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Foot & AnklePainPrevention

Be Kind to Your Feet!

 

I was going to take the “Be Kind” series from the tips of the fingers down to the tips of the toes but I changed my mind. I’m going to go where my patients tell me to go and this week they told me to go to ground. Ground Zero of the human body is the feet. And those dogs took a beating this week. My patients showed up with fractures, cuts, infections, deformities, nerve damage, stress reactions and my pet project…plantar fasciitis; the disease I want to eradicate in my life time. I’m making headway with my own patients and with the world. Already about 1000 people have read my plantar fasciitis blog!

Now this isn’t going to be a “Treatment of Conditions of the Feet” blog. It’s just about how to be kind to your feet. It’s mostly going to be directed at women because 8 out of 10 patients with problems in their feet are women. Even fractures of the feet seem more common in women. Maybe men just don’t pay much attention to their feet. They more than likely ignore toe fractures. I can’t remember the last time I saw an adult male with a toe fracture. Kids don’t count because moms want to know. I wanted to x-ray every fracture my kids had even though I could see them at home with my special x-ray vision. I wanted that record on x-ray film.

Anyway, women get toe fractures all the time by running into the side of the bed or dresser on the way back from the potty in the middle of the night. Hey, I think I’m on to something. Guys don’t get up in the middle of the night as much as gals and so statistically, they’re less likely to fracture their toes.

So…

  • Don’t walk around your house in the middle of the night. But if you have to, then wear shoes. Keep a nice pair of slippers (with a back…no slip-on slippers) at the bedside. This tip is multi-beneficial. You’ll just have to keep reading the blog next week to learn more.
  • I know this one is going to fall on deaf ears but I’ve got to say it. High-heeled shoes, after sugar and drunk driving, are probably responsible for the greatest amount of disease to one singular area of the human body. They are to the feet, what cigarettes are to the lungs. No, they won’t cause you to die. They’ll only make you wish you were dead…later on.

That being said, I love high heels.

They contribute to the development of bunions, bunionettes, hammer toes, nerve damage, ankle sprains and fractures.

They help you get jobs and husbands, but when you’re 55 you’ll wonder if that was worth it. Especially if your ex marries a 25-year-old with 7AAAs right around the time you’re getting your hammer toes pinned.

But I digress. One of the ways to live life comfortably is to avoid wearing high heels.  Anyway, just do as I say…

  • It’s interesting to watch the changes which occur in the foot as people age. Like everything else, the foot becomes stiff. But because it spends so much of its life in shoes, the foot becomes very rigid. It gets hard to even spread the toes. Some 80-year-old feet remind me of fleshy planks. So massage your feet. Try as hard as you can to get someone else to do it; preferably one who loves you and to whom you don’t have to pay good money. Hold hands with your feet during commercials while you watch TV. * These are habits which once practiced, will become easy to break, so leave little sticky notes on the refrigerator; Have you held hands with a foot lately?
  • I’m not crazy about flip-flops; they flip off at just the wrong time. On smooth wet surfaces, they sometimes develop surface tension and stick at just the wrong time. Injury results.
  • I’m not crazy about mules. If it’s a slip-on shoe, it stays on your foot one of two ways; either by being tight around your forefoot or by being held on by pressing your toes against the sole as you raise your foot in mid-stance. People often claim that their mules are the most comfortable shoes they have. This is because when you’re no longer walking, you can easily slip them off. But if the body of the mule is tight, it can cause your toes to swell. It can cause damage to the very sensitive, superficial nerves in your feet. If it’s loose, then as you raise your foot, you must use toe flexion to hold it on and that overworks the muscles to your toes. I think overworking those muscles over time, reinforces the factors that result in hammer and claw toes. Wear shoes with a back. It’s that simple.
  • Use night lights. In the dark, they can help you see the giant, heavy pieces of furniture you’ve had in the exact same place for the entire time you’ve been living in that house.
  • Keep the scourge of calluses to a minimum. There are all sorts of chemical and mechanical products out there for you to use.
  • Orthotics are a good way to diminish the ravages of time and gravity on your arches. Get a pair. Put them in any closed, lace-up shoe you wear. No downside to this. Custom arch supports are nice, but there are lots of off-the-shelf varieties to choose from as well.
  • Stretch your feet in the morning before you get out of bed and after you’ve been sitting for a long period of time (see my blog on heel pain/plantar fasciitis).

 

*As a physician, I am acutely aware of the need to inform patients of potential risks and complications of the treatments and recommendations I give. Always keep your feet clean or your hands will smell.

 

5 comments
  1. drbarbarabergin

    The human body certainly responds predictably when it comes to the old adage, “for every action there is an opposite reaction.” And there’s a reason why I think of this when I consider stand up desks

    In general, I’m in favor of stand-up desks. Especially if you’re tall. Getting up and down from chairs can take a toll on your knees. But you’ve got to be able to take some pressure off the backs of your thighs and your feet. So if you’re truly standing up, with just your hip resting on the chair, over time I think you’ll begin having problems with your feet. And if you’re sitting, but your legs are hanging down off the side of your chair, in time you’ll begin to have thigh and back pain. So everything in moderation. Make sure you have a supportive chair and not just a stool. Make sure it has a padded seat and good back support, and make sure it has a decent rung on which to rest your feet. Then I’m all for stand-up desks!

  2. Tara Casey

    Dr, I fractured my pinky toe 10 years ago. I went to the orthopedist they told me i was fine. Here i am 10 years later trying to understand how my toe & now full on foot hurts. I have a tailor bunion now… it hurts alot when i am on my feet for a long time and also when i lay down at night. It swells & its pretty red! I am really interested in finding a solution to this it affects my whole leg now 🙁 i am 27 year old female.

    1. Barbara

      This is a little bit of a complicated question, Tara, and I’m sorry you’re having so much trouble with your foot and everything related to it. Let’s see if I can help you.
      Firstly, I would say that 99% of the time, pinky toe fractures and sprains are pretty minor, other than the fact that they hurt like hell, and there is nothing to do for them other than to buddy tape them to the next toe.
      That’s not to say, however, that they don’t end up with some deformity. Most of the time that doesn’t cause any long term problem. Occasionally, the toe is a little thicker than it used to be, or it’s a little rotated, but again, it doesn’t cause long term problems. On a rare occasion, the deformity can cause problems with shoe wear. But even then, the only way a surgeon would EVER correct it, is if the deformity were severe, and there was no way to modify shoes enough to accommodate it. Because after surgery, there could be a possibility that it could be worse, or you could have a complication. So it would have to be really bad to warrant an operation. Now a tailor’s bunionette is an entirely different issue, usually not related to a fracture. When I was your age, I had tailor’s bunionettes on both of my feet and had to have surgery. This is something we just develop as a result of the way our foot is put together, and it’s almost entirely a problem seen in women because we wear tight, pointy, and high heeled shoes. After the surgery I had no more pain. If you developed the tailor’s bunion after the toe fracture, it might be because that toe had a little deformity or because the swelling made that toe stick out a little. There is an operation, and usually a fairly simple one, that can fix the problem. It’s always painful at night, when we sleep on our side, because of the pressure on the prominence there. I’m not sure why it affects your whole leg, but I do recall that when I had it, it was quite painful, and maybe I felt like the pain radiated up my leg. My patients with bunionettes do complain of a lot of pain. It goes away after surgery. Sometimes, even simple injuries can have long term repercussions. The good news is that if it’s truly just a bunionette, there is a simple surgical fix that works! Yay! If it’s something else, you’ll need to have it further evaluated by your orthopedic surgeon. Hope this helps.

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