March Articles 2015
How Obesity Affects Your Feet
Maybe you have gained a few extra pounds over the past couple of years. It comes on slowly and you are not always aware of it until your feet start hurting at the end of the day. After all, they carry the weight of your whole body. Experiencing foot pain and swelling is one of the biggest side effects of being overweight.
Many problems that occur in the feet are directly related to carrying even a small amount of extra weight. If you are overweight, the body may try to compensate by changing the way it moves. You may lean forward a bit and put extra weight on the wrong part of the foot. Your feet were designed to carry a normal amount of body weight and any extra will put undue stress on them.
Many people who are overweight as adults develop type 2 diabetes and it is often the cause of leg and foot pain. This is very serious and often older people who do not control their condition may lose all feeling in their legs and feet. It is also possible to develop small sores on the feet, and when you have diabetes, these do not always heal properly which can lead to serious infection.
The extra pressure and stress placed on muscles, joints, and tendons in the feet by extra body weight can also trigger plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the foot, and causes pain and stiffness when walking and climbing stairs. Pain caused by plantar fasciitis can be relieved by foot stretches and orthotics inserted into the shoe.
Foot problems triggered by excess body weight may be treated by special attention to footwear. Shoes that properly support the foot – especially the arch and ankle – and allow for good circulation are very important. A podiatrist can help you decide what kind of shoe is best for your feet. Orthotics – special inserts that can be inserted into shoes – can absorb shock, support the arches, and keep the feet properly aligned. These can be found in shoe stores or may be fitted by a podiatrist.
It may also be time to consider taking off a few pounds to prevent diabetes and other life threatening diseases. Your feet will certainly thank you for it and you will feel better in a short amount of time. A water aerobics class at a local gym is a way to get needed exercise without putting any stress on the feet or ankles. Yoga is also an activity that is beneficial both to your feet and your entire body. Don't risk losing your freedom by ignoring foot pain. If you take care of your feet, you can keep your feet and your entire body feeling great.
What Are Ankle/Foot Orthotics?
Orthotics is a medical field concerned with the design, manufacture and use of aids used to support weak limbs or direct the proper function of limbs, in this case the foot and ankle. Ankle-foot orthotics, or AFOs, are braces worn at the ankle that encompass some or all of the foot. Diseases that affect the musculature or weaken the affected area require AFOs to strengthen the muscles or train in the proper direction. Tight muscles that need to be lengthened and loosened also benefit from AFOs.
When we think of diseases that affect the musculature we think of the big boys: muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, polio and multiple sclerosis. We rarely think that arthritis and stroke can affect the musculature or that there are some who "toe in". But whatever trauma affects that musculature, there is a way to correct it. The orthosis helps to control range of motion, provide support by stabilizing walk, correct deformities and manage pain load. A podiatrist would be consulted for those who "toe in", for instance, or an arthritis sufferer whose ankles suffer through walking on the job or perhaps a victim of stroke whose musculature is wasting away and requires strength.
Before the advent of modern orthotic devices, it wasn’t uncommon to see polio victims wearing metal braces from mid thigh to the bottom of the foot, or children who "toed in" wearing metal braces around their ankle and foot. However, both designs and materials have improved dramatically, allowing for new levels of comfort, functionality, and appearance. Many orthotics are now made from plastics in the shape of an L and designed to fit inside a corrective shoe. These can be rigid, buckling at the calf and extending the length of the foot to support the ankle. This same design except with a hinged ankle provides support while walking by normalizing the gait. In the past boots lined with leather and fiberboard provided the rigidity needed for correction and support. Now corrective shoes are available with built up soles to correct the gait or manage pain by sharing it with another area when the foot spreads during walking.
The podiatrist would prescribe this orthosis in the rigid L shape because the foot moves on a hinge. If the hinge isn't functioning as intended due to an injury or malformation, the muscles tighten up, thus making it difficult to flex the foot. When we walk, the foot flexes and muscles stretch. This brace or AFO would support the ankle and musculature during flexion of the foot, in much the same way a knee brace works. Corrective shoes are for people whose feet hit the ground backward, causing tight muscles and arch problems. Wedges and rocker bars on the heels correct the step to heel first and rock onto the ball of the foot, resulting in relaxed musculature and strengthened ankles.
Appearance also counts when we consider a particular support device, especially if the item is intended for regular, daily wear. The L shaped orthotic is contoured to the calf and flesh-colored, fitting into a sneaker or dress shoe. As present, corrective shoes are more attractive than past models, enabling patients wear such devices with greater comfort and confidence.
Choosing the Right Running Shoe for Your Foot Type
While running seems like a simple activity, it is actually a complicated movement that puts a lot of stress on the joints, bones and ligaments of the body. Consequently, choosing the right shoe is an important step in increasing performance and decreasing injury risk. You should select running shoes based on your foot type. While other considerations are important, such as trail versus road shoes, your foot type dictates the amount of cushioning, stability and motion control you need. The best way to determine your foot type is to visit a local specialty running shop. Professionals there can measure your arch type, stride and gait and summarize your shoe needs for future reference.
Running shoe design is based on the idea of pronation. Pronation is the natural rolling of your ankle from outside to inside during foot strike. In other words, proper running mechanics involve striking the ground on the outside of your heel and rolling toward your big toe before pushing off again. Pronation is a good thing: it helps your lower extremities absorb shock and store energy. Neutral runners who pronate correctly do not depend on their shoes to correct their form. Neutral runners can select from a large variety of shoes, even minimal or barefoot models. However, runners with problematic foot arches or incorrect form may pronate too much or too little and require specific qualities from their running shoes.
Overpronators run with excessive ankle rolling. Even when standing, severe overpronators exhibit ankles that angle inward. They also tend to have flat feet or bowed legs. Overpronation can cause a plethora of injuries, especially in the knees, ankles and Achilles tendons. If you overpronate, you should select a shoe with extra stability and motion-control. Motion-control shoes are firm and straight; they do not curve at the tip. The lack of flexibility along the midsole prevents the foot from rolling too far inward during your foot strike.
Underpronation, also called supination, is less common than overpronation. Unlike overpronators, underpronators have inflexible feet and high arches. When they land, their feet are unable to roll inward. While this places less rotational stress on the ankles and knees, it prevents any kind of shock absorptions. This additional force can result in fractures, ligament tears and muscle strains as the legs compensate for the impact. Underpronators require shoes with increased cushioning and flexibility. If you underpronate, stability or motion-control shoes may compound the problem by further preventing pronation.
Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Poor Blood Circulation in the Feet
Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is usually the result of a build up of plaque in the arteries. Plaque build up, or atherosclerosis, can be the result of excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream, which restricts how much blood can flow through arteries. Reduced blood flow to a certain area of the body severely limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients that part of the body receives, causing degeneration in the muscles and other tissues. Sometimes, poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by other conditions, such as damage to or inflammation of blood vessels, known as vasculitis.
The lack of oxygen and nutrients caused by poor blood circulation can restrict muscle growth and development, as well as cause muscle pain and cramps, weakness, and stiffness. Other common symptoms include numbness in the legs and feet, skin discoloration in the affected limbs, slower nail and hair growth, and erectile dysfunction in men. In more severe cases of PAD, pain can be present even when a person isn't exercising, and may range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.
Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is more common in those who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, who smoke, or who have a family history of PAD or related conditions (heart attack, stroke, etc.). Diabetes and smoking place a person at greatest risk for developing poor blood circulation, although advanced age (over 50) can also increase risk.
If you are experiencing poor blood circulation in the feet and legs caused by PAD, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke caused by this condition. If you smoke, quit completely -- this will increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Exercising and reducing the saturated fats in your diet (which come from fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk, etc.) can make a difference in improving blood circulation in feet. It is also important to avoid developing influenza and to carefully control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Your doctor may recommend combining lifestyle changes with a prescription medication regimen to improve blood circulation. The most commonly-used medications for PAD are called statins and work by blocking the amount of enzymes in your body that produce cholesterol. They are known by the brand names Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor, and others.
Getting the Right Shoe Size: How To Keep Your Feet Happy
Are your shoes the right size? Many people are walking around with ill-fitting shoes. Picking the right shoe size is not rocket science, but there are a few things to remember when selecting your next pair.
Most shoe stores and department stores have rulers for measuring your feet, and these can give you an exact size. Be sure to measure with your shoe on. Measuring your foot will give you a different size than your shoe. If you do measure your foot size, you will need to add 1-2 inches to get the proper sizing.
Wiggle room is the most important factor when selecting shoes. Make sure that your toes are not cramped and that you can wiggle them. A rule of thumb is that there should be one inch between your toes and the tip of your shoe. If your shoes are not properly sized, you can experience foot pain, knee pain, blisters and swelling.
Don’t assume that you will always wear the same size in a shoe. Often manufacturers size shoes differently. The size you wear with one company may not be the same as the size you wear with another. Make sure that the company you buy from has a return policy. No one needs a closet full of shoes which they cannot wear.
It is advisable not to buy your shoes in the morning, but rather late in the day. Your feet actually swell as the day goes on and you need plenty of room to walk comfortably. Buying shoes in the morning that are snug is sure to cause problems once the day is done. Also, make sure that you are buying the right sizes for both feet. It is not uncommon for one foot to be larger than the other, and some people have to buy two separate sizes to accommodate different sized feet.
The biggest concern in buying shoes is comfort. Oftentimes people will buy shoes that are not the most comfortable in the store. People think that the shoes simply need to be “broken in”. If a shoe does not fit in the store, it will not fit at home either. Comfort should be the ultimate goal when purchasing a pair of shoes; your feet will thank you.
Let’s face it; we all walk a lot, some of us more than others. Selecting the best shoes for your particular lifestyle is essential. By properly sizing your shoes and buying the proper comfort level, your feet will be dancing all day long.