Do your feet wear out long before your walk is over? If only you could change your feet like changing tires.
The foot has twenty six bones, thirty three joints, and more than one hundred twenty muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves.
One in three people over sixty-five have foot pain, stiffness, or aching. Walking is a great way to exercise and keep fit. However, people with foot pain have problems with balance.
Most foot problems are caused by poorly fitting shoes, such as pointy-toed high-heeled women’s shoes. Obese people with diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and knee, hip or back pain have greater risk for foot problems.
Ideally, people take ten thousand steps and spend four hours standing. With aging, feet lose the pads that cushion the bottom of the feet. Weight gain adds additional stress to bones and ligaments.
The most common foot problems include bunions, calluses, and corns. A bunion is a bony growth or misaligned bone at the base of the big toe. Sometimes it may be on the small toe. Over time, the large toe bends toward the other toes. Calluses and corns can lead to thickened and yellow toe skin.
People with hammertoe (see illustration) have toe joints that curl up and lose flexibility. Ingrown toenails protrude into the nail bed, creating pain, nail thickening, and discoloration. Diabetics may have slow-to -heal ulcers and sensation loss. Pain that originates from the arch of the foot suggests heel spurs or plantar fasciitis.
Morton’s neuroma is a benign nerve growth between the third and fourth toes. Prolonged weight bearing, arthritis, and tight shoes pressure the plantar nerve, causing foot pain.
Three out of four people over sixty five wear shoes that are too small. Narrow or high heeled shoes, shoes with slippery soles, and those with no support create a fall risk. Decades of standing cause the the cushion under the heel and ball of the foot to stiffen. Ankle and foot joints become flat and less flexible. Medical conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, reduce blood circulation and add to nerve damage.
Older people are more likely to have foot pain if they have long term health problems. On the other hand, foot pain in younger people is often due aching muscles and bone stress.
Those in their sixties and older have pain due to corns, calluses bunions, and toe deformities. A third of older people with foot pain have calluses. About fifteen percent have corns.
Toenail fungal infection is common in sixty-year olds. The likelihood is higher for those with psoriasis, poor circulation, a hampered immune system, and obesity.
Diabetics need to protect their feet from blisters, punctures, and cuts. A small wound could cause severe infection that might require amputation. Up to three-quarters of all foot and toe amputations in diabetic people could be prevented with better monitoring of early danger signs.
Plantar fasciitis is characterized by pain along the bottom inside edge of the foot. Standing first thing in the morning worsens pain. The pain comes and goes, but can become long-term if ignored. Heel spurs often cause pain at the sole of the foot, worsened with walking.
Custom orthotics are prescribed for people with flat feet or long-term foot pain. They are expensive, and should be prescribed by a foot specialist (podiatrist). The orthotics are molded from a cast of the foot. In some cases, over the counter orthotics are useful and less costly.
Get rid of high heel shoes.Try out new shoes for a week or two before going on a trip.
Questions or comments? Contact Dr. Clem at firstname.lastname@example.org