The average person walks approximately 65,000 miles over the course of his or her life. That’s a lot of walking — about three trips around the world — so it’s no wonder that the majority of us will experience foot pain at some point in our lives. Indeed, the American Podiatric Medical Association estimates that 77% of Americans will have some type of foot problem as an adult.
Here are five of the most common issues doctors see and what you can do to fix them:
Friction between your socks or shoes and your feet can cause the uppermost layer of your feet’s skin to separate from inner layers, creating a pocket that fills with fluid and produces pain.
Blisters aren’t usually serious (unless they become infected) and can be treated with a bandage or moleskin pad, as well as over-the-counter (OTC) pain and antibiotic medications.
In most situations, it is advised to refrain from draining or removing the affected skin, as this serves as a protection against exposure to dirt and infection. To prevent blisters altogether, dust feet with talcum powder and wear properly-fitted shoes and snug socks that keep moisture away from the skin.
Bunions are another common result of ill-fitting footwear and stem from sustained pressure on the big toe joint. When pressed into a tight shoe or pair of high heels, the big toe experiences stress. When repeatedly exposed to this stress, the joint is slowly pushed out of alignment, causing inflammation and a red, tender bump to form.
You can manage pain from bunions with OTC pain medication, but the best treatment is prevention. Choose shoes with wide toe boxes and low heels. If your symptoms do progress, you might need bunion surgery and should consult a physician.
Often mistaken for bunions, bone spurs are big knots that form on various parts of the foot, such as the heel and toe joint. Unlike bunions, however, bone spurs are deposits of calcium that form in response to trauma and/or tissue degeneration.
They occur as the body produces new bone in an effort to repair the damage, with the new tissue eventually accumulating in such a great amount that a hard growth protrudes from the joint or bone and causes weakness and/or pain.
Any added stress to the foot can cause bone spurs to form, but most from as a result of the natural degenerative processes that affect all of us as we age.
Arthritis, the repeated trauma caused by high impact sports and certain diseases can all prompt inflammation and cause bone spurs. Thus, treatment usually focuses on avoiding injury and reducing inflammation.
But if your feet do hurt because of a bone spur, OTC anti-inflammatory and pain medications and possibly orthotic inserts can alleviate some of the initial pain symptoms. More severe pain is treated with steroid injections and surgery.
Plantar fasciitis is a condition that occurs when the ligament that runs from your heel to your toes — the plantar fascia — becomes damaged and inflamed. If your heel hurts, especially when you first get out of bed in the morning or after exercise, it could be because you have injured your plantar fascia.
Of course, like many foot problems, wearing the wrong type of shoe can cause injury; you need to ensure that, when walking and exercising, you are wearing shoes with the right type of arch support and cushioning (or even orthotics) so that you protect the ligaments in your feet.
You can also work to strengthen and increase flexibility within the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia with conditioning exercises, as well as reduce inflammation with ice treatments when needed. In some instances, a physician can administer a cortisone or PRP treatment to alleviate pain.