Keeping Your Feet Happy In The New Year
No matter what your New Year’s resolutions are, your feet may have suffered through the holiday shopping, and now it’s time to treat them right. Since you can’t just replace them like a set of tires, you may want to consider having them balanced and realigned.
Looking back on the previous year, there are some balance and alignment problems of the feet that could have been avoided if patients had more education about basic foot function.
#1 Heel pain, which most commonly presents with pain in the bottom of the heel, involves the overpulling of the plantar fascia at it’s attachment to the heel bone. The presence of a bone spur with this does not usually mean surgery is necessary. At least 75% of the time, I have also found that the calf muscle/Achilles tendon which attaches in the back of the heel, is also tight. This I call the “X” factor, and it must be treated as well.
The first steps to treating plantar fasciitis therefore, are to support the foot better to decrease the pull of the fascia, and to stretch the Achilles/calf muscle. The first step in increasing support, is to replace the insoles that came with the shoe with a good over the counter full length support. Superfeet and Spenco are available in local stores. Powerstep supports are available through our office. You may also want to temporarily use a heel lift under the support, which will immediately decrease the Achilles overpull. Have your athletic shoes or walking shoes checked for stability. Ice regularly, and avoid going barefoot at home.
When talking about shoes, you have to think about what you’re expecting the shoe to do for you. The foot has to absorb your weight at heel strike, it has to absorb the rotation of your legs as you move over the foot, and it has to convert from a flexible shock absorber (heel strike) into a rigid lever as you propel over the ball of your foot. Clearly, if you sit at work and wear dress shoes, your feet have different demands than when you are exercising in athletic shoes.That said, a shoe needs good stability in the heel, good shock absorption in the midsole, and finally it should bend at the ball, not in the middle, and not twist easily from side to side.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone come in who stands on their feet all day in construction, but chooses to wear an open backed pair of shoes because they are soft and slip on easily. This is not a work shoe or a walking shoe! There is no doubt that laced shoes are more supportive than slip on shoes. And for women, a low heeled dress shoe is often more supportive than flats.
Finally, I ended 2011 with a patient who complained of pain in the end of her great toe. She had a successful surgery to correct an ingrown toenail some time ago. After examination, I had her put on her shoes, and lo and behold the shoes were too short. Our feet get longer as we age. It is better to buy shoes where someone who is trained to fit shoes, actually measures your feet and then checks the fit of the shoe. In our office, that is Leandra Taylor, our shoe fitting specialist, (pictured at right).
In summary, balance out your foot mechanics with good stretching, good shoes, and good support. If your problems persist despite following some of these basic rules, start the new year right and have your feet evaluated by your podiatrist.
Rion A Berg, DPM
Podiatrist and Board Certified Foot Surgeon
The Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City is located in Northeast Seattle, serving the neighborhoods of Lake City, Mapleleaf, Wedgewood, Sandpoint, Kenmore, Bothell, Northgate and Shoreline.