Foot Health Facts for Women
Foot and ankle problems commonly experienced by women:
- Morton’s Neuroma – a thickening of nerve tissue in the ball of the foot resulting from compression and irritation of the nerve, such as from wearing shoes that have a tapered toe box, or high-heeled shoes that cause the toes to be forced into the toe box.
- Bunions – begin with a leaning of the big toe, gradually changing the angle of the bones over the years and slowly producing the characteristic bump. They are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. Although both men and women can get bunions, the shoes worn by women sometimes make the deformity get progressively worse. Tailor’s Bunion
- Heel Pain and Plantar Fasciitis – is most often caused by plantar fasciitis, although it may also be due to other causes. Although faulty foot structure is the most common cause of plantar fasciitis, in women it may result from wearing non-supportive shoes such as flip-flops and ballet flats.
- Ankle Sprain – While anyone can sprain an ankle, women are especially vulnerable to this injury when wearing high-heeled shoes (especially on slippery surfaces), platform-soled shoes, or other improper footwear.
Fix Feet First Before Weight Loss Resolutions
Many of the estimated 70 million obese Americans are trapped in a life-threatening cycle: Obesity aggravates foot problems, like heel pain and flat feet; sore feet make it hard to exercise and lose weight; and without exercise, obesity worsens and increases progression of diabetes, heart disease and other serious health threats.
But don’t stop that from making weight loss your New Year’s Resolution. Foot or ankle pain should not stop patients from exercising. The first step toward breaking the cycle is to seek evaluation and treatment by a foot and ankle surgeon for chronic, activity-limiting foot and ankle problems to foster compliance with physician-directed exercise programs.
For those moderately to severely overweight, a thorough physical examination is mandatory before beginning an exercise program. Once cleared by your physician to begin exercising, don’t try to do too much too soon. Follow a gradual routine until your body adjusts to the stress of regular physical activity. For example, overweight patients should avoid working out on treadmills or elliptical machines to minimize pounding and stress on their joints.
Many causes of foot pain can be relieved non-surgically through stretching exercises, orthotics and athletic shoes with good shock absorption and support. If a bunion, heel pain or other condition requires surgery, patients can participate during their recovery in non-weight-bearing activities, such as riding a stationary bike, swimming or weight training.
Shedding excess pounds also helps diabetic patients control their disease, but many who experience foot ulcerations and vascular problems caused by diabetes might think they shouldn’t exercise. Diabetic patients need regular foot exams to check for possible sore spots and assess nerve sensation. With proper diabetic foot care and the right footwear, most patients can follow an exercise regimen that is safe and appropriate for them.
Getting in Shape Your New Year’s Resolution?
Each year the New Year’s resolution to shed those extra pounds spikes attendance at gyms, draws runners, walkers and bikers to the roads and trails and finds us cleaning the dust from our home workout equipment. “No pain, no gain” may be a motto for most workouts, but “too much, too soon” can lead to foot and ankle injuries that could sabotage your fitness goals.
One of the most common sports injuries is a sprained ankle. If you sprain your ankle, don’t “play through the pain.” Proper treatment and rehabilitation of ankle sprains are crucial to ensure adequate healing. If you avoid seeking treatment for the injury, not only can you cause further damage to the tendons in your ankle, which may take much longer to heal or possibly require surgery, but you may be overlooking a more serious injury—a stress fracture.
A stress fracture may feel like an ankle sprain at first, but you will notice some additional warning signs, such as swelling without bruising and pain even during normal activities or when touching the area. If you have any of these symptoms, have your foot and ankle evaluated as soon as possible.
If you finish your workout and experience any pain or swelling around your Achilles tendon, seek treatment right away. These could be indications of Achilles tendonitis. If left untreated, a stretched or strained Achilles tendon may worsen over time, leading to stiffness and fatigue in your injured leg. Worse yet, untreated Achilles tendonitis could result in a ruptured tendon, which would require surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation of several months!
Another common “overuse” injury is heel pain. If you have heel pain that lasts for more than a day or two, or seems to worsen when you stand after sitting for an extended amount of time, you may have a condition known as plantar fasciitis. This common condition is a result of an inflammation of the tissue extending from your heel to your toes. If caught early enough, your foot and ankle surgeon can examine the condition and recommend some at-home conditioning. In late stages, the problem is much harder to treat and takes much longer for the pain to resolve.
Don’t Ignore the Pain!
If you’ve injured your foot or ankle during a workout, schedule an examination with a foot and ankle surgeon right away.
Foot Push-Up Test
Take this simple test to check how well your arches are performing their important functions.
In bare feet, stand facing a kitchen counter.
Place your palms on the counter with slight pressure.
Stand with your back straight, and lift one foot off the floor.
Slowly lift the heel of other foot, placing all of your weight onto the ball of your foot.
Slowly lower your heel back to the floor.
Do 10 foot push-ups.
Repeat steps 1 – 6 with the other foot.
And now the results…
Did you have problems doing just one push-up?
If you cannot rise up onto the ball of your foot without putting lots of pressure on your hands, leaning over the counter or experiencing pain, your arch may have a mechanical problem. The arch tendon can stretch or rupture, leading to lowering of the arch. A foot and ankle surgeon should be consulted as soon as possible.
Were you able to do all 10 without a problem?
If you can easily rise up onto the ball of your foot, but have difficulty performing all 10 repetitions, you may be suffering from arch fatigue. Exercises focusing on strengthening and stretching leg muscles will help this problem. The foot push-up described above can also be used as an exercise technique.
Did you have pain in your arch during the exercise?
If you can easily rise up onto the ball of your foot but experience pain in your arch, your arch may be inflamed and may have been overworked. Consulting a foot and ankle surgeon for weak and overworked arches is recommended to manage the problem and keep your feet healthy and free of pain.
Simple Precautions Can Keep You on the Trails This Fall
Even the most avid outdoorsmen don’t realize just how much stress and strain they put on their feet and ankles during autumn hikes. Those long, vigorous walks on uneven terrain may be fun, but without proper care, they could lead to damage to their feet and ankles.
Poor choice in footwear and lack of conditioning can lead to foot and ankle injuries that will keep you from participating in the sports you love. Follow these precautions and you can enjoy all the season has to offer.
Wear the Right Shoes and Socks
You don’t wear hiking boots to play basketball, so practice the same common sense in return. Hikers should wear top-quality, well insulated, moisture-proof hiking boots with steel or graphite shanks. These boots offer ankle support and reduce muscle and tendon fatigue and injury risk.
Proper socks can also mean the difference between comfortable walks and those resulting in blisters, fungal infections and even frostbite. To prevent these problems, always wear two layers of socks:
- Layer 1 – Synthetic socks to keep your feet dry and reduce blister-causing friction.
- Layer 2 – Wool socks to add warmth, absorb moisture away from your skin and make the hiking boot more comfortable.
“No pain, no gain” does not apply to your feet and ankles, so play it smart and ease into your outdoor adventures. Start with less difficult terrain or shorter walks. Poor physical conditioning is the leading cause of injuries, so stretching exercises and building up of foot and ankle muscles can prevent these problems.
Don’t do more than your body can take—an injury on your first time out could mean your last time out for the season!
Listen to Your Body
Pain is the body’s way of telling you there is something wrong. If your feet or ankles start to hurt, take a break. Pushing yourself to “hike on” through even minor pain can lead to more serious injuries.
If you injure your feet or ankles when out on a hike, contact a foot and ankle surgeon right away. Early treatment can get you back on the trails in no time.