Best Foot Forward

Care for your feet and they’ll care for you

By George M. Withers

The human foot is a marvel of engineering. Think about it: 26 bones, 33 joints, and a network of hundreds of tendons, muscles, ligaments and nerves all working together to get you from point A to Z. Is it any wonder why foot ailments are so common?

Heel-Toe Harbinger

Listen to your feet. Okay, not literally. That’s a long way to stretch, but it’s no stretching of the truth when a podiatrist or family physician spots clues regarding your state of health when inspecting your feet. Diabetes, circulatory disorders, anemia, kidney problems, gout, and arthritis can all attack the feet first.

Minor Ailments

Athlete’s foot is a skin disease caused by a fungus. Affected feet become dry, scaly and itch with inflammation. Blisters are caused by skin friction. Bunions are misaligned big toe joints that can become swollen and cause the first joint to slant outward. Bunions are hereditary. Corns and calluses are protective layers of compacted, dead skin cells. They are caused by repeated friction and pressure from skin rubbing against bony areas or against an irregularity in a shoe.

Major Ailments

Hammertoe. Yes, it’s a thing. Bent, claw-like toes occur when a bunion slants the big toe toward and under the second tow but any of the other toes can be affected. It usually stems from an imbalance in foot muscles. Surgery may be necessary to realign the toes to their proper position. Heel pain can generally be traced to faulty biomechanics that place too much stress on the heel bone, ligaments, or nerves in the area. Heel spurs are growths of bone on the underside of the heel bone. They can occur without pain; pain may result when inflammation develops at the point where the spur forms. Both heel pain and heel spurs are often associated with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the long band of connective tissue running from the heel to the ball of the foot.

Tips for Toes

Inspect your feet regularly. Check both heels and between the toes. Red flags include changes in colour and temperature, thick or discoloured nails, cracks or cuts in the skin. Peeling or scaling might be an indication of athlete's foot. Wash your feet regularly, especially between the toes, and be sure to dry them completely. Trim toenails straight across, but not too short. Buy shoes that fit properly. You take a car for a test-drive so why not take your shoes for a test-walk? Purchase new shoes later in the day when feet tend to be at their largest. Always replace worn out shoes.

Foot Friend

Your feet are special. They deserve specialized care. And just like you wouldn’t see a cardiologist for an ear infection you wouldn’t see a gynaecologist for when your feet feel less than perfect. Don't ignore foot pain or foot irregularities. Put your best foot forward and get to the foot doctor.

Winter 2015, Vol 7 N°1

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