Pay close attention to your feet to gain clues about your overall health. When your feet hurt or develop problems, it’s your body’s way of sending you a message about your lifestyle choices. “People are conditioned to expect their feet to hurt at the end of a long day, and that’s certainly normal, but if it’s a recurring problem that affects your ability to engage in normal activities or increase your activity level, you should definitely be evaluated by a podiatrist,” says Dr. Michael Cornelison, owner of Cupertino Podiatry Inc. To determine if you have a foot problem and learn ways to effectively deal with it, consider the following tips:
Plantar fasciitis (heel pain)
Perhaps the most common foot problem, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of a band of tissue that helps support the arch of the foot. It’s caused by a number of factors, including weight gain, worn-out shoes, walking barefoot, increasing exercise and walking on hard surfaces without proper support. “People typically associate plantar fasciitis with having a flat foot, but it actually affects people with both low and high arches,” says Dr. Cornelison. To avoid developing heel pain, stretch your feet every day and wear supportive shoes that don’t put undue stress on the ball of your foot. A podiatrist can also conduct an examination and determine if medications or orthotics are necessary.
One of the most common non-skeletal foot problems, ingrown toenails can be caused by improper trimming, tight-fitting shoes, poor foot structure, heredity or general trauma. Visit a podiatrist at the first sign of a problem to determine which treatments may be necessary. Avoid tight-fitting shoes and socks, inspect your toenails daily, and trim nails straight across (no round edges).
Plantar warts Plantar warts occur on the bottom of the feet. They’re most commonly found on young children, although middle-aged and older people can get them as well. Treatments for these warts vary quite a bit, as what works for one patient may not work for another. “Some people try to get rid of plantar warts with over-the-counter products and treatments, but those are often ineffective,” says Dr. Cornelison. “It takes a long time to treat a wart, and there are many things you have to do to prepare your foot for treatment.” To help prevent plantar warts from occurring on your feet, practice good foot hygiene (keep them clean and dry), change your shoes regularly, and protect your feet from skin injuries like scratches and abrasions.
Trauma or infection to a toenail can make it thick, discolored, loose or deformed. This is often caused by the spread of athlete’s foot, but it can also be an indication of conditions such as diabetes or arthritis. Consult a podiatrist and ask for a medication or treatment that will safely and effectively treat the problem.
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Foot tendinitis is caused by overuse, usually due to an increase in physical activity. It can also be caused by wearing worn-out or improperly fitted shoes. Rest and ice provide the best relief, but if the pain persists, you should look into over-the-counter supports and prescription anti-inflammation medications.