Healthy feet good for heart and sole

The health of your feet can play an important role in your overall health. Bad shoes can bring on painful problems that affect your ability to enjoy life.

Dr. Scott E. Runde and Dr. Sara Waversveld-Donato of MultiCare Podiatry Specialists, answer some common questions about foot and ankle health.

Q. What are the most common conditions you see in your office?

Dr. Runde: Every day, I see chronic foot pain that patients have ignored, trauma and injuries and exercise-induced pain in athletes. I also see lots of other conditions including foot and ankle arthritis, fractures, bunions and hammertoes, skin and nail conditions on feet and ankles including plantar warts and ingrown toenails.

Dr. Waversveld-Donato: I see bunions, neuromas (a thickening of nerve tissue), athletes foot, painful flatfeet, ankle instability, heel pain, diabetic wounds, painful calluses.

Q. Do you have some general tips for foot/ankle health that people ignore?

Dr. Runde: If your foot hurts, there’s a reason. You need to have it looked at before it gets worse. Simple problems can be corrected very easily and quickly but typically become chronic and difficult to resolve after they have festered for some time.

Dr. Waversveld-Donato: Back pain will affect up to 80 percent of the people in this country at some point during their life. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason people seek medical care. Foot function can play a role in some cases of back pain. Correcting abnormal lower extremity biomechanical function can help to ease postural pain. Often this will be through the use of custom foot orthotics. In most cases of foot function related back pain, the goal with orthotics is to decrease excessive pronation (flat-footedness) and/or to achieve symmetry between the right and left foot, which ensures that the left and right feet are functioning in the same way and at the same speed.

Q. Do you have shoe-picking tips?

Dr. Runde: Pick shoes that remain stiff through the shank of the shoe, with appropriate height in the arch to match your natural arch shape and height. Replace them often. Inexpensive or inappropriate shoes are a major contributor to chronic foot pain in my office. Shoes are not a good place to try to save money. They affect your health. We sometimes see cycles that affect patients’ health. If people have pain in their ankle or foot, they tend to become less active. That can put other parts of their body at risk. When patients become less active because their feet hurt, their overall health is at risk.

Dr. Waversveld-Donato: Try shoes on at the end of the day with the thickest socks you might wear with those shoes. Your shoe measurements should be taken while you are standing and make sure to have both feet measured. Most people have one larger foot. Fit to the large one. The longest toe should be a finger’s breadth from the end of the shoe. The fit around the heel should be reasonably snug. Remember, sizes vary between brands. You will not always be the same size in every pair of shoes. Don’t buy a shoe if it feels too tight. It will not stretch to fit your foot.

Q. How about for athletes?

Dr. Runde: Shoes for athletes become much more specific and depend on the sport and the patient’s goals. But the general tips fit here too.

• Long-distance runners will typically prefer more cushion in certain areas such as heel strike and ball of foot.

• Climbers will benefit from a full shank or stiff sole that will not allow the boot to bend or flex while climbing or loading front points of their crampon.

• Hikers with light loads may remain protected with a simple lightweight shoe.

• A heavy hiker or person carrying a heavy pack will require a stiffer shank to support the load and reduce early fatigue or overuse injuries.

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