For years and years you never gave a passing thought to your feet other than to make sure your toenails looked pretty. And then … all hell broke loose.
Your feet are killing you! You are limited in regard to what kind of shoe you can comfortably wear and certainly can’t tolerate high heels or any footwear sporting a narrow toe box. You can’t walk for very long without experiencing pain. What happened?
R.P.: I used to just smile at the phrase ‘practical shoes.’ Now I wear nothing but. Anyone remember Earth shoes? They were great.
Time Takes Its Toll
Think about the wear and tear our feet are subjected to over the years. No wonder they break down and then rise up in rebellion. The feet of a 60-year-old are not going to look remotely like that of a 20-year-old. All kinds of pesky issues crop up in and on older feet because of the abuse feet are subjected to. Podiatrists do a land office business when it comes to Baby Boomers and their parents. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. Where shall we start?
Bunions occur when the joint tissue situated at the base of the big toe enlarges because of misalignment. Look at your big toe. Does it turn inward toward the second toe? If it does this results in tender and swollen tissues. Ask your podiatrist about bunion pads, toe splints and/or surgery.
P.M. age 68: Arthritis has taken over my body. It’s in the joints of my toes. I had surgery on my big toe. Bunions have been removed twice. I wore heels on a concrete floor for 7-9 hours a day for years when I had a retail store. No doubt that added to my later problems. Also, being overweight didn’t help.
Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses develop when friction or pressure between the skin on the foot rubs against the bony areas of the foot or against the inside of footwear. Skin builds up and makes points of pressure over bony prominences and this leads to a corn or callus. Corns usually crop up on the top of the foot or between the toes while calluses appear on the sole of the foot. Ask your doctor about trimming or padding the corn or callus. Some opt for surgery.
Neuroma means a swollen or pinched nerve or nerve tumor. It is a growth of benign nerve tissue, usually located between the third and fourth toes. When experiencing neuroma, you will feel pain, burning, tingling and numbness in the ball of the foot as well as between the toes. Ask your podiatrist if an injection of cortisone or anti-inflammatory medicines will relieve the pain. Wearing custom orthotics as well as taping and padding the foot helps.
When there is inflammation of the connective tissue running from the ball of the foot to the heel, this is plantar fasciitis. Your heel hurts. Another heel-related condition is heel spur syndrome, which means an overgrowth of bone on the heel bone. These conditions can be caused by trauma, bone deformity, muscle imbalance, obesity or tightness of the muscles in the backside of the leg or too much stretching of the long band of tissue. You can use orthotics, which alleviate pain. Injections can be given. Ask your doctor about medications. The Mayo Clinic recommends doing foot stretches to prevent plantar fasciitis.
J.S. age 67: I developed plantar fasciitis and can no longer go bare foot. I always went barefoot around the house until this hit me when I was 62. I only wear brand Merrell shoes now.
S.L.: I have plantar fasciitis and I’m only 34. (It was probably caused by) lots of going barefoot and years of working on cement floors.
Look at your toenails. Are they nasty looking? Are your plans to wear sandals dashed because of the condition of your nails?
Nail fungus is present when the nail thickens. The nail detaches from the nail plate at times. Treat fungus with creams, nail lacquer and soaking the nails and feet. Oral medication can be prescribed to treat this condition.
Athlete’s foot is a condition resulting in blisters on the feet, scaling, redness and itching that drives you crazy. The infection can spread to the toenails, discoloring the nails, making them thick and painful. You acquire athlete’s foot when feet are exposed to warm, humid and dark areas, such as in a locker room or the inside of the shoe. Do not wear wet shoes or socks and don’t walk around bare footed in a locker room. Wearing cotton socks helps prevent athlete’s foot. Ask your doctor if a topical or oral anti-fungal medication will help.
When there is no arch in the foot, either because a person was born that way or the arch has fallen, an individual has flat feet. This results in hip, ankle and knee pain as well as back pain. The flat-footed person needs to wear supportive shoes.
Hammer toes are a contaction deformity, caused by wearing poor fitting shoes, wearing high heels or the result of trauma. Some inherit hammer toes from their parents. The hammer toes consists of a bony prominence in between the toe or on top of it. The Mayo Clinic recommends icing the toe and then soaking the foot in warm water filled with Epsom salts to reduce pain. An anti-inflaamtory medication can help as can injections of collagen fillers into your toe. Pad and tape the toe before slipping into your shoes. Some may opt for surgery.
Plantar warts appear on the foot and are painful. A virus entering the skin by way of a small abrasion or cut has led to the development of a wart, which is a viral infection. A wart has a black pinpoint in the center surrounded by gray or brown. You must treat warts ASAP; otherwise, they can proliferate into clusters. Warts can be removed via laser cautery.
Ingrown toenails are extremely painful. A nail becomes ingrown when the nail grows into the flesh, causing the toe to swell and turn red. Use over-the-counter medicines to provide some relief. You may need to have the nail removed by a podiatrist.
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