Best foot for­ward

Monthly Chronicle - - Health & Well-Being - Melissa Walker, Pen­nant Hills Po­di­a­trist

Whether it’s in sum­mer with feet in san­dals and thongs or in win­ter tucked into boots and school and work shoes, we need to con­sider how our foot health can be af­fected by the shoes we wear, their im­pact on our gen­eral health and how well we look af­ter them. Be­ing out of reach for many, feet are eas­ily for­got­ten but there are a few sim­ple tips that can keep them foot­loose and fancy free.

Ap­ply­ing a daily mois­turiser to the heels and top of your feet (not be­tween the toes) is an easy way to keep your skin hy­drated and less prone to dam­age. Hav­ing your nails kept short and tidy and en­sur­ing that your footwear is the cor­rect fit and size will as­sist in help­ing pre­vent blis­ters, thick­ened nails and keep you com­fort­able all-day long. It’s not nor­mal to have foot pain, yet many Aus­tralians en­dure foot trou­bles with­out know­ing where to turn.

A po­di­a­trist is es­pe­cially trained in all foot and lower limb con­di­tions from gen­eral skin and nail care to wound care, gait or walk­ing anal­y­sis and pre­ven­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of sports in­juries. Com­mon com­plaints I see in our clinic in­clude corns and cal­lus, in­grown toe­nails, warts, fun­gal in­fec­tions and fallen arches. But what can be done about them? Here’s a brief over­view.

Com­mon foot prob­lems

Corns and Cal­luses oc­cur as the re­sult of fric­tion and pres­sure when we walk around. Wear­ing ill-fit­ting, slip on shoes, high heels or thongs can in­crease the rate of build-up, re­sult­ing in painful fo­cal ar­eas (corns) akin to walk­ing on glass in terms of pain. In some cases, there is lit­tle one can do to change our foot anatomy and bent toes, arthritic joints and bunions won’t help the cause. Reg­u­lar vis­its to a po­di­a­trist will alleviate painful symp­toms and some­times some footwear ad­vice and of­fload­ing de­vices may slow their pro­gres­sion.

In­grown toe­nails are an­other com­mon cause for con­cern. Eas­ily in­fected, in­grown toe­nails may be the re­sult of nail trauma or ge­netic nail shape where the side of the nail grows into the skin re­sult­ing in pain and swelling. Your po­di­a­trist can pre­ven­ta­tively man­age nails with this ten­dency and if you’re cut­ting your own nails at home it's im­por­tant to use a cor­rect cut­ting tech­nique – straight across and not too short with clip­pers de­signed for this pur­pose. For dif­fi­cult cases, mi­nor surgery may be used to re­move the side of the nail.

Warts are caused by a virus that in­vades the skin through cuts and abra­sions. Sim­i­lar to fun­gal in­fec­tion, warts may be trans­ferred through con­tact with a sur­face that’s been con­tam­i­nated. It may be dirty ground, in pub­lic show­er­ing and bathing ar­eas, but they may also de­velop as a re­sult of low im­mu­nity. They can be dif­fi­cult to treat if ig­nored, eas­ily spread through the skin and painful to walk on. Warts are best at­tended by a po­di­a­trist or doc­tor to re­move them while they’re small. Be­ware the shower at your gym, camp­site or pub­lic bathing area, try to wear thongs to pro­tect your feet and avoid walk­ing bare­foot in pub­lic ar­eas, es­pe­cially if you have a skin break.

Fun­gal in­fec­tions can oc­cur in the skin or nails and af­fect about 20% of the pop­u­la­tion at some time in life. Gen­er­ally hav­ing an in­sid­i­ous on­set, they progress re­lent­lessly and can be dif­fi­cult to man­age and slow to re­solve es­pe­cially if not di­ag­nosed early. More fre­quently seen in men, fun­gal nail in­fec­tions thrive in sweaty, dark en­vi­ron­ments like en­closed footwear. Fun­gal in­fec­tions of the skin (or Ath­lete's Foot) of­ten be­gin be­tween the toes or on the in­step of the foot. They spread by skin to skin con­tact, or from sur­face con­tam­i­na­tion with pub­lic bathing ar­eas a hot-spot for trans­fer. De­scribed as an itchy rash that can cause moist, raw skin be­tween toes or scaly, sting­ing or burn­ing skin, they’re treat­able with over the counter top­i­cal an­ti­fun­gal med­i­ca­tions and usu­ally re­solve within weeks. Again pre­cau­tions such as wear­ing thongs in pub­lic bathing ar­eas or ho­tel show­ers, wear­ing clean, breath­able socks and air­ing footwear reg­u­larly may help pre­vent in­fec­tion Flat feet or fallen arches are a com­mon com­plaint amongst our pop­u­la­tion. Gen­er­ally man­aged with sup­port­ive footwear or or­thotic de­vices, pain-free flat feet are not al­ways a prob­lem. For an as­sess­ment of your walk­ing style, or for footwear ad­vice, con­tact your po­di­a­trist.

1 in 2 Aus­tralians ex­pe­ri­ence heel, arch or foot pain every week

Melissa Walker treat­ing a client’s foot is­sue

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