August Articles 2014

Flat Feet

Flat feet is a foot condition in which the arch of the foot either drops or is never developed. About 20-30% of the population generally has flat feet because their arch never formed during growth. While it is common in babies and small children, it can become a problem if the arch never develops. For adults, the development of flat feet can be brought upon by injury, or may even be a result of pregnancy due to the increased elasticity; however, in adults, the flat footedness is usually permanent.

Having flat feet can sometimes make it difficult to walk due to the stress it places on the ankles. The general alignment of your legs is thrown off because the ankles move more inward which can cause some major discomfort. This also has a big effect on the knees as many people that have flat feet often have arthritis in that area. However, in many cases, flat feet do not cause any pain and it should not be a cause for concern in that case.

For those that run, there are specific shoes to help realign the ankles with a lot more support and less pronation. The weight shifting in this activity is very quick, so that's why it's important to know if you have flat feet early on in your life, in case of injury down the road. 

The wet footprint test can be an indicator to diagnosing flat feet. In this test, the individual would place a flat foot on a surface in order to show a footprint. If there is no indentation or indication of an arch, that person may have flat feet. In all cases, it is best to consult a podiatrist if flat feet is suspected or noticed.

Once flat feet has been diagnosed, it can be treated by walking barefoot in beach-like terrain or wearing insoles. There are two types of flat feet; one being rigid, where the feet appear to have no arch even when the person is not standing, and the other being flexible where the person appears to have an arch while not standing, but once standing the arch goes away. In the case of flexible flat feet, unless there is pain caused by the condition, there is no need for treatment. However, if it causes pain or in the case of rigid flat feet, exercises and orthotic insoles may be prescribed in order to help the arches develop.

In some cases when the condition is severe and all other methods have been exhausted surgery may be required but this is normally avoided due to a lengthy recovery time and high cost.

Heel Pain

Heel pain is a stressful condition that effects day to day activities. Running and walking causes stress on the heel because the heel is the part of the foot that hits the ground first. This means that the heel is taking on your entire weight. Diagnosis and treatments for heel pain can be easily found through your podiatrist.

One of the main causes of heel pain is a condition known as plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that extends along the bottom of the foot, from the toe to the bottom of the heel. A rip or tear in this ligament can cause inflammation of these tissues, resulting in heel pain. People who do not wear proper fitting shoes are often at risk of developing problems such as plantar fasciitis. Unnecessary stress from ill-fitting shoes, weight change, excessive running, and wearing non-supportive shoes on hard surfaces are all causes of plantar fasciitis.

Achilles tendonitis is another cause of heel pain. Similar to plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the Achilles tendon will cause heel pain due to stress fractures and muscle tearing. A lack of flexibility of the ankle and heel is an indicator of Achilles tendonitis. If left untreated, this condition can lead to plantar fasciitis and cause even more pain in your heel.

The third cause of heel pain is a heel spur. A heel spur occurs when the tissues of the plantar fascia undergo a great deal of stress, leading to a separation of the ligament from the heel bone entirely. This results in a pointed fragment of bone on the ball of the foot, known as a heel spur.

Treatments for heel pain are easy and effective as long as problems are addressed quickly. The most common solution is simply taking stress off the feet, particularly off the heel. This will ease the pain and allow the tendons and ligaments to relax. In the case of both plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, icing will reduce swelling of any part of the foot and anti-inflammatory medication is highly recommended. Properly fitting your shoes and wearing heel pads or comfort insoles will also reduce the risk of developing heel pain. Stretching before and after exercises such as running will help the foot muscles prepare for stress and lower the chances of inflammatory pain. In extreme cases, relieving heel pain might require surgery. Always make sure to discuss these symptoms and treatment options with your podiatrist to keep yourself active and pain-free.

Solutions for Cracked Heels

Cracked heels can be embarrassing, and can make life frustrating when sandal season comes around. But not only are they an aesthetic problem – they can also tear stockings, socks and even wear out shoes faster at the back, and when severe may cause pain and infection.

Cracked heels are a problem for many who walk a lot, who are athletic, and who have especially dry skin. Those who are using certain kinds of medication that will dry the skin, who swim a lot, wear certain kinds of shoes and those who are diabetic may also have trouble with cracked heels. Seniors may have more trouble with cracked heels than others since the skin’s production of oils decreases with age. There is no one way to get cracked heels, and there is no one cure for them.

Today there are numerous products on the market that have a variety of ingredients to promote healing. Some of these products are over-the-counter and some come from a physician’s prescription pad--especially for those who have chronic dry feet and heels.

Some doctors recommend for those with rough skin to wear socks at night when they sleep. This helps promote healing of the skin on the heels and helps any creams put on the feet stay on longer and better sink into the skin.

Using moisturizers both day and night is one way to help alleviate the dryness that causes cracked heels. Making sure that the skin is clean and dry at all times is another way. Using a pumice stone to remove dead skin before applying a moisturizer can also help, as many times cracked heels will not respond to moisturizers unless the thick outer layer of skin is first removed through exfoliation. Lotion or ointment applied after exfoliation will be absorbed by the skin much more easily.

Eating a well-balanced diet with foods that promote body healing and balance can also help the skin – from within. Whatever is put into the body can either help it or hurt it and foods that give the body staying power will permeate throughout, especially through the first line of protection--the skin. Taking supplements of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc may also help cracked heels.

Not all products that say they will help cracked heels actually work. See a professional for foot care if nothing being tried is working. A podiatrist or a dermatologist should be able to give information and advice to help with the problem. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Feet

Although rheumatoid arthritis actually attacks multiple bones and joints throughout the entire body, ninety percent of people who actually develop this condition usually do so in the foot or ankle area. Those who develop this kind of arthritis in the feet usually develop symptoms around the toes and forefeet first, before anywhere else. Rheumatoid arthritis appears to have a genetic component. If it runs in the family, then you will be more likely to develop it as well.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s own immune system attacks the lining of the membranes surrounding the joints. This causes inflammation of the membrane lining and the gradual destruction of the joint’s cartilage and even bone.

Some of the most common symptoms that are associated with RA include pain and swelling in the feet. Stiffness in the feet is also another common symptom that people experience. Those who have RA in the feet usually feel the pain in the ball or sole of their feet. This can get to be very painful at times. A person's joints can even shift and become deformed after a period of time.

In order to properly diagnose RA in the feet, it is usually necessary for a doctor or podiatrist to evaluate the area. Your doctor will also question you about your medical history, occupation, etc., to determine whether anything in your lifestyle may have triggered the condition. There are a number of tests that may be performed to help diagnose RA such as a rheumatoid factor test, although there is no one single test that will tell you for sure if you have RA. There are different X-rays that can be taken as well to determine if a person has RA in their feet.

There is a range of treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment of RA is usually a lifelong process that includes a variety of methods of treatment and therapy. Your doctor can prescribe special shoes that should help with arch support as well as heel support. A physical therapist can help those with this condition learn exercises which will keep their joints flexible. Surgery may be needed to correct some of the issues with the feet, such as bunions, and hammertoes. Fusion is usually the most successful surgical option for rheumatoid arthritis. However, people need to keep in mind that there are some risks associated with these surgeries.