Guest Blogger - Iulia Sorenson. Personal trainer and 50+ fitness expert
The average person spends about four hours on their feet and takes between 8, 000 to 10,000 steps a day. Moreover, the mechanics of how the feet work during activity is different for each individual.
We often neglect one of the most important regions of our bodies, our feet – they receive the least amount of care as compared to other parts of our bodies. Our feet carry the total weight of our bodies all day long, helping us get around. Yet, most people know very little about their feet, do not take enough care of them, and take them completely for granted, until something goes wrong with them.
Conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, nerve, and circulatory disorders often show their initial symptoms in the feet. Hence, foot symptoms are the first signs of a more serious medical problem. Maintaining our feet healthy is extremely important, as they mirror our general health and well-being.
This article will outline the most common foot conditions, as well as solutions to help take better care of our feet in order keep them healthy.
- Most individuals have 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles in each foot. They all work in harmony in order to hold the foot structure together, allow it to move in a variety of ways, including allowing for the proper functioning of the lower legs and feet
- Walking exerts pressure on your feet that exceeds your total body weight – 1.5 times the body weight passes through the ankles when standing or walking, and 3 to 4 times the body weight when running
- This complex joint system supports the body as a shock absorber, adapting to varying surfaces, and maintaining mobility and balance each and every day
- The soles of our feet contain more sweat glands (approximately 250,000) and sensitive nerve-endings per square centimeter than any other part of the body
- Women have about four times as many feet problems (which also cause low back aches) as men, primarily due to wearing high heels, and tight fitting toes
- The skin on the feet is thicker than anywhere else in the body
- The Achilles tendon (the tendon that attaches the heel bone to the calf muscle) is the strongest tendon in the body
- 75% of Canadians will experience foot health problems of varying degrees of severity at one time or another in their lives
- Standing is more tiring for the feet than walking
- Over the years, there is a decline in the natural foot arch, and the soft tissues surrounding the ankles
The first point of contact when walking is the heel, then the outside border of the foot, then the ball of the boot, and lastly, the big toe.
Anatomical motions of the ankle hinge joint include plantar flexion, dorsiflexion, inversion, and eversion. Moreover, the mechanics of the foot and ankle affect the whole body’s kinetic chain (including posture, and hip and knee health), which is why it is essential to have proper ankle and foot alignment (with toes pointing straight forward when walking).
Good ankle range of motion in all directions is essential for the proper functioning of the ankle joints – in particular, focusing on maintaining good range of motion in dorsiflexion (flexing the ankle while pointing the toes upwards), is essential. One consequence of the feet and ankles not working properly is the inability for an individual to squat with good form. We also lose 35-50 percent of our ankle range of motion and mobility as we age.
Most Common Foot Conditions
Frequent Foot Cramping
Dehydration often leads to muscle cramping. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium deficiencies may also contribute to foot cramping. For some relief, soak feet in a warm foot bath and stretch. If cramps do not subside, see your physician for testing to rule out circulation issues or nerve damage.
Foot numbness is often an indication of a pinched nerve in the foot, ankle, or back. It is often caused from years of wearing improperly fitted shoes.
In this condition, the big toe deviates towards the second toe. It may be hereditary, an inherited faulty foot structure. It is often also caused and aggravated by wearing improperly fitted shoes, which can lead to irritation, pain, and the development of corns and calluses. The development of a boney prominence or “bump” on the side of the big toe leads to changes in the foot function. Depending on the extent of this condition, the best way to correct it is through surgery. If the foot bunion is not too bad, wearing shoes with a wider toe box greatly helps by decreasing the amount of pressure placed on the big toe.
Some individuals experience a sharp pain in the bottom of the heel, caused by a strain of the ligament that supports the arch of the foot. The longer an individual does not take care of it, the longer it will take to heal. It is essential to adapt a good stretching routine, in particular of the calf muscles. Changing footwear may also help (i.e. running shoes), as well as myofascial release (self-massage) using a golf or lacrosse ball.
Some individuals have an abnormally low medial longitudinal arch. This creates greater stresses on the surrounding joints and soft tissues, leading to painful, tired, and achy feet. However, not all individuals with flat feet develop pain. It is best to perform both stretching and strengthening exercises of the lower legs and feet in order to alleviate foot pain, consider wearing custom-made foot orthotics, and proper footwear with arch support.
This condition involves excessive stress on the plantar fascia, a band of thick connective tissue that originates at the heel and attaches to the base of your toes. Increased tension on the plantar fascia can lead to inflammation and heel pain.
Choosing Proper Fitting Shoes
It is very important to wear well-fitted shoes in order to ensure that your feet remain healthy and comfortable.
Tips to Guide You Select the Best Footwear
- It is best to go shopping for new shoes later in the day, when your feet tend to be slightly swollen after a long day of walking and standing – it is best to buy shoes that fit your feet under this condition as you are then unlikely to purchase shoes that are too small
- When you try on shoes, try them on both feet as many individuals have one foot larger than the other, and it is best to fit the larger foot
- Your shoes should have enough length, width, and depth to fit your foot and toes
- Purchase shoes with a rounded toe box while avoiding shoes with a pointy or narrow toe box that can pinch the toes and may lead to the development of foot bunions
- Select shoes with good arch support, especially if you have a lower foot arch or flat feet
- Receive assistance from staff working at the shoe store in order to help you get fitted correctly for your foot size, foot genetics (flat or arched feet), and lifestyle
Take Care of Your Feet by Considering the Following
- Consider getting fitted for orthotics which provide increased support for the arch of the foot, increased stability, and shock absorption. Check with your workplace if they have insurance that may cover the cost of custom-made orthotics as they tend to be costly.
- It is essential to get a pedicure at least every three months, to prevent ingrown toenails, fungi and infections. It is especially important that men get pedicures, as most do not. Also, there is usually a lower leg and foot massage included with a pedicure, which helps improve blood circulation and relieve tension in the calf and feet muscles. During a pedicure, an aesthetician will also be able to see early signs of fungal infections, as well as corns and bunions, conditions that are much easier to treat when caught early. Exfoliation will also help to rid dead skin cells and encourage new cell growth, making your feet healthier.
- Stretching and muscle release for the feet using a golf ball or lacrosse ball, working through the tissues of the feet and calves (myofascial release), is very important. Ensure to work through the heel into the arch of the foot (inner and outer parts), as well as the ball of the foot.
- Ensure to stretch the lower leg muscles including the gastrocnemius, soleus, and tibialis anterior.
It is easy to ignore our feet, but we need to remember that it is very important to take good care of them as we use them each and every day, and need them for our entire lives! Moreover, it is essential for individuals to exercise their feet as they would any other muscle. The best exercise for the feet is walking, which is also great for your overall health. Healthy feet lead to a more functional body and are vital to our overall health. Get your summer started off on the right foot by taking care of your feet!
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