Foot Problems: Are Your Feet Trying to Tell You Something?
Your feet are pretty smart—and sensitive. They like to communicate with you. They like to tell you when they are unhappy, feeling hurt… when they need a break. It’s time you listen to your feet. They need you to pay attention!
Do your feet ache when you are standing for a while? Do you have callouses on your toes? Do you have bruising or cuts on certain parts of your feet from your shoes? Do you have pain in your shin when you walk or run?
These are all messages from your feet! It’s time you listen to these messages!
Your feet take the brunt of impact from your walking/running every day. Every time your foot hits the ground, your body absorbs a ‘ground reaction force’ through your feet which then gets transmitted through your body and joints. It is especially important that you wear the right shoes/footwear throughout your day. Your feet need to absorb and transmit this shock/force appropriately. Your feet need to accommodate your activity levels and the shape and mechanics of your body.
First, it’s important that you are aware of the shape and position of your feet. You may have flat feet. This means that your arch has ‘fallen’ which has changed the shape and mechanics of the joints in your feet. OR you may have a high arch. This may put more pressure on the ball and heel of your foot.
Do your feet pronate or supinate? Or are they neutral? Meaning, is there an inward roll (pronation) or outward (supination) roll of your foot while you walk or run? One way to check is to look at the heel of your shoe from behind.
Is the outside of the heel worn down more (supination)? Or is the inside of the heel worn down more (pronation)? Or is it even (neutral)?
Check your toes for callouses (a toughened area of the skin). Do you have callouses on the same spot in both feet?
If you need help figuring out these things, many running stores have ways to help you. Some running stores have treadmills within the store with cameras mounted on the end of the treadmill. The camera will film your feet while you run/walk. The footage is then scanned into a software program which then analyzes the movement of your feet. Some stores have weight bearing pressure distribution sensored plates. You can stand on these sensored platforms and see on a computer screen how your body bears weight through your feet. This can help you figure out if you have flat feet (weight distribution through your entire foot) or high arches (weight distribution through the balls and heels of your foot). The staff can also look at your feet and help you understand the shape of your foot.
Of course, a podiatrist can also help you understand the shape and mechanics of your foot. In case you are waiting a long time for an appointment, you can pop into a running store for help. The staff is generally very knowledgeable and are avid runners themselves.
So what can you do once you know and understand the shape of your foot and the way your body tends to move? You can try to accommodate your feet and prepare them to take the impact that they face every day.
Choosing the Right Footwear
You will need to wear a shoe/sneaker that helps to maintain a neutral position of your foot. You may need a medial or lateral wedge. Some sneakers/shoes already are made with medial or lateral wedges for people who naturally pronate or supinate.
You may need an orthotic. Your podiatrist can recommend an appropriate orthotic for your feet to help properly position your feet in your shoes.
The running store staff can also recommend a running/walking shoe that can accommodate your unique feet. They are generally very knowledgeable of the sneaker industry/manufacturers and know which shoes would be best for you.
Make sure you upsize by a half size when choosing a running sneaker. Your feet swell when running and need room in your sneaker to accommodate that.
We don’t often think to stretch the little muscles in our feet. They need love too. Take the time to stretch these muscles/tissues/ligaments by pulling your toes back and holding that position for at least 30 seconds. Now bend your toes the opposite way towards the bottom of your feet and hold that position for 30 seconds.
You can also work the fascia and muscles on the bottom side of your feet by rolling your feet over a soda can back and forth. It feels even better if you take a cold soda can and roll your foot over it. This you can do while you are watching television or when you are on the phone. No thinking involved.
An easy exercise you can do to work the muscles in your foot is to stand with your feet hip width apart and then lift your heels. Do 3 sets of 10 and make sure to take breaks.
You can also stand on one foot and try to balance for 5 seconds at a time. This also works the little muscles in your foot, as well as the sensors in your tendons/ligaments and joints. Do a set of 5 on each side.
Your feet always need lovin’. Listen to their messages and answer them. If you take care of them, they will take care of you!
Dr. Denise Jagroo is a Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Women's Health Physical Therapy. She is the author of Your Best Pregnancy: The Ultimate Guide to Easing the Aches, Pains and Uncomfortable Side Effects During Each Stage of Your Pregnancy. She is a national lecturer and has a private practice in midtown NYC. She is also a contributor to Glow Beauty Magazine.
Visit her at: www.drjagroo.com/