This is the time of year when our feet tend to take even more of a pounding than usual. There are the miles walked for Christmas shopping or in the sales and braving heels for the office party for a start. Is there anything worse than sore burning feet or heel pain?
And think how hard it must be for shop workers, nurses, care assistants and emergency service workers who are on their feet all day with little respite.
So how can we soothe our aching feet when we get home. And how do we know when our feet need some professional care?
Did you know that there are over 300 different foot conditions, many of which are caused by poorly fitting footwear?
Our feet have an incredible 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles and 100 ligaments and their condition is a very good indicator of how healthy we are.
If you have ever had an incredibly relaxing reflexology session, you’ll know that an experienced therapist can quickly tell you what’s going on in your body just by massaging your feet.
Here are some of the common foot problems that may be causing you discomfort.
There are various types of heel pain and the more common ones are conditions such as
They are very common and the pain is generally caused by some form of mechanical injury caused by small repetitive injuries that occur at a rate faster than the body can heal them.
Your heel pain could also be caused by lower back problems or inflammatory joint conditions.
The most common of all is Heel spurs (plantar fasciitis or fasciosis) which can be caused in various ways such as extensive running/walking/standing for long periods of time, especially when you are not used to it. It can equally be caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
Heel pain is a common condition and in most cases will diminish following some routine self-care measures but if the pain persists longer than three weeks, it is best to seek professional advice from someone who specialises in heel pain, such as a podiatrist or chiropodist.
Heel pain can affect everyone, whatever your age, but those more commonly affected include those in middle age (over 40’s age group) as well as athletes.
Did you know that more than 15% of women in the UK suffer from bunions? A bunion is a deformity of the big toe where the toe angles towards the second toe and creates a bony lump on the side of the foot.
This can also form a large sac of fluid called a bursa which can become inflamed and sore.
They are caused by a problem with the mechanics of the foot which is often genetic – surprisingly your footwear may not be the actual cause!
The eventual crossover of the toes can make it difficult to walk and tends to get progressively worse. Before you jump back into your heels though, be aware that badly fitted shoes will make the problem worse because they will squeeze the toes together.
Eventually, surgery may be required but there are things you can do to help yourself.
Buy wider shoes that give your toes plenty of room to move and limit heel height to no more than 4 cm for maximum comfort.
Avoid backless heels because they make your toes “claw” as you walk which will strain your muscles if you wear them for long periods of time.
Vary the height of your heels from day to day and if you have to wear the same shoe every day, try to keep the heel height to 4 cm or less.
Shoes with straps or laces over your instep can also help to stop your foot sliding forward and aggravating the bump.
Simple calf stretches will help to keep your feet in good working order.
This is a fungal skin infection which can cause intense itching and gives cracked, blistered or peeling areas of skin with redness and scaling.
It usually appears between the fourth and fifth toes at first where the skin has become overly moist. It can also appear as dry flaky skin around the heels or elsewhere on the foot.
If left untreated, large painful fissures can appear and the infection can spread along all five toes and even to the soles of the feet.
You can catch Athletes Foot from someone else’s shedded infected skin so communal changing areas and anywhere you walk around barefoot are hotspots. It can also be passed on directly from person to person contact.
Leaving your feet in hot sweaty shoes or trainers is not going to help!
The number one rule is to make sure your feet are completely dry after washing before you then put your shoes and socks on.
Try to change your footwear regularly because it takes 24-48 hours for shoes to dry out properly.
You can dry out your work shoes by using a hairdryer on a cold setting and remove any detachable insoles.
Don’t wear your shoes too tight because this encourages moisture to gather between your toes and encourages fungus.
Choose shoes made from natural materials and change your socks daily.
Wear flip-flops in the bathroom and in public showers.
Don’t wear anyone else’s shoes, trainers or slippers.
Restore moisture to the dry areas of your feet with an anti-fungal cream or spray and remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards (or use disposable gloves).
If your Athlete’s Foot has been caused by excessive moisture (those hot, sweaty shoes again), then wash your feet in cold water, dab dry with a separate towel and dab between the toes with surgical spirit. Applying a moisturising cream will just make things worse.
Make sure you keep up the regimen for as long as possible because even if the symptoms vanish, it’s possible for the fungus to return.
Being on your feet all day can lead to excessive sweatiness and, whilst the weather can affect you, sweaty feet can also be an inherited condition.
The condition needs managing because sweaty feet can lead to Athletes Foot or blisters, not to mention unpleasant odour.
If you are worried about your foot condition then see your GP who may be able to refer you to an NHS Podiatrist or, if you have the funds, a private Podiatrist.
You can find more information on a variety of foot conditions at The Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists.