Taking care of your feet has the potential to improve how your entire body moves and feels. However, all too often, we do not place the same emphasis on looking after our feet as we do on other parts of our body.
Consider for a moment the important function of your feet. The feet alone make up a quarter of all the bones in the human body. They have 56 bones, 60 joints, and over 200 muscles, ligaments and tendons. Your feet must not only support your body as you stand, walk, run and jump, but also absorb damaging shock that enters your body every time your heel hits the ground.
Healthy feet are vital to mobility, and prevention is better than cure. Once foot trouble begins, it can affect how other body parts function in some most unexpected ways.
An orthopaedic surgeon, who specializes in the treatment of conditions related to the foot and ankle, can help you prevent foot imbalances and other conditions that can lead to more serious joint problems. Orthopaedic specialists are trained to fully diagnose and treat not only problems in your feet, but also to address how that is affecting the mechanics of other joints in your body.
If you are experiencing symptoms of malalignment in your feet, there are often some simple treatments to help reverse the condition. Waiting until you need surgical intervention can result in painful and lengthy recovery that significantly affects lifestyle and mobility.
Foot pain, unsteady ankles and conditions like plantar fasciitis or bunions are obvious signs of a problem, but there are more subtle signs that your feet need attention. Some other indicators that your feet may be starting to weaken are loss of balance or tripping easily or often.
Symptoms of unhealthy feet may vary from swelling and bunions to hammertoes, calluses and corns. However, foot imbalance or dysfunction does not always cause pain just in your feet. Often the pain can transfer to your lower legs, knees, hips or spine. If your feet have imbalances or weaknesses, they travel all the way up your body.
An estimated 80 percent of people develop some type of foot imbalance by the age of 20, and virtually everyone has foot imbalances by the age of 40. Years of standing, walking and wearing shoes cause the arches of your feet to gradually weaken and become unable to provide the necessary support for your body.
Foot imbalances include pronation (inward rolling of the foot, particularly the heel and arch, as the heel contacts the ground) and supination (the opposite of pronation — outward rolling of the foot as the heel hits the ground). These are normal foot movements that occur during walking and running, but when your foot excessively pronates or supinates, it puts the stability of your entire body at risk.
For example, when over-pronation of the foot occurs, the foot flattens and falls in, causing the entire leg to rotate and placing strain on the mechanics of the knee and hip. Any dysfunction or malalignment in the foot is going to affect joints further up the body. These conditions also can lead to other forms of an unstable posture, including uneven shoulder heights, one leg that is shorter than the other, and tilting in your hips.
Prevention is simple and so much more effective than waiting until foot problems start affecting your quality of life or ability to do the things you want to do.
We often recommend a simple, but effective form of stretching the calf muscle to prevent or address problems in the feet. The calf muscle, which leads to the Achilles tendon, is the driving force for your foot. When the calf structure and Achilles tendon are too tight, it creates havoc in the foot that can lead to plantar fasciitis, bunions, hammertoes and neuromas.
It may seem way too simple, but easy preventative stretches can head off many problems. Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce stress on the foot structure and often a good orthotic can provide the support your feet need to keep you moving.
About Ronald Derr, D.O.
Ronald Derr, D.O., is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle surgery and sports medicine. He earned his medical degree from the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, and completed residency training in orthopaedics at Ohio University-Doctors Hospital in Massillon, Ohio. He went on to complete a sports fellowship training at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham and a foot and ankle fellowship at Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati. Ronald Derr, D.O., has been a valuable member of the Bone & Joint family since 1996 and currently serves as team physician for Ravenwood High School. He and his wife have four children and enjoy sports and family time.Share this Article