Common Foot Problems
Here is a list of the most common foot pain problems experienced on a regular basis. They are also the easiest to identify and the simplest to treat.
What It Is: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon; The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body (it connects your calf muscle to your heel bone) and it’s highly prone to becoming inflamed from degeneration and/or overuse. Chronic inflammation can eventually cause the tendon to thicken and lose flexibility.
How to Recognize It: While Achilles Tendonitis can be quite uncomfortable it is also one of the most common foot problems. Symptoms include pain in the tendon and heel, even while walking; swelling that worsens throughout the day; sensitivity when the tendon is touched or moved, and the skin may be swollen and warm in the affected area as well.
What It Is: Athletes’ Foot is a rash caused by a fungus, and while it is found on the bottom of the foot this common affliction is by no means limited to athletes. It often makes its initial appearance between the 4th and the 5th toes for unknown reasons. Damp surfaces and damp feet are an inviting environment for this fungus.
How to Recognize It: Common symptoms include redness of the skin, itching, the development of pustules, and/or flaking skin and a spreading of the rash to other parts of the feet, primarily the soles.
What It Is: A bunion is a deformation of the foot caused by a swollen bursa sac and/or by a misalignment of the big toe at the joint where the bones of the foot and the big toe meet. Tight fitting shoes and high heels are common causes of this affliction.
How to Recognize It: Aside from the visible ‘lump’ that occurs on the inner foot, pain is the most frequent symptom of a bunion and it can be either intermittent or chronic. This deformation is permanent unless surgically corrected, although discomfort can usually be eased through non-invasive treatments.
What It Is: Corns are patches of thickened skin that are closely related to calluses but differ in shape; they are often conical or and may cause the skin to look dry or waxy. They are usually quite painful to walk on and can occur not only on the bottom of the foot but on the top of the toes and between the toes as well. Corns often develop at natural pressure points and can also result from severely restrictive foot wear.
How to Recognize It: Pain and discomfort are usually the first signs that you have a corn, followed by the discovery of conical or round patches of hard, discoloured skin.
What It Is: Calluses are similar to corns in that they are thickened patches of skin that are usually caused by pressure and/or friction of skin against another surface such as a shoe or rough terrain. They are frequently found on the balls of the feet, the heels, and the underside of the big toe.
How to Recognize It: Unlike corns, calluses are usually flat patches of skin that do not protrude excessively from the skin but rather lie flat on the afflicted surface. The skin may appear white and dry and there is often pain when pressure is applied to the calloused area.
What It Is: Flat feet, (also known as fallen arches) occur when there is little or no arch to the instep of the foot. Most people are afflicted from birth though it can also result from obesity, excessive standing, and diabetes. It can also be caused by the onset of neural conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
How to Recognize It: When a flat-footed person stands or walks their arches flatten to the ground and their foot may roll to the inside, which puts undue pressure on muscles and ligaments.
What It Is: This deformity is also sometimes referred to as a ‘claw foot’ and is caused by an imbalance of the tendons in the toe. Either the top or bottom tendon can pull harder than its counterpart which then causes the toe to curl under. Wearing short, narrow, or tight shoes can also the tendons to tighten up and lose their length and flexibility, which can lead to this affliction.
How to Recognize It: The middle joint of the affected toe will be chronically bent, forcing the end of the toe downward into a claw-like position. The toe will begin to stiffen and lose its flexibility and if left untreated it will become completely immobile.
What It Is: When the edges or corners of a toenail grow into the surrounding tissues of the toe, eventually piercing it, it becomes an ingrown toenail. This too is one of the more common problems and it is often caused by improper cutting of the nails, although certain individuals may be inherently prone to this affliction. It most commonly affects the big toe.
How to Recognize It: Discomfort in the surrounding nail bed is usually the first indicator of an ingrown toenail. Other indications include swelling and redness of the skin, and if infection is present there may be pus as well.
What It Is: A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissues and when it occurs in the foot it is referred to as a ‘Morton’s’ neuroma. It is often found in the ball of the foot between third and fourth toes although it can occur elsewhere on the foot as well. This condition is caused by compression and irritation of nerve tissue, which over time can cause permanent damage.
How to Recognize It: Common indications of a neuroma include tingling, burning, numbness and pain in the afflicted area as well as the sensation that there is something inside the ball of the foot or the shoe being worn. Symptoms usually start gradually and become more acute.
What It Is: This painful condition occurs when inflammation is present in the band of tissue that runs from the heel to the toe of the foot. This band is called the plantar fascia and it will first become irritated and then inflamed. This condition is usually caused by problematic foot structure but it can also result from non-supportive footwear, especially if the wearer stands on their feet for extended periods of time.
How to Recognize It: Pain occurs primarily in the heel of the foot although it may be felt in the arch as well. There is often a hot or sharp sensation present at this site of injury, and the pain may be most acutely felt first thing in the morning. This condition can worsen over several months if it the situation is not remedied.
What It Is: Like other warts, plantar warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and when found on the bottom (or plantar) side of the foot they are referred to as ‘plantar’ warts. There may be a solitary wart that gradually increases in size or a series of ‘mosaic’ warts, which are several warts growing in a cluster and which are more difficult to treat than solitary warts.
How to Recognize It: Planter warts often cause pain as they can grow deeply into the skin and create discomfort, particularly when pressure is applied through walking or other movement. Warts often resemble calluses because of the thick, rough appearance of the skin. Tiny black dots may appear in the wart as well; these are particles of dried blood found in the tiny capillaries threaded through the infected tissue.
What It Is: A fungus is an organism that prefers dark and humid environments and is neither plant nor animal, and the area between the toenail and the toe-bed is vulnerable to this growth, particularly in the elderly and those prone to athlete’s foot.
How to Recognize It: Toenails may become thick and develop crumbing edges, and they often become discoloured and misshapen as well. The infection often spreads deeper into the nail and nail bed and should thus be dealt with immediately, as it can become quite uncomfortable.