Common conditions affecting your feet

 The doctor-podiatrist does an examination and massage of the patient's foot in the clinic.

Common conditions affecting your feet

Probably just about all of us have experienced and complained of aching feet.  Maybe it stemmed from standing all day in uncomfortable shoes or walking a long distance on an unforgiving surface. 

Whatever the reason, when our feet hurt, life can be miserable.  There can be numerous causes for feet to hurt but for chronic pain or discomfort, there is a good chance it is due to one of the following reasons.  However, if foot pain does not go away or get better, always contact a podiatrist for a full foot evaluation to figure out the origin of hurting feet.

It’s time to turn your hurting feet into happy feet once and for all.  Here are 5 common ailments that could be causing foot pain making your feet ache more they need to.  Discover how you can treat and ideally prevent these conditions to keep yourself feeling good from head to toe: 

1.     Bursitis

Bursitis in the foot is when the fluid-filled sac, called the bursa, becomes inflamed.  In the foot, there is only one naturally-occurring bursa that is located between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone.  Bursitis in the foot will feel like a bump usually on the back of the heel.  Pain often occurs when walking, running, or when touched and the skin over the affected area may be red and feel warm.

Treatment – Switch to shoes with open backs until the irritation goes away.  Use a cushioned “donut pad” that can be placed over the bursa alleviating pressure and then at the end of the day, ice the area to soothe inflammation.  If the problem persists, see a podiatric surgeon who can remove the bursa and enlarge part of the heel bone.

2.     Plantar fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a thin, web-like ligament connecting the heel to the front of the foot, supporting the arch of the foot helping you to walk.  The condition of plantar fasciitis can cause pain in the bottom of the heel and is a common foot complaint.  Causes of plantar fasciitis is when there is too much pressure on feet that over time can lead to damage  or tearing of ligaments that leads to inflammation.  This results in a feeling of pain and stiffness in the bottom of the heel

Wearing shoes with very flat or very high heels can worsen plantar fasciitis as the shoe is not supporting the arch, causing the fascia to be stretched resulting in inflammation. 

Treatment – Wear a more structured shoe supporting the arches and enclosing the heel.  Avoid going barefoot or wearing ballet flats or flip-flops.  Stretching the Achilles tendons in the morning can also help – before getting out of bed, wrap a towel or a T-shirt around your feet and pull the toes back to stretch the tendons.

Another strategy is to fill a plastic bottle with water, freeze it, and then roll it under your foot for a few minutes to soothe the pain.  Wearing custom orthotics inside shoes molded specifically for your foot to control motion and reducing strain on the plantar fasciae can also bring relief. 

3.      Ingrown toenail

This common condition usually affecting the big toe is when the corner or side of a toenail grows into the soft flesh which results in pain, redness, swelling and occasionally infection. 

Treatment – Avoid wearing pointy-toed shoes – opt instead for a shoe with a roomy shoe box.  Keeping feet well-moisturized can also help alleviate the problem.  When trimming toenails, cut them straight across without filing the corners down – make sure when getting a pedicure the technician does the same.  Do not try to dig around the nail or cut out the ingrown part as that can lead to more irritation.

4.     Stress fracture

A stress fracture is a small crack in a bone, or severe bruising within a bone.  Most are caused by overuse and repetitive activity such as jumping up and down or running long distances.  They can also be caused by repetitive stress on a bone such as walking on hard surfaces especially in shoes that are not designed to absorb shock.  Both high heels and flip flops can make a person more susceptible to stress fractures since these shoes distribute weight over the foot unevenly.   The area of the foot that becomes tender is usually on the front part of the foot, at the second or third metatarsal – the long bones in the midfoot. 

Treatment – It is best to see a doctor to get a diagnosis and to get advice on what type of shoe to wear to help it heal.  To help a stress fracture heal – which takes about four to eight weeks – you will need to avoid any running and limit walking to what is absolutely necessary. In the meantime, wear supportive, well-cushioned shoes.

5.     Bunions

A bunion is a deformity of the metatarsophalangeal joint at the base of the big toe.  They can develop when the metatarsal bone of the foot turns outward and the big toe points inward which causes the joint to jut out.  A bunion will feel sensitive with a protruding bump on the head of the big-toe joint. 

Treatment – Wearing the right shoe is critical to prevent a bunion from seriously damaging the foot’s functioning.  Not wearing a proper fitting shoe can cause the bunion to damage other toes to where they may develop corns or become bent, forming hammertoes.  If the joint becomes more misshapen, it can become very uncomfortable making it harder to fit into shoes and can curtail exercise and other activities like basic walking.

Choose shoes with a wide toe box and a low heel – no pointy shoes or high heels.  Use gel pads places over the bunions to help cushion the area reducing pain.  In extreme cases or if the bunion gets worse by becoming more painful and affecting the foot’s mobility, a podiatric surgeon can realign the joints and shave off the protruding bones.