Do you enjoy hitting the open road and driving for hours on end? If so, you may have experienced a condition called "Driver's Foot." Driver's Foot isn’t one condition, but a collection of foot conditions caused by a variety of factors.

Causes of Driver's Foot

Besides driving for long hours, driver's foot is also caused by:

1. Driving a manual transmission car (that’s because you must control both the clutch and the gas pedal with both feet).

2. Dealing with stiff pedals.

3. Not using cruise control to give your feet some relief.

4. Having an uncomfortable seat setup—when your seat doesn't fit you properly, your foot may be in an unusual position, increasing the danger.

5. Wearing footwear that does not provide good support.

6. Having calf muscles that are too tight.

7. Taking insufficient breaks.

Symptoms of Driver's Foot

1. Pain in your heel, on the top of your foot, around your big toe, and even in your ankle joint.

2. Stiffness in the foot and ankle

3. Numbness and burning sensations can develop particularly in the ball of your foot.

4. Swelling in your foot or ankle.

5. Muscle cramps.

6 Foot Conditions Resulting in Driver's Foot

1. Heel discomfort and Bruised Heels: The rocking motion associated with applying and releasing the brakes can cause heel discomfort and bruising. Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis are two common causes of heel pain, which can increase during long journeys.

2. Fluid Retention and Swelling: Driving an automatic car or truck, particularly on lengthy trips, can cause fluid retention and swelling, especially in the left foot and ankle. This is particularly common in pregnant women, as well as those who have poor circulation or heart problems.

3. Ball of Foot Pain: Constantly pressing the accelerator and brake pedals can cause pain in the ball of your foot. Prolonged driving can aggravate conditions such as Morton's Neuroma, which causes numbness and tingling between the third and fourth toes, or Metatarsalgia, which causes pain across the entire ball of the foot. To learn more about these conditions and how they’re treating click on the link in the description.

4. Top of the Foot and Big Toe Pain: tendon inflammation can produce pain on the top of your foot and big toe after extended driving. Excessive braking in traffic or applying too much force on firm pedals are possible culprits.

5. Foot Cramps: Muscle exhaustion, dehydration, and tight shoes can all cause foot cramps while driving.

6. Ankle Pain: Prolonged sitting without breaks, as well as incorrect foot placement while driving, can cause ankle stiffness and pain.

How to Prevent Driver's Foot

1. Take Rest Periods: Long trips can be taxing for your feet and ankles and your entire body. Plan on taking 10-15 minute stretch breaks along the way. Get out of the car and do some yoga and foot exercises.

2. Adjust Your Seat: Proper seat positioning is important since it impacts your foot location. On longer drives, move your seat slightly forward or backward from the gas pedal.

3. Wear Appropriate Shoes: Don't overlook the importance of suitable footwear. Cushioning and support are essential, so look for tennis shoes or shoes with plenty of cushioning. Some brands I recommend are Hoka and Oofos. Avoid driving in flip-flops or high heels, and make sure your toes have enough room.

4. Custom Orthotics: If you have plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis, you may require custom orthotics from a podiatrist. Remember that your foot problems could be caused by other activities, flat feet, or tight calf muscles. 

5. Stretching your calf muscles—our calf muscles tend to tighten up after sitting for many hours. Tight calf muscles can contribute to foot conditions like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. Be sure to stretch your calf muscles when you take your car breaks. You may also need to stretch your calves at other times of the day. 

5. Use Cruise Control: Cruise control exists for a reason: it relieves the pressure on your foot caused by continual pedal depression. Take advantage of it.

6. Stay Hydrated: Drinking water throughout your journey might help reduce foot and ankle cramping.

So, whether you're a road warrior or just going on a long trip, keep these ideas in mind to keep your feet comfy and pain-free.

Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.