Heel or No Heal: Everything You Should Know About Foot Health

By Martha Michael

Foot Pain and Chiropractic

If you’ve lived life in reasonably good health thus far, you probably just continue full speed ahead, with little thought as to what could go wrong. But there will be times when the wheels come off, and the assumption that you’ll always be standing -- feet firmly beneath you -- will tread on shaky ground.

Women

Regardless of our lifestyle choices, we tend to take the health of our “wheels” for granted, says Denver physical therapist Rick Olderman. “The foot has almost as many bones as the hand and wrist, so it's a complicated piece of real estate," he says in an article in Prevention Magazine about foot pain. "Yet we don't pay much heed to our feet until there are problems."

Citing the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, or AOFAS, the article claims that 80 percent of women have problems with their feet, many of those due to ill-fitting shoes. Ninety percent of women wear shoes that are too small, says an AOFAS survey, which means that changing footwear is one way to reverse some of the most common maladies that cause pain.

Calluses form as a tip-off that blisters are coming soon if you don’t switch from shoes that rub you wrong. Choose footwear that causes less pressure and friction.

Plantar fasciitis is commonly found among middle-aged men and women, says Dr. Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM, a Newark, Ohio podiatrist. Runners are prone to develop this injury, which is inflammation of the tissue under the foot that connects to the Achilles tendon and the calf muscles.

Bunions and hammertoes can be minimized by switching to shoes that fit. You need more space at the toes and possibly more padding. You can improve the biomechanics through the use of orthotics.

Morton’s neuroma, which feels like you have a rock in your shoe, affects the ball of your foot and radiates toward your third and fourth toes. It helps if you lose the high heels.

Athletes

From Little League to the Major Leagues, a player’s “wheels” are key to the longevity of the athlete’s participation in the sport. The footwork involved in baseball can easily cause ankle sprains, says the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons, mostly due to:

  • Fielding balls
  • Running
  • Stepping on base
  • Sliding

Treatment for Athletes

Players can fall victim to peroneal tendon injuries or fractures, and if not treated, a player can be coping with repeated sprains and ankle instability. Athletes should be receiving regular chiropractic care because of the excessive strain to their ankles and feet. A chiropractor assesses and monitors the health of the joints, including ankles. It’s a tremendous advantage to have a baseline (pun intended) of the athlete’s medical state to note changes when they occur.

Children

Foot pain experienced by kids is sometimes the result of calcaneal apophysitis, which is also referred to as Sever's disease. It’s the most common cause of heel pain in young athletes, according to the website for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The Achilles tendon pulls on the apophysis, causing microtrauma that sets off inflammation of the growth plate of the heel.

Causes of calcaneal apophysitis include:

  • Inferior footwear
  • Tight Achilles or calves
  • Bones growing faster than muscles and tendons
  • Sports involving jumping

Treatment for Kids

A chiropractor can pinpoint the origin of the child’s foot pain and treat it accordingly. The practitioner will likely instruct the young patient to stretch the calf muscles and apply ice to painful areas following activity. A child or teen may also benefit from shoe inserts, such as arch supports, and should avoid walking barefoot. Without adequate rest, the result of overuse can sideline an athlete of any age who may suffer from Achilles tendinopathy and heel pain.

On a Roll

Sometimes foot pain feels like a minor player, but it’s the root of other problems, such as an unusual gait or lower back pain. Ignoring foot problems can have a domino effect -- first you may just see it affecting your golf score, but eventually you can end up limping and battling pain in the knees, back and neck.

Symptoms may originate from neuropathy stemming from serious illnesses such as diabetes or gout, or it’s possible that pain is the result of misalignment in the bones of the ankle, thereby affecting the feet. It’s a good idea to keep your wheels in motion by seeking the advice of a chiropractor. At least, it’s a step in the right direction.

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