Guest post by Rae Steinbach of Taos Footwear
Each day we rely on our feet to carry us around with little thought until they cause us pain or discomfort. Our feet contain 42 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints, and around 50 ligaments that hold everything together and help us move.
With so many parts, it is hardly surprising that it doesn’t take much for something to go wrong. In fact, there are many different types of foot problems. Understanding what they are and how they’re caused will aid us to choose shoes, like comfortable sandals or supportive sneakers, that can correct or help treat common conditions.
Common Foot Complaints and Treatments
Foot pain can occur in the ball, heel, toes, or ankles. Each condition has slightly different causes and requires various treatments to relieve the pain. Below is a list of common foot ailments and their likely causes, along with suggested treatments.
Hammer Toes, Claw Toes, and Mallet Toes
Although they may sound similar, each of these conditions has slightly different causes and treatments.
A hammer toe causes the second, third, or fourth toe to cross, point at an odd angle, or bend at the middle. Often caused by badly fitting shoes, this condition can be corrected with a proper fit that leaves room for toes, inserts, and foot pads. If left too long however, toes can become fixed in this position, leading to intense pain that can only be corrected with surgery.
Claw toes occur is when all but the big toe curls up from the first joint, where toes connect with the foot, and down from the middle joint. Wearing tight shoes can cause this condition, which often results in calluses and corns forming on top of the middle joints. Nerve damage from diabetes and other conditions can also cause claw toes.
Mallet toes usually affect the longest toe on the foot – either our big toe or second toe. The last toe-joint bulges, causing it to take on a mallet shape. Foot injuries and arthritis can cause this condition and it should be treated by regularly rubbing calluses with pumice stones to reduce their size. Those affected should also wear shoes with enough room for the toes and place a pad over the toe or under the tips.
Each of these conditions can also be helped by special exercises that strengthen and stretch feet and toe muscles.
Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, and Stone Bruises
Plantar fasciitis and heel spurs can sometimes be confused, as both cause pain in the heel. Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation or irritation in the foot tissue that connects the heel to the ball of the foot. Heel spurs, on the other hand, are the result of a calcium build up on the heel bone that can extend as much as half an inch, sometimes causing pain similar to that of plantar fasciitis.
Heel spurs are associated with poorly fitting or severely worn shoes, excess weight, and running regularly on hard surfaces. Plantar fasciitis is related to a wider range of factors. It can be brought on by increasing age that brings on a reduction in the heel’s protective fat pad, diabetes, spending most of the day on one’s feet, and flat feet or high arches.
The pain from both heel spurs and plantar fasciitis can be alleviated by wearing shoes that adequately support feet and cushion heels.
Stone bruises are deep bruises that feel as though you are walking on a small stone that can often feel like either of the above two conditions. Well-fitting shoes that have shock absorbing soles can alleviate pain while the bruise heals.
Bunions, Corns, and Calluses
Bunions form on the edge of the big toe and can cause intense pain, or simply cause the big toe to point inwards without any other symptoms. Well-fitted shoes with plenty of space for toes should be worn to avoid rubbing and generating unnecessary pain.
Corns and calluses are caused by shoes that don’t fit properly, put pressure on the feet, and rub on the toes, heels, or sides of the foot. Wearing shoes that fit properly should stop corns and calluses from developing.
If you have corns already, treat them by soaking feet in warm water for ten minutes or more. Then, file the affected area with a pumice stone to reduce thickened skin and relieve pressure when wearing shoes. Padding can also be used to protect affected areas from further damage.
Feet are often overlooked in the daily care and maintenance of our bodies. Taking a little time each day to look after our feet often prevents painful conditions (such as those noted above) from developing.
Freelance editor Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing (of course).