March Articles 2015

Choosing the Right Running Shoe for Your Foot Type

Running may seem like a simple thing to do, but in reality it is a complex movement that puts stress on the ligaments, bones, and joints of the body.  Because of this, selecting the correct running shoe is important for increasing performance and avoiding risk of injury.  Running shoes should be selected based on your foot type.  Considerations such as trail versus road shoes are important, but your foot type dictates the degree of cushioning, stability and motion control you require.  The most accurate way to learn your foot type is to visit a local shop that specializes in running shoes.  Professionals there can measure your arch type, stride and gait and let you know your shoe needs for future reference.

The design of running shoes is created around the idea of pronation.  Pronation is the rolling of your ankle from outside to inside when your foot strikes the ground, which is natural.  If you run properly you strike the ground on the outside of your heel and roll in the direction of your big toe before pushing off once more.  Pronation is beneficial because it assists the lower half of your body in absorbing shock and storing energy.  Those considered neutral runners pronate correctly and do not need running shoes that help correct their form.  Neutral runners can choose from a wide variety of shoes, including barefoot or minimal types.  However, those who have arch problems or who adopt an incorrect form while running may experience too much or too little pronation and require running shoes that offer additional support.

Those who overpronate experience an over-abundance of ankle rolling.  Even while standing, those who severely overpronate display ankles that are angled inward.  It is not uncommon for them to have flat feet or bowed legs as well.  The tendency to overpronate may cause many injuries.  Areas that tend to become injured are the knees, ankles, and Achilles tendon.  If you find that you have a tendency to overpronate, you should look at shoes that provide extra stability and motion-control.  Motion-control shoes are straight and firm; shoes of this type do not curve at the tip.  The restricted flexibility along the middle of the shoe prohibits the foot from rolling too far inward as your foot strikes.

A less common problem is underpronation.  Underpronation, also called supination, is when the feet are unable to roll inward during landing.  Those who underpronate have feet that lack flexibility and high arches.  This prevents any kind of shock absorption, even though it does place less rotational stress on ankles and knees.  This added force can cause fractures, ligament tears, and muscle strains because the legs are trying to compensate for the impact.  Those who underpronate need shoes with more cushioning and flexibility.  If you have a tendency to underpronate, selecting stability or motion-control shoes may cause you more problems by continuing to prevent pronation.

Bunions

The term bunion refers to an enlargement of the base joint of the toe, the connection to the foot. This enlargement may be formed of swollen tissue or a bony growth, and is caused by the shifting of the bones in the big toe inward, toward the other toes of the foot. The area around the base of the big toe may become inflamed, red, and painful.

Genetic factors are important in the formation of bunions – people who get bunions are usually genetically predisposed to this bone displacement, and may cause its onset by wearing improperly fitting shoes, or by running or walking in a way that causes stress to the feet. Another common cause for bunions is wearing high heeled shoes. The weight of the body in these shoes pushes the toes into an unnatural position, possibly causing bone displacement.

A podiatrist who specializes in foot structure and bio-mechanics will be able to quickly diagnose bunions. Bunions must be distinguished from gout or arthritic conditions, so blood tests may be necessary. The podiatrist may order a radiological exam to provide an image of the bone structure. If the x-ray demonstrates an enlargement of the joint near the base of the toe and a shifting toward the smaller toes, this is indicative of a bunion.

Wearing wider shoes can remove the pressure on the bunion and reduce pain. High heeled shoes should be eliminated for a period of time as this type of shoe generally pushes the big toe outward toward the smaller toes. This may be enough to eliminate the pain associated with bunions; however, if pain persists, anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed. Severe pain may require an injection of steroids near the bunion. Orthotics for shoes may be prescribed which, by altering the pressure on the foot, can be helpful in reducing pain. These do not correct the problem, but by eliminating the pain, they can provide relief.

For cases that do not respond to these methods of treatment, surgery can be done to reposition the toe. A surgeon may do this by taking out a section of bone, or may rearrange the ligaments and tendons in the toe to help keep it properly aligned. It may be necessary even after surgery to wear more comfortable shoes that do not put undue pressure on the toe as the big toe can easily move back to its orientation toward the smaller toes.

What Are Ankle/Foot Orthotics?

Ankle/foot orthotics are devices that are inserted into the shoes to protect the foot from a wide range of foot problems. Orthotics are available as prefabricated over-the-counter and through a prescription for custom-made orthotics tailored to the individual. Although custom-made orthotics are generally more expensive, they may be more efficient in correcting certain foot and ankle ailments. Typically inserts can be made out of pieces of rubber, leather, plastic, or any other type of synthetic material.

Orthotic devices may be used to:

  • Support the foot or ankle
  • Align the foot or ankle
  • Correct/prevent foot deformities
  • Improve function of the lower extremity

Types of Ankle/Foot Orthotics:

  • Full contact orthotic
  • Heel insert

Orthotics have been known to reduce or even remove pain in conditions such as flat feet, Achilles tendonitis, rheumatoid arthritis, plantar fasciitis, bunions and heel pain. If you are experiencing foot pain, your doctor will decide if you are in need of foot orthotics as well as the type of orthotic will be right for your foot type.

Stretching Your Feet

Debilitating foot pain is a problem for many people. But just as stretching the torso can help alleviate back pain, stretching the feet can also mend existing problems and prevent future ones.

The feet carry the entire weight of the human body all day and can get easily strained from overexertion. Persistent sharp pain and cramping in the feet are common problems. Foot pain and problems can be due to any number of causes, and in many cases pain may be eased without medication or doctor visits; however, it is always a good idea to rule out any serious medical issues first with a physician.

Stretching may help relax the feet and alleviate pain at any time, but it is especially important before    heavy aerobic exercise to avoid painful cramps or straining muscles in the feet. Stretches should be performed slowly and deliberately without forceful pulling. The stretch should be held for several seconds, and then relaxed.

A great way to stretch out and loosen up the foot muscles while sitting is to cross one leg over the other and pull the toes carefully back without overextending. Start by resting the left ankle on the right knee. With the left hand, gently flex the left foot by pulling back on the toes. Do not pull too hard, just hard enough to feel the stretch in the arch of the foot. Then point the toes of the left foot as far as you can. Rotate the motion of pointing with pulling back on the toes. This should relax and stretch the muscles on the bottom and the top of the foot. Doing this stretch ten to twenty times should bring relief. Repeat the whole process for the other foot by resting the right ankle on the left knee.

A stretch that focuses on the often injured Achilles tendon involves standing, facing a wall, with your arms out and hands flat against the wall. Step back with one foot, keeping it flat against the floor. Move the other leg forward and lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch through the back of your leg and your Achilles tendon, but do not push yourself too much. Stop when you feel the stretching sensation and hold for 30 seconds. Ten repetitions may be done for each foot.

Stretching the feet is important for athletes or those performing aerobic exercise, but it can also help anyone with foot pain caused by poor footwear, plantar fasciitis, or long hours standing and walking. Individuals who tend to their feet by regular stretching every day should be able to minimize foot pain and prevent new problems from arising.

Every Day Foot Care
Our feet are of great importance in our everyday lives. The problem is that we tend to neglect them. When this becomes a habit, it can cause significant trouble. Ignoring foot problems can mean pain, limited mobility, and expensive doctor's visits. On the other hand, if the feet are cared for and looked after each day, they will perform without pain or complication.

Routine hygiene is the most basic way to care for the feet. Wash and dry them thoroughly everyday. Remember to get between the toes, and keep the toenails trimmed and short. If the feet feel dry or one can see visual signs of dryness or cracking, use a moisturizer designed for the feet.

When using moisturizer on the feet, try to avoid applying between the toes. If creams or lotions sit in that area, they can cause development of fungi and bacteria. When moisturizer is used between the toes, it can also cause the skin to macerate.

Shoes are also an important aspect of foot care to consider. When one is picking out shoes, make sure that they are the correct size. Shoes need to be snug, but not too tight. On the other hand, if the shoes are too loose they can cause foot problems as well. It is highly recommended that shopping for new shoes be done later in the day. The reason for this is that the feet will have settled and swelled to their full size by then. To keep your feet at their most healthy, avoid wearing high heels or flip flops too often. Instead, choose shoes that are good for your feet, and that pad the soles of your feet and support the arches and ankles.

Socks should also be worn daily with closed-toe shoes. They may feel hot during the summer months, but they absorb sweat and moisture and keep it off the feet. Without socks, the build up of sweat in a closed-toe she can cause fungi problems and athlete's foot.

The best thing to remember in every day foot care is that shoes do make a difference. If you spend much time on your feet, make sure that your shoes show no signs of wear and offer ample support for the arches and the overall foot. Additionally, try to engage in thorough foot cleaning and maintenance a part of your daily routine. If you keep these things in mind, your feet will stay healthy and safe.