Every day I see a wide range of patients with a variety of foot problems who are experiencing foot pain, decreased mobility or both. Although they are keen to do whatever it takes to ease their discomfort, many of them are frustrated when I explain that their foot condition could have been avoided. Foot problems and foot pain are widespread problems in Canada but very few people are born with foot problems. The majority of problems develop because people, either knowingly or unknowingly, fail to care for their feet properly, and wearing ill-fitting shoes is one of the main culprits.
As our base of support, our feet take a lot of pounding. But feet are not as sturdy as they appear. Each foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles which means there are a lot of elements that can be injured if they are not supported and cared for properly.
Wearing well-fitted, supportive shoes during childhood is an important defence against future foot troubles. Babies’ feet are made of soft cartilage which slowly hardens into bones over the years. The soft structure of their feet combined with the rapid growth they undergo means children’s feet are particularly vulnerable to ill-fitting shoes and tight socks.
Although a good start is important, feet cannot be neglected through adulthood and continuing to wear properly fitting shoes is essential. Many people don’t realize that feet change shape and size as they age so it’s important to continue to get your feet measured even after they are full grown. People of all ages experience foot problems but foot problems are four times more common in women than men and high heels are the primary cause. High heels are often pointy and unnaturally force weight on to the balls of women’s feet causing forefoot and arch pain to develop along with the formation of corns and calluses in areas that are rubbed and pinched. To protect women’s feet, Canadian Certified Pedorthists advise women follow the 80:20 rule – wear supportive footwear 80 per cent of the time and the other 20 percent of the time can be spent in less supportive footwear.
Foot pain can impact your entire life as it can limit your ability to do the things you love. To ensure foot pain never slows you down, wear supportive, professionally fitted footwear all the time. When it comes to foot health, prevention is definitely the best approach.
By Laura Allen, C. Ped (C), Fergus, ON