The human foot is an impressive work of engineering design. With an intricate system of 42 muscles, 33 joints, 26 bones, and more than 50 fibrous tendons, ligaments, and support tissue, your feet are able to endure countless hours of walking, running, and weight-bearing without suffering serious damage, day in and day out.
When problems with your feet do occur, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Foot pain, tendinitis, and even ingrown toenails can sideline you for some time. Putting too much stress on your feet, forcing them into unnatural positions, or failing to provide support can damage any one of those intricate components that make up your feet. Left untreated, that damage can lead to pain, which can become chronic.
Among the most common culprits for damaged feet is ill-fitting, unsupportive footwear. Even “healthy” athletic shoes and dress shoes that claim you’re “walking on air” can harm your feet. Before you step foot into another shoe store, take note of how proper-fitting, supportive shoes can make all the difference in the health of your feet.
How shoes cause foot problems
Many people associate damaging footwear with women’s high heels. While suffering for fashion is sometimes endured, it’s not just high heels that impair foot health. Here’s a look at the most common shoe-related foot issues.
- Heel problems are extremely common, and an increasing number of Americans are seeking treatment for heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a condition caused by the overstretching, even tearing, of a band of tissue known as the fascia, which runs along the underside of your foot, from toes to heel. Commonly, this type of heel pain arises from not having enough arch support. Whether you wear flats, casuals, flip-flops, or athletic shoes, you could be setting yourself up for heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
- Toe deformities, including hammertoe, crossover toes, and claw toes, can result from shoes that are too narrow or short in the toe-box. This isn’t always related to pointy-toe shoes. Some men and women have a wider set to their toes and shoes with an average toe width may not accommodate. The compression of the toes can lead to toe deformities. Similarly, high-heeled shoes can force the toes to cross over, or realign themselves. Continually wearing this type of footwear can cause toe deformities.
- Ingrown toenails can be excruciating and increase the risk of infection. Many people believe this condition comes from over-trimming, or rounding, the toenail. Often, however, an ingrown toenail can be the result of shoes that don’t fit properly — especially athletic shoes. The pressure runners put on their feet can be up to four times their body weight. The constant pounding and pinching stresses the nail bed, resulting in swelling, which can lead to ingrown toenails.
- Achilles tendinitis is typically caused by a combination of overworking the foot and improper arch support. Individuals who take up walking, hiking, cross-training, or running sometimes hold off investing in expensive athletic shoes until they know the new regimen is going to become a lifestyle. Big mistake! When you begin a workout program that affects your feet, you need the most supportive shoe you can find. You also need to ease into your workouts. With proper support, your Achilles tendon adapts over time.
Steps to finding the proper shoe
Finding the right shoe takes time, but it makes a big difference in your foot health. Follow these tips when selecting your shoes:
- Measure your foot. The shape of your feet changes over time. Make sure you’re wearing the right size shoe.
- Try the shoes on. Walk around the store. Do you have enough room in the toe? Is your stride easy and natural, or unsure and wobbly? Do your feet feel supported? Make sure you don’t feel as though your arch is being pulled or stretched.
- There’s no such thing as “breaking in” or stretching a pair of ill-fitting shoes. You cause damage to your feet if you try to wear your new shoes into fitting properly.
- If you’re active, replace your athletic shoes every few months to maintain fit and support.
- Make sure the insoles of your new shoes are removable. To promote foot health you may require orthotic inserts.
Respect and care for your feet
At Family Foot and Ankle Clinic, LLC, we value your feet. Under the leadership of Dr. Joel Tikalsky, our podiatrists and support staff treat the full spectrum of issues associated with the foot and ankle. We offer eight Wisconsin locations to serve you: Weston, Merrill, Marathon, Antigo, Woodruff, Wausau, Shawano, and Mosinee.
Show your feet all the care and respect these engineering marvels deserve. Don’t wait to address your foot pain. Contact Family Foot and Ankle Clinic, LLC, today and start strolling through life pain-free.