Healthy Living: Foot Ailments
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What does footwear have to do with any of this?
“A lot,” says podiatrist Davis. “I’ve been in the business for 32 years, and let’s just say that the way they make shoes these days ensures I’ll be in business until I decide to retire.”
Davis feels that leather shoes hold an advantage over synthetics of any kind, for the simple reason that “they breathe and stretch.” Sneakers are an overall good choice for most patients because they’re natural shock absorbers. Sandals are better today than they were in the past because they’re “more patient-friendly.” But flip-flops? Quite simply, says Davis, “they are not your best friend.”
Gray takes it a step further: “Flip-flops are dog toys,” he says.
His advice for preventing—or at least minimizing—foot damage is to choose shoes that have good arch support, a fairly flexible sole for stress relief and enough room for your toes.
Finally, a word about orthotics, those fitted inserts that are often prescribed for foot ailments from fallen arches to plantar fasciitis: “They can work to alleviate pain, no question,” says Gray. “And sometimes—say in the case of a competitive track athlete—you really do require a custom fit because of how narrow their shoes are. But there is zero proof that a $500 orthotic works any better than the kind you can buy off the shelf. If Dr. Scholl’s doesn’t work, then the custom insert won’t either.”
A few more common conditions:
• Achilles tendinitis: An inflammation of the Achilles tendon, a common cause of foot or ankle pain.
• Athlete’s foot: A skin disease caused by a fungus that likes to live in warm, dark, humid environments (like shoes).
• Bunion: An enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe; it often forms when bone or tissue move out of place.
• Corns and calluses: Areas of thickened skin that form to protect the foot from irritation; they’re often caused by rubbing.
• “Pump Bump”: Also known as Haglund’s deformity, it’s a bony enlargement of the back of the heel bone, often caused by wearing pumps.
• Ingrown toenails: Nails that dig painfully into the soft tissue of nail grooves; they often cause irritation, redness and swelling.
• Warts: Soft-tissue conditions caused by a virus; they may appear anywhere on the skin and can be quite painful.