The human foot is complex, containing within its relatively small size 26 bones (the two feet contain a quarter of all the bones in the body), 33 joints, and a network of more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments, not including blood vessels and nerves.
An average day of walking, for example, brings a force equal to several hundred tons to bear on the feet. This helps explain why your feet are more subject to injury than any other part of your body.
Foot ailments are among the most common of our health problems. Most foot problems stem from the cumulative impact of a lifetime of abuse and neglect. Studies show that 75 percent of Americans experience foot problems of a greater or lesser degree of seriousness at some time in their lives.
Your feet, like other specialized structures, require specialized care. A doctor of podiatric medicine can make an important contribution to your health, whether it is regular preventative care or surgery to correct a deformity.
In order to keep your feet healthy, you should be familiar with the most common ills that affect them. Remember, though, that self-treatment can often turn a minor problem into a major one, and is generally not advisable. You should see a podiatric physician when any of the following conditions occur or persist:
- Athlete’s foot
- Corns and calluses
- Foot odor
- Heel pain
- Heel spurs
- Ingrown nails
Prevention of Foot and Ankle Injuries
- Wear the correct shoes for your particular activity
- Wear hiking shoes or boots in rough terrain
- Don’t continue to wear any sports shoe if it is worn unevenly
- The toe box in “steel-toe” shoes should be deep enough to accommodate your toes comfortably
- Always wear hard-top shoes when operating a lawn mower or other grass cutting equipment
- Don’t walk barefoot on paved streets or sidewalks
- If you get up during the night, turn on a light. Many fractured toes and other foot injuries occur while attempting to find one’s way in the dark
Choosing a Walking Shoe that’s right for you:
- Analyze your feet
- Low arched, straight foot
- Medium arched, slightly curved foot
- High arched and usually more curved foot
- Know your body weight-body weight can factor into the shoe selection process. Increased weight places more demands upon your feet. Since this is the case, consider increasing the level of protection a shoe can offer by selecting a shoe from a greater controlling category (see “select running shoe”). For example, you may opt for a motion control shoe rather than a stability shoe or a neutral shoe. Just remember to make sure the shoe fits comfortably on your foot before you purchase it. Consider trying on shoes near the end of the day when your foot is the largest. And use socks or stockings that you intend to wear with those particular shoes.
Select a running shoe type
- Motion control shoes are typically based upon a straight design and are usually suited for people with low arched, straight feet
- Stability type shoes are for those individuals with a medium arched foot and have a slight curve to the shape of the shoe
- Neutral type shoes are based upon a curve design and best fit those individuals with a high arched foot
- Several shoe manufacturers make walking shoes that carry the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance. For a listing of Seal products visit APMA's website.
Foot pain is frequently a warning for major health problems, especially diabetes:
- 18.2 million people-6.3% of the population-have diabetes
- 13 million have been diagnosed
- 5.2 million are still undiagnosed
- From 2000-2001, about 82,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations were performed each year among people with diabetes.
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated that 85% of these amputations could be prevented with foot care programs that include regular examination and patient education.
- A large reduction in foot-related complications after the first year of a comprehensive preventative foot care program has been shown
- Hospitalizations were reduced 89%
- Emergency room visits were reduced 81%
- Lower extremity amputations were reduced 79%
Cost of Diabetes in the United States:
- Total cost (direct and indirect): $132 billion
- Direct Medical Costs: $92 billion
- Indirect Costs: $40 billion (disability, work loss, premature mortality)
For addtional information view Podiatry Education Library.