As the adage goes, “When your feet hurt, everything hurts.” Humans are both blessed and cursed by being bipedal and that means that all the weight of the body ends up in our feet. No wonder we have so many foot problems. Add this to the fact that a lot of humans, especially but not limited to women, buy shoes not for comfort or support but for the way they look. It matters not that the shoes are all but instruments of torture. People still fork out hundreds of dollars for a pair of fire engine red stiletto heeled pumps!
Diabetes is especially damaging to the feet. Diabetics have to take special care of their feet, for one of the complications of the disease is peripheral neuropathy. This makes the foot insensate and the patient might not even know that it’s been injured until infection sets in.
Here are some common types of foot problems.
Nearly all bunions can be avoided if people just wore comfortable shoes with lots of room for their toes. But the constricting shoes that are so fashionable now often force the big toe to turn in toward the other toes. In extreme cases, the big toe might even cross the second toe, which causes the big toe to become calloused. The irritation might even prompt the big toe to grow a bone spur and a painful, fluid filled sac. Eventually, a bunion may call for surgery where a surgeon might apply pins or screws, or shorten or lengthen the ligaments in and around the toe. Though most of these surgeries are successful, they might not bring relief to all patients.
Ingrown toenails often happen because people simply don’t know how to cut their toenails. Toenails should be cut straight across with clippers specially made to trim toenails. Cutting toenails improperly risks the nail growing into the flesh around the toe. An ingrown toenail can also be the result of an accident or injury, as when the patient stubs their toe. Again, wearing less than comfortable shoes can compound the problem, as tight, ill fitting shoes cause the nail to press even more painfully into the tissue.
Another cause of foot pain are hammertoes, where the toes are crooked or strangely angled because the person has developed an unnatural walk. A bunion can also be part of a foot suffering from hammertoes. Sometimes hammertoes are the result of genetic factors, such as when a person has an unusually high arch of their foot. But other times, once again, it’s the result of wearing badly fitting shoes that throw the body out of balance and forces an unnatural gait. A very advanced case of hammertoes can make it very difficult for a person to walk at all. Once the foot reaches this condition the toes are hard to straighten out. As with a bunion, surgery might be the only option.
There’s a ligament in the foot called the plantar fascia. When this ligament is inflamed, the body reacts by depositing calcium, which eventually may produce a spur on the heel bone. Sometimes these spurs don’t hurt much, but sometimes they hurt a great deal, especially when the person puts pressure on their heel. The pain is at its worst when the person first gets out of bed in the morning. Putting weight on the heel causes a terrible shooting pain that can make a person cry out.
There are several ways that the discomfort of a heel spur can be eased. Once again, the wearing of proper shoes is essential, especially shoes with insoles that strengthen the arch of the foot and take the pressure off of the plantar fascia. Exercise, ice massage and splints worn at night also do much to relieve the pain of heel spurs.
Morton’s neuroma is an enlarged nerve right at the bottom of the third and fourth toes. Though it’s a benign condition, it still causes tingling, burning and shooting pains in the toes and ball of the foot.
The mechanism that leads to a Morton’s neuroma is complex, but it usually happens to people with flat feet, because flat feet stretch the nerves more than feet with normal arches. High heels can also lead to a neuroma.
The symptoms of Morton’s neuroma can be greatly alleviated by comfortable and supportive shoes, as well as insoles that support the arch and small pads put under the ball of the foot. In severe cases, a doctor might give the patient steroid injections to reduce the inflammation. Surgery includes removing or freezing the nerve. Lasers are also used to destroy the neuroma.