Pay attention to your feet — and then take action

Published Jun 24, 2018 at 9:00am

Our feet are important to us. We use them almost every minute of the day. If walking isn’t comfortable, it is hard to go about the activities of daily living. There are several ways in which our feet can cause discomfort.

Foot pain is often caused by poorly fitting shoes. Heels may be too high, or shoes may be too short or too tight. Being overweight adds to the problem. Make sure you buy shoes that are big enough.

Most of the time, wear lace-up shoes with cotton socks. Save high heels and save sandals for special occasions. For people who do have foot pain, besides changing their shoe styles, many people benefit by soaking their feet in warm water at the end of the day. Make sure the skin on your feet is not too dry, by applying lotion at night.

Bunion is a problem of the big toe. The front of the toe turns out, consequently the base of the toe (at the joint) turns in. This results in a protrusion on the inner side of the foot at the base of the big toe. This protrusion gradually gets larger and rubs against the shoe, causing pain.

Bunions make walking difficult. A podiatrist will recommend bracing and special shoes. If bunions continue to progress, surgery may be necessary. This is done by a podiatrist or an orthopedist. It may take time to recover, but surgery is usually successful.

Infections of the big toe near the nail, often called ingrown toenails, are common. Podiatrists should be seen, when the area becomes painful. They will remove part of the nail, to relieve the pressure and drain the infection, and then they will advise you about good footwear and how to care for your toes to avoid this from happening again.

Corns and calluses are thickened areas of skin. The thickness develops because of pressure. If the thickened areas cause pain, a foot doctor can scrape them off. The doctor will also recommend shoes that do not rub.

Gout is a disease that involves the feet and also other parts of the body. It typically causes severe pain in the big toe. Gout causes pain when crystals of uric acid accumulate in a joint. Your primary doctor will use medication to treat the excessive uric acid. You may need to continue to take medication to prevent another attack. 

People with diabetes should pay close attention to their feet. They should take precautions with well-fitting shoes and socks. They should check their own feet regularly. And if they get any sores on their feet they should see their regular doctor or their foot doctor. Keeping their diabetes under control will help prevent foot trouble. Serious diabetic foot problems may result in amputations.

We all need to get exercise and, for most of us, walking is the easiest way to do that. You should be able to work up to walking at least one mile a day. If you can’t walk because of foot pain, talk it over with your doctor or podiatrist. See if they can develop a plan to stop the pain so that you can walk. Otherwise, explore other ways to get exercise. 

Swimming is recommended as an exercise for people with foot problems. However, it is hard for many people to find an inexpensive pool to use. Any exercise that is done while sitting or lying on a mat, will keep the weight off your feet. Go to a gym and talk with one of the professionals there, or have your doctor prescribe a visit to a physical therapist.