The forefoot is composed of five metatarsal bones and fourteen phalanges. Each toe has three phalanges except for the big toe which only has two. Our toes play an essential role to the walking process, which is why a broken toe could seriously disrupt one’s ability to move around. Toe fractures are common and can be very painful. Fortunately, these injuries rarely require surgery and usually heal with rest and a change in activity.
Broken toes typically result from a traumatic event such as falling, stubbing the toe, or dropping something on the toe. Traumatic toe fractures may be categorized as either minor or severe fractures. At times, one may hear a “pop” or “crack” sound when the bone breaks. Common symptoms of a traumatic toe fracture include pain, throbbing, bruising, swelling, and redness.
Another type of toe fractures is a stress fracture. These injuries usually appear in the form of small hairline breaks on the bone. Stress fractures develop after repetitive activity instead of a single injury. Stress fractures occur when the muscles in the bone become too weak to absorb impact. Consequently, the toe bone becomes vulnerable to any pressure and impact it endures. Symptoms for a stress fracture in the toe include swelling without bruising, tenderness to the touch, pain that goes away with rest, and pain after walking or running.
If you suspect that you have a broken toe, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist. He or she will likely diagnose you by performing a physical exam and an X-ray. Treatment for a broken toe may include the R.I.C.E. method, buddy taping, surgery, or antibiotics. The R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is a common treatment method for many injuries because it decreases pain. Buddy tapping involves wrapping the injured toe next to an adjacent toe to keep it supported and protected. These two methods have proven to be effective in the healing process for toe fractures. The estimated healing time for a broken toe is approximately four to six weeks. If the injury becomes infected or requires surgery, the estimated healing time may take eight weeks or more.
The branch of medicine that is focused on the treatment, diagnosis, and study of disorders of the lower leg, ankle and foot is referred to as podiatry. Because people often spend a great deal of their time on their feet, many problems in this area can occur. A person seeks help from the field of podiatry when they need treatment for heel spurs, bunions, arch problems, deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, foot and ankle problems, infections, and problems with the foot that are related to diabetes and additional diseases.
To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery, or set fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.
When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.
Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise. Referrals will then be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.
Some podiatrists have their own independent, private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel. Many podiatrists work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals, or visit patients in nursing homes. Podiatrists typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.
Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that results from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.
A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue and can develop throughout the body. In the foot, the most common neuroma is a Morton’s neuroma; this typically forms between the third and fourth toes. The thickening of the nerve is typically caused by compression and irritation of the nerve; this thickening can in turn cause enlargement and, in some cases, nerve damage.
Neuromas can be caused by anything that causes compression or irritation of the nerve. A common cause is wearing shoes with tapered toe boxes or high heels that force the toes into the toe boxes. Physical activities that involve repeated pressure to the foot, such as running or basketball, can also create neuromas. Those with foot deformities, such as bunions, hammertoes, or flatfeet, are more likely to develop the condition.
Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include tingling, burning, numbness, pain, and the feeling that either something is inside the ball of the foot or that something in one’s shoe or sock is bunched up. Symptoms typically begin gradually and can even go away temporarily by removing one’s shoes or massaging the foot. An increase in the intensity of symptoms correlates with the increasing growth of the neuroma.
Treatment for Morton’s neuroma can vary between patients and the severity of the condition. For mild to moderate cases, padding, icing, orthotics, activity modifications, shoe modifications, medications, and injection therapy may be suggested or prescribed. Patients who have not responded successfully to less invasive treatments may require surgery to properly treat their condition. The severity of your condition will determine the procedure performed and the length of recovery afterwards.
Your feet endure a great amount of stress each day from constantly allowing us to move around. It is important to stretch your feet to help prevent them from becoming injured. Your toes may easily deform into unhealthful positions if they are not stretched.
One of the most common reasons for toe deformities are the shoes you may be wearing. Shoes that are too tight may fold and shift the toes out of place. Heeled shoes may also push your toes upward. Forcing your toes into an unnatural position which may cause the muscles to tighten and prevent them from reverting to normal length. Another common reason is improper use of foot muscles. Many people fail to use the muscles in their feet or toes when they walk. Lastly, the positioning of your feet while walking may also cause toe deformities. If you walk with your feet facing outward, your “push-off” phase is on the side of your big toe instead of the bottom of your foot. This may cause the big toe to eventually tighten into a new shifted position.
There are many reasons why stretching your toes may be helpful. One reason is that healthy spacing may aid in avoiding calluses and other injuries that are caused by rubbing. Stretching will also prevent you from developing toes that curl, hammertoes, or bunions.
A great way to stretch your toes is to place them in your hands and bend them all downward; this will help you stretch the top of your foot. Next, you should repeat this process but instead bend them upward enough to feel a nice stretch in the bottom of your foot. You should then try to pull each toe apart from the next and pull any toes that are bent upward until they are back downward.
If you are looking to practice stretching your entire foot, you can try a towel stretch. This is done by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you. Take a towel and wrap it around your toes. Afterward, pull the towel toward you with your toes and hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before releasing. Practice this stretch for three sets. Another stretch your feet are towel lifts. This is done by sitting in a chair and trying to pick a towel up from the ground with your toes. Try lifting the towel with your little toes for five sets before switching feet.
If you are an athlete, or exercise often, it is especially important for you to practice stretching your feet. Those who suffer from foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours of standing at work may also benefit from foot exercises.
The natural weight that pregnant women gain causes their center of gravity to be completely altered. This causes them to have a new weight-bearing stance which adds pressure to the knees and feet. As a result, pregnant women often experience severe foot pain. The two most common foot issues experienced by women in their pregnancies are edema and over-pronation. It is important for all pregnant women to learn more about how to take care of their feet so they are more comfortable during their pregnancy.
Over-pronation, which is commonly referred to as flat feet, is caused when a person’s arch flattens out upon weight bearing. This causes the person’s feet to roll inward while walking. Pregnant women often experience this due to the sudden weight they gain.
Edema, also referred as swelling in the feet, typically occurs in the later part of the pregnancy. It is the result of the extra blood accumulated in the pregnant woman’s body. The enlarged uterus puts more pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvis which causes leg circulation to slow down. This causes blood to pool in the lower extremities.
Fortunately, there are ways to treat both edema and over-pronation. Edema can be treated by elevating the foot as often as possible. Wearing proper fitting footwear will also be helpful for those with edema. A treatment method for over-pronation could be orthotics. Orthotic inserts should be designed with appropriate arch support and medial rear foot for your foot.
It is best for pregnant women to buy new shoes during the day, because this is the time where swelling is at its peak. Pregnant women also shouldn’t rush when buying shoes. It is always advised that you make sure your shoes fit properly but this is especially important during pregnancy.
If you are a pregnant woman, you should consult with a podiatrist in order to make sure your feet are healthy throughout the entirety of your pregnancy.
There are several systemic diseases, or diseases that affect the whole body, that either display symptoms in the feet or affect the health of the feet. Common systemic diseases that affect the overall health of the feet, and the patient’s ability to walk comfortably, include gout, diabetes mellitus, neurological disorders, and arthritis, among others.
In gout, which is caused by an excessive buildup of uric acid in the body, the most common symptoms of pain, inflammation, and redness occur at the metatarsal/phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe. Any excess levels of uric acid crystallize and are deposited in tendons, joints, and surrounding bone and muscle tissue. Gout is commonly treated with NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation and other drugs to lower uric acid levels in the body. Gout most commonly affects those who are overweight, have low protein diets and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
Diabetes mellitus is an increase in the level of blood sugar in which the body cannot counteract with naturally occurring insulin in the body. The three types of diabetes, Type I, Type II and Gestational Diabetes, are all signs the body is either not producing enough insulin or is not efficiently using the insulin that is produced. Gestational diabetes only affects women who are pregnant and have never, prior to pregnancy, exhibited symptoms of the disease.
There are two main issues that affect the feet that are commonly caused by diabetes. They include diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. Diabetic neuropathy can lead to damaged nerves and affect the feet through numbness and loss of sensation. Peripheral vascular disease restricts the flow of blood to the foot and can, in extreme cases, lead to the necessity of amputating the foot. Peripheral issues that are caused by diabetes and can affect the foot include athlete’s foot, nail infections, corns, blisters, bunions, severe dry skin, plantar warts and ingrown toenails. These can all be attributed to the decrease of blood flow to the foot.
Neurological disorders and rheumatoid arthritis can also have severe impact on the health of the feet. Neurological disorders can affect the nerves in the main structure of the foot and cause loss of sensation and possible decreased muscle response. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect the bones and joint structures of the foot, making it impossible to walk normally without serious pain.
All systemic diseases that affect the foot can effectively be treated to minimize joint and muscle damage if they are diagnosed early and treated with medication and lifestyle therapy. Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar levels and work with their physician to keep their levels as close to normal as possible. Rheumatoid arthritis patients should work with their physician to ensure the proper medications are being taken to reduce the amount of damage to the joints of the body.
Blisters are pockets of fluid that occur under the top layer of your skin. These fluid pockets are usually filled with pus, blood, or serum. Blisters may itch or hurt and can appear as a single bubble or in clusters.
The most common types of blisters are friction blisters. This type of blister may be caused by wearing shoes that are too tight. Friction blisters can also occur on the hands. A change in temperature may also cause blisters on the feet. In the freezing air, frostbite on your toes can lead to blisters, as well as sunburn from hot weather.
The best way to treat a blister is to keep it clean and dry. Most blisters will get better on their own. Once the skin absorbs the fluid within the blister, it will flatten and eventually peel off. You should avoid popping your blister unless you podiatrist does it for you. Additional treatment options include applying an ice pack to the blister or using over-the-counter blister bandages to cover the affected area.
If your blister becomes discolored, inflamed, or worsens it is advised that you speak to your podiatrist. Blisters that are yellow, green, or purple may be infected and require immediate medical attention. Blisters that are abnormally colored may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition such as herpes.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the tibial nerve, located in the tarsal tunnel in the foot, is compressed. The tibial nerve can become compressed from injury, such as an ankle sprain, flat feet, and lesions. Arthritis, diabetes, and varicose veins can also cause swelling and thus result in nerve compression.
Symptoms of tarsal tunnel syndrome include several different sensations in the sole of the foot, inside the ankle, and around the tibial nerve. These sensations include shooting pains, numbness or reduced sensation, pins and needles, burning, and tingling. Symptoms tend to worsen with greater activity to the area. In rare and severe occasions, this can change the muscles in the foot.
If you suspect you have tarsal tunnel syndrome, you should consult with your podiatrist. He or she will examine your medical history to see if you have a history of diabetes, arthritis, or flat feet. They will also check to see if you have suffered an injury to the area recently. An electrical test will be conducted to check if the nerve has been damaged. A simpler Tinel’s Test might also be used. This includes simply tapping the nerve to create a sensation. An MRI scan of the area may also be used.
Treatments vary greatly for tarsal tunnel syndrome. Treatments include both nonsurgical and surgical options depending upon the severity of the condition. Nonsurgical options include anti-inflammatory medication and steroid injections to the area. Orthotics, such as a splint or brace that immobilizes the foot, is another noninvasive option. For those with flat feet, custom shoes can be made to offer better foot support. Surgical options include a tunnel tarsal release, in which an incision is made behind the ankle down to the arch of the foot. This releases the ligament and relieves pressure off the nerve. Some doctors use a more minimally invasive surgery, where smaller incisions are made in the ankle and the ligament is stretched out.
If you are suffering from painful sensations in your foot, see a podiatrist who can determine if you are experiencing tarsal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel syndrome that is left unchecked can cause permanent nerve damage to the foot.
Walking Shoes vs. Running Shoes
Although walking shoes and running shoes look similar, they have characteristics that make them different from each other. Runners should avoid running in walking shoes and vice versa. It is very important that you wear the proper footwear for the activity you are going to partake in, for you to avoid injury.
If you are looking to buy a new pair of running shoes, there are certain things you should look out for. One of the main components that makes up a good running shoe is flexibility. You should be able to bend and flex the forefoot of the shoe that you are purchasing. If you can bend the entire shoe in half with ease, this is a sign that the shoe does not have enough structure for your feet. Another feature you should look for is a low heel. Certain running shoes have a low heel to support runners who land on the ball of their feet. Lastly, you should look for the fit of the running shoe. You should visit the best running shoe store in your area to have your feet properly sized for the shoes in the store. Usually, the staff will be able to help recommend the best type of running shoe for your needs.
When you are walking, the body’s weight is evenly distributed on the foot. This influences the design of shoes made for walking. If you are looking to buy a pair of walking shoes, there are different features you should look for to determine which pair of shoes is best for you. Walking shoes should be flexible through the ball of the foot to allow for a greater range of motion through the roll of the forefoot. These shoes also should have greater arch support for the foot. If you plan on walking long distances or on hard surfaces, it is best that you wear shoes that have cushioning.
When trying on a new pair of shoes, the heel should fit snugly without slip. You should shop for shoes after a long walk, since your feet tend to swell throughout the day. Many people have one foot that is a different size than the other, so it is best that you have both feet measured when looking for your true size. You should also beware that sizes vary depending on the shoe brand. A certain size in one brand may be a different size in a different brand. Lastly, you should always walk around in shoes that you plan on buying. This will help you determine whether the shoes are comfortable and if they fit well on your feet.
Always look for good shoe construction when shopping for new sneakers. The upper part of the shoe should allow for adjustment through laces or straps. If you need help with shoe sizing or if you need custom orthotics for your feet, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist for assistance. He or she will be more than happy to help you with your shoe sizing needs.
A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine who treats the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg. If you are having any pain, injuries, or abnormalities in these areas, it is best that you seek help from a podiatrist.
Podiatrists complete four years of training in a podiatric medical school. Their training is like that of other physicians, and they may go on to complete a fellowship training after a residency training. Some podiatrists are board certified meaning they have advanced training, clinical experience, and have taken an exam to prove their skills. Certifying boards for podiatry are the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery and the American Board of Podiatric Medicine. Podiatrists may work in private practices, hospitals, clinics, or they may even become professors at colleges of podiatric medicine.
While in college, those who want to be podiatrists often take biology, chemistry, and physics classes in preparation for podiatry school. In podiatry school, students study how the bones, nerves, and muscles work together to help you move around. Additionally, they study injuries and how to properly diagnose and treat them. Admittance into podiatric medical school requires the completion of 90 semester hours of undergraduate study with a good grade point average, and acceptable scores on the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)
Podiatrists treat many different conditions such as: aching feet, ankle pain, bunions, corns, hammertoes, fungus, ingrown toenails, plantar fasciitis, sprains and more. Common forms of treatment for these conditions are physical therapy, drugs, or surgery. Podiatrists may also recommend corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts, and strappings to correct deformities.
Even if you are someone whose feet are in generally good condition, you should still visit a podiatrist to have your feet properly exfoliated and maintained, or to make sure you are looking after your feet properly.
Flatfoot is a condition that occurs when the arches on the foot are flattened, which allows the soles of the feet to touch the floor. Flatfoot is a common condition and it is usually painless.
Throughout childhood, most people begin to develop arches in their feet, however, some do not. Those who do not develop arches are left with flatfoot. The pain associated with flat feet is usually at its worse when engaging in activity. Another symptom that may occur with those who have this condition is swelling along the inside of the ankle.
It is also possible to have flexible flatfoot. Flexible flatfoot occurs when the arch is visible while sitting or standing on the tiptoes, but it disappears when standing. People who have flexible flatfoot are often children and most outgrow it without any problems.
There are some risk factors that may make you more likely to develop flatfoot. Those who have diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of flatfoot development. Other factors include aging and obesity.
Diagnosis for flat feet is usually done by a series of tests by your podiatrist. Your podiatrist will typically try an x-ray, CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI on the feet. Treatment is usually not necessary for flat foot unless it causes pain. However, therapy is often used for those who experience pain in their flat feet. Some other suggested treatment options are arch supports, stretching exercises, and supportive shoes.
A bunion is a bump that forms at the base of the big toe. Bunions form when the big toe pushes against the next toe, which forces the big toe joint to get bigger and stick out. As a result, the skin over the bunion may start to appear red and it may feel sore.
There are risk factors that can increase your chances of developing bunions. People who wear high heels or ill-fitting shoes are more likely to develop them, in addition to those who have a genetic history of bunions or have rheumatoid arthritis.
The most obvious way to tell if you have a bunion is to look for the big toe pushing up against the toe next to it. Bunions produce a large protrusion at the base of the big toe and may or may not cause pain. Other symptoms are redness, swelling, and restricted movement of the big toe if you have arthritis.
Nonsurgical methods are frequently used to treat bunions that aren’t severe. Some methods of nonsurgical treatment are orthotics, icing and resting the foot, taping the foot, and pain medication. Surgery is usually only required in extreme cases. However, if surgery is needed, some procedures may involve removing the swollen tissue from around the big toe joint, straightening the big toe by removing part of the bone, or joining the bones of your affected joint permanently.
Your podiatrist will diagnose your bunion by doing a thorough examination of your foot. He or she may also conduct an x-ray to determine the cause of the bunion and its severity.
Cuboid syndrome mostly affects athletes, although it can affect non-athletes too. It is also known as cuboid subluxation or cuboid fault syndrome. This condition occurs when joints and ligaments near the cuboid bone of the foot are damaged, or when the cuboid bone itself is dislodged from its natural position. It is usually marked by pain on the outer side of the foot, which may be persistent or may come and go. Cuboid syndrome can be difficult to diagnose unless it becomes severe and more noticeable. Your doctor will likely ask questions about when the pain began and how long it has been present, and will put pressure on the cuboid bone to determine if that area is the origin of the pain.
Causes of Cuboid Syndrome
- Any repetitive stresses placed on the foot due to athletic activities are a common cause of cuboid syndrome.
- Although it develops over time, it is possible that this syndrome can occur all of sudden due to a single event or injury.
- Over-pronation can exacerbate the condition if not corrected.
Disagreements Amongst Podiatrists Regarding Cuboid Syndrome
- Some refer to it as the dislocation of the calcaneal-cuboid joint only.
- Other podiatrists see it as an injury of the ligaments located nearby, which also involves the cuboid bone.
It is very important that when you experience any kind of pain on the side of your foot, you should seek medical care right away. If a subluxed cuboid is caught early, your feet may respond well to the treatment, and you can get back into sports or other activities again as soon as the pain subsides.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes is a condition that affects approximately 23.6 million Americans. Around 750,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, and the disease’s most common form, Type 2 diabetes, makes up for 90 to 95 percent of these cases. Type 2 diabetes is especially prevalent among older Americans, those who are obese, and those who lead sedentary lifestyles.
Complications of the disease may lead to several foot and ankle-related conditions. The loss of nerve sensation, or neuropathy, can cause diabetics to lose feeling at the bottom of the feet and therefore leave them unaware of pain, pressure, and heat. Decreased circulation is another complication of diabetes that can slow down the healing of wounds and injuries; this can lead to the development of foot ulcers.
To prevent foot ulcers from forming, diabetics should examine their feet every day for small cuts and wear shoes that curtail pressure. Constant monitoring for the risk factors associated with ulcer formation can allow for early detection and therefore lessen the possibility of ulcers or, even worse, amputation. The removal of calluses and ingrown toenails should be left to the podiatrist to avoid improper removal and possible infection.
Diabetic patients may also experience foot deformities due to complications in their feet, such as limited joint mobility, muscle atrophy, and decreased fat padding. These complications can increase pressure in certain areas of the foot, which in turn can cause certain deformities, such as hammertoe, to form. Another deformity, Charcot foot, develops due to the collapsing of microfractures in the bones of the feet. The resulting deformity is a foot that is flattened and wider in appearance.
To help minimize pressure and prevent the development of these diabetes-related foot and ankle conditions, your podiatrist may consider using orthotics or special shoes. Charcot foot may be treated using walkers, custom orthotic insoles, or non-weight-bearing or rigid weight-bearing casts or braces. In more serious cases, surgery may be considered to treat more developed deformities. Ulcers can be further cared for with the help of proper diet, medication to control glucose, intensive wound care, and infection treatment.