Because of the complexity of the structure of the foot, which is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and 120 muscles, ligaments and nerves, and because the feet bear our whole body weight a good deal of the time, it is not surprising that foot pain is a common problem. As a matter of fact, about 75 percent of the U.S. population experiences foot pain.
Since the feet are quite small compared to the rest of the body, each step we take exerts terrific impact on them, an impact about 50 percent greater than our individual body weight. During a typical day, our feet support a force equivalent to several hundred tons!
Causes of Foot Pain
Most foot pain is caused by one of the following factors:
• Poorly fitted shoes, such as pointy-toed shoes or high heels
• High-impact exercise (including sports) resulting in injury
• Disease conditions, including arthritis, obesity, diabetes
• Abnormal growths or tumors
• Poorly executed cosmetic foot surgery
Sometimes, particular medications can also be responsible for foot pain.
Risk Factors for Foot Pain
While anyone can, and probably will, experience foot pain at one time or another, the following risk factors make foot pain more likely.
• Being a woman: due to pregnancy, high-heeled footwear, postmenopausal osteoporosis
• Getting older: due to flatter feet, less foot padding , drier skin, more disease conditions
• Having unnecessary and dangerous cosmetic foot surgery, such as “Cinderella surgery”
• Working at a job that requires constant standing
• Gaining weight
• Participating in sports or dancing
Treatment of Foot Pain
While mild foot pain caused by a slight injury can be treated with the typically recommended home remedies — RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) and over-the-counter pain killers, more severe or ongoing pain must be correctly diagnosed and treated by a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon. The physician’s recommendation may be as simple as wearing more supportive shoes or orthotic inserts, or it may involve surgical intervention. Only by consulting with an experienced and highly skilled foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon will you be sure of what treatment is necessary.
Prevention of Foot Pain
Obviously, it is impossible to avoid all foot pain, but there are some preventative steps that can be taken to lessen your risk. These include:
• Wearing properly fitted shoes
• Alternating shoes — not wearing the same pair every day
• Avoiding walking barefoot where your feet may be injured or infected
• Use sunblock on your feet when at the beach or pool
• Watch your weight
• Have medical checkups to detect and manage any disease conditions
Most of all, remember not to ignore foot pain. Don’t accept foot pain (or any other pain) as normal unless or until you have been properly diagnosed by a trained medical professional. If you are diabetic, it is especially important that you have an annual checkup of your feet.