The human foot is truly remarkable by design. With 26 bones, 33 joints and a complex network of muscles and tendons, feet are among the most intricate and relied-upon parts of the body. Not only do they keep you mobile, they support your body and act as shock absorbers.
Foot care isn’t a topic that’s typically top of mind unless you’re struggling with a foot injury or condition. Yet, foot problems are surprisingly common, affecting many women at some point in their lives. From bunions and heel pain to arthritis and diabetic neuropathy, there are many sources of painful foot problems that can prevent you from living a full, active life.
Everyday Foot Care
Like with the rest of your body, it’s necessary to regularly care for your feet. Step into this routine for healthy feet:
- Dry them off before putting on socks or shoes, and use a moisturizing cream to prevent dry skin and cracked heels
- Foot creams containing an emollient or a humectant, like lactic acid, can be beneficial
- Cut toenails straight across to prevent the development of hangnails and ingrown toenails
- Don’t forget to wear sunscreen on the tops of your feet when you’re going barefoot or wearing sandals
Shoes, Fashion and Comfort
For women, shoes aren’t just about function, they’re also about fashion. Unfortunately, the latest in shoe design doesn’t always correspond with good fit or comfort. In a study published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Surgery, injuries recorded by US emergency departments related to high-heeled shoes doubled between 2002 and 2012. Not only do high-heeled shoes account for acute injuries, they also frequently contribute to foot conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, toenail deformities and even nerve damage.
While wearing flat shoes is the best option, you don’t have to give up high heels altogether. The best options are those with low, padded heels that provide a wider fit at the front, rather than narrow and pointy. If you stand for long periods of time, consider wearing insoles which can make shoes more comfortable.
When to See a Doctor
Acute foot problems like sprains often heal on their own with time, rest, ice and anti-inflammatories. If they don’t, a doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan to help you speed healing and avoid complications. If pain is chronic and not caused by an injury, it’s also important to seek professional foot care. Some symptoms to watch for include:
- A flat foot that could be a sign of a tendon dysfunction or rupture
- A bump or cyst that appears to be growing or hurts
- A wound or sore that doesn’t heal
- Foot discolorations where one foot is a different color than the other, which may be an indication of an infection, gout or decreased blood flow
- Pain that increases with activity which may be a sign of a stress fracture
“While there are surgical options for many foot problems, not everyone needs surgery,” says Adam Bitterman, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Foot and Ankle Specialist, at Northwell Health Orthopaedic Institute. “Conservative measures are often very effective at treating common conditions. If you have persistent pain that hasn’t improved for more than a week, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a foot specialist. A two-way dialog between you and your doctor can help determine the best treatment option for you.”
Find out more about women’s foot care. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.