A Pain in the Foot

A Pain in the FootProper Podiatric Care is Essential to Staying on Your FeetBy Ashley Kahn

Don’t take your feet for granted.

They may look simple enough, but the human foot and ankle contain 26 bones, 33 joints, 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, and a complex network of blood vessels, soft tissue and nerves – a veritable army providing your body with support, balance and propulsion.

To protect your feet, Dr. Paul Brooks of Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast recommends practicing good foot hygiene, performing daily foot inspections (especially diabetics), and wearing appropriate shoes.

Footwear is extremely important to the overall health of feet. Improper fit, poor material selection and failure to know when to retire a shoe that is well beyond its useful life are common traits of ill-fitting footwear, Brooks said.

In an athletic shoe, the foot and ankle specialist recommends New Balance for men and Asics for women. In a dress shoe, he suggests a squared-off toe box, a soft, friendly leather and a natural fiber sock.

For the stiletto-obsessed woman, a reasonable heel height is a mere 1.5 inches – not the towering 3.5 inches and higher that has become fashionable in recent years. A lower heel will prevent certain deformities such as bunions and hammertoes in the future.

The most common complaint among Brooks’ new patients is heel pain from prolonged standing on hard floors. Plantar fasciitis, also known as heel spur syndrome, is easy to treat.

“A patient’s best defense against this is a well-supported athletic shoe, a break from standing at regular intervals and frequent massage of the ligament in the arch,” Brooks said.

Another recurrent diagnosis is stress fracture.

“Due to our pleasant climate, we see many injuries associated with outdoor physical activity,” Brooks said. “Stress fractures can occur unknowingly and cause a great deal of pain, which is often undiagnosed and untreated.”

Proper and early diagnosis, cessation of activity and immobilization can remedy the fracture and relieve painful symptoms.

Even with regular care, heredity may affect foot health.

“Some people are predisposed to foot problems, and oftentimes this is perpetuated by improper shoe gear and harsh work environments,” Brooks said. “Early recognition of these hereditary problems is key to foot longevity.”

Don’t hesitate to consult a doctor, even if your problem is embarrassing. Deformities of the toenails can result in abscesses, ingrown toenails and fungal infections that may deter people from seeking treatment.

Most foot and ankle problems are made worse by waiting. If your condition is getting worse or preventing normal activity and quality of life, it is time to schedule an appointment.

“Treat your feet as though they have to last you a lifetime … because they do,” Brooks said.

For more information, visit the Web site of Paul Brooks, DPM, P.A., at feetareneat.com.


Shoe (and Sock) Shopping

The best time to shop for shoes is late in the day, after the foot has swollen. Avoid overly tight or loose socks, as both may lead to painful friction blisters. When buying new footwear, inspect carefully for the following:

  • » Manufacturer’s flaws
  • » Rough seams or stitching
  • » Fabric wrinkles
  • » Malformed plastic parts
  • » Misaligned shoelace eyelets
  • » Non-supportive soles
  • » Inappropriate heel height and width