July Articles 2013

Athlete's Foot: The Sole Story

Do you suffer from itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet? It could be athlete's foot. Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, can be extremely contagious, often infecting shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, and anywhere else feet might contact. It's commonly found in public changing areas and bathrooms, dormitory style living quarters, around locker rooms and public swimming pools. "Commons" areas in prisons and residential care facilities are frequently caught feeding the fungus as well. One step in the wrong direction can be enough to start the fire that can be tremendously difficult to treat.

Athlete's foot is most often caused by the same fungus that causes ringworm (tinea). It can be spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by coming in contact with other objects or body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Although the feet are more frequently assumed to get athlete's foot, tinea can invade other parts of the body as well so long as the proper growing conditions are met.

Tinea thrives in a dark, warm, and moist environment. Body parts that are often infected include the hands, groin, and scalp. Although many people never experience athlete's foot, around 70% of the population suffers from tinea at some point in their lifetime. Like most ailments, some people are more likely to acquire this fungal infection than others. People with a history of tinea or other skin infections are more likely to suffer from recurrent, or even additional, unrelated infections. The extent to which a person is tormented by the fungus can vary greatly as well.

While some people are never even aware that they have been infected with athlete's foot, others are pestered with mild to moderate symptoms like dry and flaking skin, itching, and redness. Still others are bothered by more severe symptoms including cracked and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, and even pain when walking. In the worst cases, tinea can cause blistering as well.

The treatment for athlete's foot begins with prevention. Changes in the environment infected with athlete's foot can prevent spreading. Keeping the area that is infected clean and dry with the use of medicated cleansers and powders is essential. Allowing the area to breathe is important in the treatment as well. Exposure to cool air and light can make conditions undesirable for tinea. Treating the infected area with miconazole, tolnaftate, or other medicated creams, ointments, or sprays not only helps to kill the fungus, but helps prevent recurrences as well. White vinegar-based foot soaks can also be beneficial. Seeing a podiatrist is often a good idea when treating athlete's foot, since more often than not, other skin infections can develop from the initial infection, and recurrences are common.


Dealing with Stress Fractures of the Foot and Ankle

Stress fractures in the foot and ankle happen when muscles become weak due to too much or too little use. Stress fractures cause the muscles to stop cushioning the foot and ankles from the impact of hitting the ground. Since there is nothing to protect the bones of the foot, they absorb the full impact of each step you take. This additional stress causes little cracks, or stress fractures, to form in the bones that are being pressured.

Stress fractures are common in highly active people, especially athletes. Basketball, tennis or and gymnastics are activities where stress fractures occur more frequently. However, anyone can receive a stress fracture. Normally sedentary individuals who suddenly begin an intensive high impact work out may incur a stress fracture. This is because their muscles are not resistant enough to handle and cushion the intensity of the activity. Osteoporosis patients may also suffer stress fractures because the disease weakens the victim’s bones, making it easier for them to wear and tear.

Pain from stress fractures occurs in the site area of the fracture. It may be either constant or intermittent, causing sharp or dull pain accompanied by swelling and/or tenderness. Engagement in any kind of high impact activity will only exacerbate the pain. In fact, it can even cause a full fracture, especially when the area is not fully healed. Full fractures are much more serious, and can prevent you from using your foot at all.

Treatment varies depending on the patient and the degree of his or her injury. The most important treatment is to rest the injured foot. Some fractures may heal quicker with brief rest, while others need a longer rest period and utilizing crutches. In some cases surgery is required to install support pins around the fracture to aid healing.

To prevent stress fractures, be sure to get plenty of Calcium and Vitamin-D in your diet. This helps keep your bones strong and fortifies their resistance. If you begin a new regimen that involves high impact activity, set incremental goals on a weekly basis so you can build up the proper muscular strength. For example, if you wish to walk every day, you could ride a bike on some of those days to take stress off your feet. Also, make sure to wear supportive shoes that provide adequate protection.

If you experience any symptoms of stress fractures, you should stop exercising and rest. If these symptoms do not go relieve themselves, consult with an orthopedic specialist. Taking these measures can help prevent stress fractures to your foot and ankle, and allow you to continue the activities you enjoy.


Barefoot Running

Barefoot running is a popular and growing trend that is taking over the running and jogging community by storm. Barefoot running is exactly what it sounds like, running without shoes. However, this doesn’t just affect whether or not you need to buy new shoes, but it also affects the motion of your feet and requires an entirely different workout.

When you run with shoes on, most of the time you land on your heels, roll over the ball of your foot, and then push off with your toes. However, in barefoot running, you actually land on the front part of your feet and not your heels. The impact shifts from the heels to the front of the feet, and barefoot runners shorten their strides to create softer landings.

Barefoot running has a lot of advantages. Landing on the front of your foot with a reduced stride lessens the stress and pressure placed on the ankles and feet, which lessens the chance of injury. It also strengthens the muscles in your feet and muscles in the ankles and lower legs that are not usually worked out. Your balance is also improved and there is a greater sensory input from your feet to the rest of the body, making your motions and posture less stressful on the body. Ironically enough, studies have shown that countries with large populations of people who do not wear shoes actually have a much lower number of those suffering from foot and ankle injuries.

Despite this, many people are still skeptical about barefoot running, and for good reason. There are some drawbacks to the unique exercise, one of the most obvious being the complete lack of protection of your feet from objects while running. Bruises, scrapes, cuts, and sometimes blisters can form on runners’ feet.  Landing on the front of the feet can also cause Achilles tendonitis, or worse yet, a rip or rupture of the Achilles tendon.

But there are a lot of ways to make barefoot running safe and enjoyable. First off, make a slow transition from your normal running routine to barefoot running, do not just dive right into it one day. Once your feet begin to adjust, slowly move from jogging to running and gradually increase the distance. It is also recommended to start out on a surface that does not contain many sharp or dangerous objects, as your feet are now unprotected. Minimalist running shoes are also another great option to get you into barefoot running and provide the perfect middle ground for those looking to get into the sport.


Foot Surgery and Related Techniques

Normally, foot surgery is reserved for cases, which other treatments have failed to succeed. Surgery may be necessary for many reasons. Surgery may be necessary in the following cases, but are not limited to: removing foot deformities (such as bone spurs or bunions), arthritis problems, reconstruction due to injury, and congenital malformations (such as club foot and flat feet). Among all ages and races, foot surgery may be necessary.

Depending on what is wrong with your foot, this will dictate what type of surgery is necessary. A bunionectomy is necessary if you have a growth, such as a bunion. Surgical fusion of the foot is recommended if your bones need to be realigned, or fused together. If you are enduring nerve issues or pain, you may need surgery in which the tissues surrounding the painful nerve are removed. Normally, less invasive treatments are tried first, but surgery is considered if all else fails.

Though surgery is seen as a last resort in many cases, there are benefits of surgery to fix your problem, if you and your doctor choose that route. The first benefit is that the pain associated with your problem is normally relieved; therefore meaning you can resume your daily activities normally. The second benefit is once you have surgery the problem is generally eliminated.

Podiatry history has shown that foot techniques continue to grow every year. In the field of foot surgery, endoscopic surgery is just one of the many advancements. Foot techniques will continue to improve, as technology does. Many procedures require small incisions, and use better, more efficient tools. Because of this, surgery is no longer as invasive as it used to be, and recovery has become easier and faster. Therefore, you will be back on your feet in no time.


Choosing the Right Running Shoe for Your Foot Type

While running seems like a simple activity, it is actually a complicated movement that puts a lot of stress on the joints, bones and ligaments of the body. Consequently, choosing the right shoe is an important step in increasing performance and decreasing injury risk. You should select running shoes based on your foot type. While other considerations are important, such as trail versus road shoes, your foot type dictates the amount of cushioning, stability and motion control you need. The best way to determine your foot type is to visit a local specialty running shop. Professionals there can measure your arch type, stride and gait and summarize your shoe needs for future reference.

Running shoe design is based on the idea of pronation. Pronation is the natural rolling of your ankle from outside to inside during foot strike. In other words, proper running mechanics involve striking the ground on the outside of your heel and rolling toward your big toe before pushing off again. Pronation is a good thing: it helps your lower extremities absorb shock and store energy. Neutral runners who pronate correctly do not depend on their shoes to correct their form. Neutral runners can select from a large variety of shoes, even minimal or barefoot models. However, runners with problematic foot arches or incorrect form may pronate too much or too little and require specific qualities from their running shoes.

Overpronators run with excessive ankle rolling. Even when standing, severe overpronators exhibit ankles that angle inward. They also tend to have flat feet or bowed legs. Overpronation can cause a plethora of injuries, especially in the knees, ankles and Achilles tendons. If you overpronate, you should select a shoe with extra stability and motion-control. Motion-control shoes are firm and straight; they do not curve at the tip. The lack of flexibility along the midsole prevents the foot from rolling too far inward during your foot strike.

Underpronation, also called supination, is less common than overpronation. Unlike overpronators, underpronators have inflexible feet and high arches. When they land, their feet are unable to roll inward. While this places less rotational stress on the ankles and knees, it prevents any kind of shock absorptions. This additional force can result in fractures, ligament tears and muscle strains as the legs compensate for the impact. Underpronators require shoes with increased cushioning and flexibility. If you underpronate, stability or motion-control shoes may compound the problem by further preventing pronation.