Consider your feet as the caregivers of your body. Day after day they accept you for who you are, take pounding after pounding and support all of your efforts. They bend to forces applied by weak muscles and bad form, and they ride along in ill-fitting shoes, flip flops and, sometimes, even naked.
Foot pain can come from many different sources including anatomically within the foot, weakness in the legs or hips, prolonged standing or walking, body mechanics, complications with diabetes, and other joint changes often associated with osteoarthritis.
Good shoes can help
No matter what the cause, correct footwear is a must for comfort. Your feet are your foundation, and they are worth the cost. If you have a softer, fallen arch, you should look for a more rigid shoe with good arch support. The opposite is true if you have a higher, more firm arch. In this case, a softer shoe is more appropriate. Ask your podiatrist or physical therapist for recommendations.
Also, an orthoptist specializes in creating custom arch supports and shoes. If you have swelling, you should make sure that your shoes are stretchy, such as what you will find with diabetic shoes. You never want footwear to cause indentations or redness on your skin.
Take a look at your feet
Having good and appropriate footwear is only part of the battle. Check your feet! Certain conditions like diabetes or neuropathy can cause decreased sensation in your feet. You could have stepped on something sharp, blistered or otherwise injured your feet without even knowing.
Use a mirror to see the bottom of your feet. There are actually long-handled mirrors made especially for this important task. Look for redness or sores. Check between your toes. Check every day.
If you are diabetic, have low vision or other sensory issues, you should not cut your own toenails. If you notice that you have decreased sensation, chronic limiting pain or other foot injury, please talk to your health care provider to find out why you are having these problems.
Get moving; get stronger Now that you have addressed your footwear and checked your feet, it’s time to get moving! Maintaining a healthy body weight is always a good way to take the pressure off, so to speak.
How can you exercise to help your feet? If foot pain is limiting your walking, start with non-weight bearing or seated exercises. Examples include aquatic exercise (swimming or pool aerobics, water walking), using a recumbent bicycle or stepper, and engaging in seated or lying down exercises with weight or bands.
Also, remember that weak feet and ankles can affect your balance.
Physical therapy is an excellent way to establish an appropriate and safe strengthening program for your specific needs. Always consult with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program.
— Kim Squire, DPT, is an outpatient physical therapist who treats a wide variety of patients including people with orthopedic and sports injuries at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, LMH Baldwin City Therapy Services. Lawrence Memorial Hospital is a major sponsor of WellCommons.