304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
We often ignore our feet until the moment we feel pain. We stuff them into ill-fitting shoes and never consider stretching them ,even though each step we take places two to three times of our body weight onto our feet, according to the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. Over time, this repetitive use can cause a host of foot and alignment problems. Take our self-evaluation to find out other reasons for your foot pain and what you can do about it.
Put your feet into a bucket of water, then step on a piece of dark paper so that you leave “footprints.” You want the paper to be dark enough for you to see the outline of your foot. (Abrown paper grocery bag will work.) You can also try this the next time you step out of the shower or tub. What do your footprints tell you?
Problem: If your footprint looks like an oblong pancake with toes, you pronate excessively or have flat feet. Overpronation is a common problem that occurs when a person’s arch collapses from bearing weight. This can lead to arch strain and pain on the inside of the knee.
Solution: Try molded-leather arch supports, such as Dr. Scholl’s, available at the drugstore. When shopping for athletic shoes, ask a sales clerk for styles with “control” features — soles designed to halt that rolling-in motion. If arch supports or sports shoes don’t help, see a foot specialist about custom-molded orthotic shoe inserts.
Problem: If there’s little or no connection in your footprint between the front part of the foot and the heel, you under pronate, which means your arch is high and a lot of your weight is landing on the outside edge of your foot. Underpronation makes you more susceptible to ankle sprains and stress fractures.
Solution: Ask for “stability” athletic shoes, which are built with extra cushioning to remedy this problem. Plus, if you are prone to ankle sprains, wear high-top athletic shoes that cover the foot and ankle snugly to minimize damage from twists.
From your closet, grab the shoes you wear most often and see if they show one of these wear patterns. For this evaluation, it’s best to examine a flat, closed-toe pair, such as a sports shoe or a dress shoe.
Problem: Your heel tendons may be too tight.
Solution: Stretch with heel raises.
Problem: You pronate or turn in.
Solution: Inner liners or orthotic supports may help. Orthotics are shoe inserts custom-molded by a foot specialist and used to correct an irregular walking pattern.
Problem: Your shoes are too small or you have hammertoes. A hammertoe is a deformity of the second, third, or fourth toes where the toe is bent at the middle joint, resembling a hammer.
Solution: Your shoe should have a roomy, rounded, or square toe box(the area of the shoe over the toes). For the best fit, outline your feet as you stand barefoot and take the outline to the shoe store. Get a shoe that reproduces that shape. Don’t purchase shoes that feel too tight, expecting them to “stretch” to fit.
Problem: Your feet turn out.
Solution: Orthotic shoe inserts may help.
Problem: You have a too-narrow fit or you have a bunion. A bunion occurs when the joint that connects your big toe to your foot gets larger and sticks out, causing a sore, swollen bump.
Solution: Outline your foot and measure the widest portion of that outline. Your shoes should be as wide as this portion.
Problem: The front of your shoe is too low.
Solution: Find shoes with a roomy toe box. Bringing in old shoes when you’re buying new ones can be helpful if you have a knowledgeable salesperson. He or she can evaluate the wear patterns to help you get a better fit as well as a style that will compensate for the stresses you place on shoes.
How flexible are your toes? Just using your toes, try to pick up a marble (excellent) or a small dishtowel (good). Increasing your flexibility by stretching your feet and strengthening your toes can help to prevent future foot discomfort. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society recommends doing these simple exercises to keep your feet in good condition.
Problem: Hammertoes or toe cramps
What to do:
Toe raise, toe point, toe curl: Hold each position for five seconds and repeat 10 times.
Toe squeeze: Place small corks between your toes and hold a squeeze for five seconds. Do this 10 times.
Any chance you get, take off your shoes and walk in the sand at the beach. This not only massages your feet but strengthens your toes and is good for general foot conditioning. Watch out for glass! (Warning: This exercise is not recommended for people with diabetes.)
Problem: Bunions or toe cramps
What to do:
Place a thick rubber band around big toes and pull the big toes away from each other and toward the small toes. Hold for five seconds and repeat 10 times.
Put a thick rubber band around all of your toes and spread them. Hold this position for five seconds and repeat 10 times. This is also good for people with hammertoes.
Problem: Plantar fasciitis (heel pain) or arch strain
What to do:
Golf ball roll: Roll a golf ball under the ball of your foot for two minutes. This is a great massage for the bottom of the foot.
Problem: Pain in the ball of the foot
What to do:
Place a small towel on the floor and curl it toward you, using only your toes. You can increase the resistance by putting a weight on the end of the towel. Relax and repeat this exercise five times. This is also recommended for people with hammertoes and toe cramps.
Place 20 marbles on the floor. Pick up one marble at a time and put it in a small bowl. Do this exercise until you have picked up all 20 marbles.
To avoid foot pain in the future, learn how to find the right shoes for your feet:
Foot pain can be a sign of a bigger health problem. If you are experiencing recurrent foot pain and have any of these symptoms, it’s time to see your doctor or an orthopaedist.