Feet. We all have them. Some people love them, some people hate them but it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve all probably had some issues with our feet in the past. Whether it’s a stubbed toe, ingrown toe nail, calluses, bunions or something broken in your foot, I doubt you couldn't tell me one person who has hasn't experienced one of these or something similar.
Your feet take the weight of your whole body so it’s not uncommon for you to have some discomfort or pain with them. But what are the most common foot problems and how are they caused? And is there something you can do to stop them? The simple answer is yes. I’m going to explain the most common foot problems and what you can do to combat them.
Bunions are bony deformities at the base of the big toe causing the big toe to point inwards. They develop when the small bones in toes move out of line with the longer bones that run through the foot towards the ankle.
Anyone can get a bunion but they’re more common in women, especially women who wear high heels. It's mainly down to feet being squeezed into the front of a shoe or pressure on the big toe while in heels.
The main way to avoid bunions is to make sure you wear comfortable shoes that have a slightly wider fit and fit you correctly. Progression of a bunion can also be slowed down by wearing wide fitting shoes, insoles and bunion pads but the only permanent solution and way to get rid of bunions is surgery for the worst cases.
- Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses are areas of hard, thickened skin that develop as a result of excessive pressure and friction between your feet and socks and shoes. Although both are very similar, there are some differences between the two.
Corns are small circles of thick skin that often develop on the tops and sides of the toes or sole of the foot. Calluses on the other hand are larger, less well-defined rough areas of skin that are often yellow in colour. They develop on parts of the foot that take the most weight, such as the ball of the foot.
They don't tend to be painful and aren't contagious but can be treated by a podiatrist cutting away the thickened skin. Both corns and calluses can be avoided by wearing comfortable shoes that fit properly.
- Ingrown Toe-Nails
The pain of an ingrown toe nail has probably been experienced by many, and boy is it sore. If you haven’t ever experienced one, count your lucky stars as this painful condition occurs when the toenail grows into the skin at the side of the toe. This usually happens on the big toe but it can happen on any toes.
Ingrown toe-nails usually caused by tight or ill-fitting shoes, cutting your toe-nails at an angle and fungal nail infection.
If you have an ingrown toe-nail, your toe will be red, swollen and warm to touch. As it becomes more advanced, white or yellow pus may appear. Treatment depends on seriousness but in the worst cases, part or all of the toe-nail may have to be removed. Make sure your shoes fit you right and comfortably and your nails are cut correctly to avoid this.
Getting new shoes often leads to blisters as does wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. These small pockets of fluid form in the upper layers of skin after they have been irritated or damaged. Although sore and annoying, they actually develop to protect the tissue beneath your skin while it heals back over.
Blisters can form anywhere on the body but usually occur on the hands and feet. Probably the most common cause of blisters on feet are wearing incorrectly fitting shoes.
Most will heal by themselves in 3-7 days, but you should see a GP if the blister becomes infected, is unbearably painful or is reoccurring. Oh and one more thing, don’t try and burst a blister as this could lead to infection and slow down the healing process.
- Hammer Toes
Hammer toes are deformity of the smaller toes – usually the 2nd, 3rd or 4th and it is where the toe appears bent at the joint. There are a number of causes of hammer toes but ill-fitting shoes are a common culprit.
Hammer toes can also cause a few other problems. As the toe joint sticks out with this common foot problem, it makes you more susceptible to your shoes rubbing against your toes that can in turn lead to corns and calluses. Hammer toes can also cause stress on the ball of the foot, resulting in pain and high levels of discomfort.
I don't know how many times this has to be stressed, but making sure you are wearing the correct fitting shoes can stop hammer toes and other subsequent problems caused by hammer toes from occurring.
As we’re starting to descend into the winter months where the weather gets colder and days shorter, this one is important to know about. Chilblains. Chilblains are relatively common and are small, itchy swellings on the skin that occur as a reaction to cold temperatures. As well as your toes, they often can occur on your fingers, earlobes and nose too as these are all areas vulnerable to the cold.
They typically cause itching or burning sensations and the affected skin may turn red or dark blue. In severe cases, the surface of the skin may break and sores or blisters can develop.
Chilblains will usually heal on their own within a few weeks and medical attention is not usually required. You should see your GP though if you have severe ones, they reoccur or do not heal themselves within a few weeks. Also if there are any signs of infection such as swelling or pus, you have swollen glands or a high temperature and feel generally unwell, get to your doctor!
As chilblains are caused by cold weather, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Act 1992 sets out a number of practices employers are required to implement in cold, wet and windy weather to stop things like chilblains. You’ll have to come back next week to find out all about that and more employer responsibilities set out in the act.
Although these are common problems, it’s pretty obvious to see that not wearing the correct shoes tends to lead to a multitude of problems. This is why you need to make sure that you have the correct sized and fitting shoes which not only increases comfort but decreases the chances of getting any of these problems. Read our top tips on how to make sure you have got the right fitting shoes for you.
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