary. 
• Rocker Soles designed to reduce pressure in the areas of the foot most susceptible to pain, most notably the ball-of-the-foot. 
• Firm Heel Counters for support and stability. 

If you are a diabetic, you should be particularly alert to any problems you may be having with your feet. It is very important for diabetics with neuropathy to take necessary precautions to prevent injury and keep their feet healthy. If you have diabetes and are experiencing a foot problem, immediately consult your foot doctor.

Footcare & Diabetes

Proper footcare is especially critical for diabetics because they are prone to foot problems such as: 

• Loss of feeling in their feet 
• Changes in the shape of their feet 
• Foot ulcers or sores that do not heal 

Simple daily footcare can prevent serious problems. According to the National Institute of Health, the following simple everyday steps will help prevent serious complications from diabetes:

Take Care Of Your Diabetes

Make healthy lifestyle choices to keep your blood sugar close to normal. Work with your health care team to create a diabetes plan that fits your lifestyle characteristics.

Check Your Feet Every Day

You may have foot problems that you may not be aware of. Check your feet for cuts, sores, red spots, swelling, or infected toenails. Checking your feet should become part of your daily routine. If you have trouble bending over to see your feet, use a plastic mirror to help. You can also ask a family member to help you. Important Reminder: Be sure to call your doct

Foot Facts

  • The foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles.
  • 3 out of 4 Americans experience serious foot problems in their lifetime.
  • 1/4 of all the bones in the human body are down in your feet. When thesebones are out of alignment, so is the rest of the body.
  • Only a small percentage of the population is born with foot problems.
  • It's neglect and a lack of awareness of proper care - including ill fitting shoes - that bring on problems.
  • Women have about four times as many foot problems as men. High heels are partly to blame.
  • Walking is the best exercise for your feet. It also contributes to your general health by improving circulation, contributing to weight control, and promoting all-around well being.
  • Your feet mirror your general health. Conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulatory disorders can show their initial symptoms in the feet - so foot ailments can be your first sign of more serious medical problems.
  • Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in America. It limits everyday dressing, climbing stairs, getting in and out of bed or walking - for about 7 million Americans.
  • About 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of diabetic nerve damage, which in severe forms can lead to lower limb amputations. Approximately 56,000 people a year lose their foot or leg to diabetes.
  • There are 250,000 sweat glands in a pair of feet. Sweat glands in the feet excrete as much as a half-pint of moisture a day.
  • Walking barefoot can cause plantar warts. The virus enters through a cut.
  • The two feet may be different sizes. Buy shoes for the larger one.
  • About 5% of Americans have toenail problems in a given year.
  • The average person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, which adds up to about 115,000 miles over a lifetime. That's enough to go around the circumference of the earth four times.
  • There are currently more websites on the Internet having to do with foot fetishes than with foot health.