The Importance of Keeping Your Feet Healthy

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, nearly eight out of ten people have experienced foot pain and those who suffer from chronic foot pain are significantly more likely to have pain in other parts of their body.

“Feet are easy to overlook but if you take care of them, it will make a big difference,” said Dr. Gregory Kirwan, Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon at Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists (OSMS). “As we age, chronic foot pain and common foot problems such as tendinitis, bunions, and arthritis can increasingly limit your mobility.”

During National Foot Health Awareness Month, Kirwan wants to remind people of a few simple steps to keep your feet in the best shape possible.

  1. Keep a healthy weight. The more you weigh the greater the impact on your feet with each step you take. Being overweight can also increase arthritis or other problems in the foot.
  2. Wear good shoes. Choose supportive or comfortable shoes if you will be on your feet a lot. If you are a runner or exercise regularly, invest in an athletic shoe to keep your feet as protected as possible to minimize the consistent impact on them.
  3. Keep your feet moisturized. The skin of the feet tends to get thinner and drier with age which, if not taken care of, it can cause cracking, bleeding or pain. Keep skin soft by rubbing moisturizing lotion into your feet after showers or baths.
  4. Practice good foot hygiene. Clean your feet in the shower or bath and dry them thoroughly when done. If you put nail polish on your toes, let the nails breathe for a few days after polish is removed before adding more.

If pain continues or you experience chronic pain in your foot, cortisone shots or surgery may be necessary.

“Every patient I see is different,” said Kirwan. “Because of the consistent impact the foot receives, you can’t treat it like other joints.”

Kirwan points to the fact that cortisone shots, in particular, may not be as effective in the foot as they are in other joints. This is due to the amount of force that is place on the foot and ankle during walking or running.
“There are so many joints in the foot that it is impossible to inject cortisone into every joint,” said Kirwan.

According to Kirwan, some of the most common foot problems people experience include:

  • Bunions. Bony lumps that develop on the side of your foot and at the base of your big toe. They are the result of a condition called hallux valgus, which causes your big toe to bend towards the other toes and become deformed. If symptoms carry on over a long period, your toe may need to be surgically corrected.
    Hammer toe. Like bunions, hallux valgus can cause your other toes to become clawed or permanently bent, or hammer toe. This typically requires surgery to correct.
    Arthritis. Usually caused by osteoarthritis. This is where the cartilage covering the ends of your bones gradually roughens and becomes thin, and the bone underneath thickens. It can also be caused by damage from other rheumatic conditions, for example if you have rheumatoid arthritis, or if you’ve had a previous injury to the area. This leads to pain, swelling and occasional deformity of the joint. You may need surgery if your symptoms are severe.

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