Exercising and maintaining an active lifestyle means always wearing the right shoes. Proper footwear is critical to preventing and treating common foot ailments. With such a variety of exercise shoes out there, how do we know what to choose?
Exercise shoes fall into three basic categories: walking, running, and cross-training. Walkers strike the ground with their heel and roll forward to push off their toes. Shoes designed for this movement will be flexible at the forefoot for optimal toe mobility and have moderate to minimal cushioning. The heel of the shoe is not built up so that the foot remains parallel to the ground.
Depending on their stride, runners may strike the ground with their heel or mid-foot and roll in an S pattern to push off their big toe. With each stride, a runner’s feet and ankles must withstand 2 to 4X their bodyweight. For this reason, running shoes have increased cushion in the heel and forefoot. Running shoes also tend to have large mesh panels for breathability.
READ MORE: What Happens to Feet During a Marathon
Cross training shoes are designed for lateral (side to side) movement. Quick turns and sudden direction changes can mean disaster for your ankles if not properly supported. Cross training shoes have little to no bend and should be used primarily for aerobics, weightlifting, kickboxing, and sports like basketball, racquetball, tennis and more.
Using the wrong shoe for any activity can lead to a variety of issues. Lack of cushion on hard surfaces can put you at risk for stress fractures, heel pain, and tendonitis. Lack of arch support can cause put excess strain on the plantar fascia. Wearing the wrong size shoe can squeeze toes together, forming bunions and corns, or backward, creating hammertoes.
READ MORE: Shoes for Every Activity
No matter what sort of activity you perform, the right shoes are paramount to safety and fun. When trying on exercise shoes, use these handy tips:
- Try on shoes later in the day
- Try them on with the same socks, inserts, or braces that you will wear when exercising
- Get your feet measured every time; they change through the years
- Replace shoes every 300-500 miles (1 or 2x yearly)
- Don’t skimp on price; poor quality shoes will damage feet, necessitating costly treatments
- Bring in your current shoes so the sales associate can find similar models
- Look for shoe features that match the unique needs of your foot (e.g. wide toe box, lateral ankle support)
READ MORE: Tips for the Shoe Store
Limb length discrepancy. You may think you know what it is just based on the name, but there is more to this condition than meets the eye. Would it surprise you if I said up to 95% of the population may have a difference in leg length?1 For most people, the difference is not enough to interfere with healthy motion and so it goes unnoticed. For others, there are simple podiatric solutions for getting you back on even ground.
The two major types of LLD are structural and functional. Structural LLD occurs when there is a measurable difference in the corresponding bones of each leg, either femur, fibula, or tibia, creating an uneven gait. Patients may be born with this structural abnormality or it could result from bone trauma or hip and knee replacements.
READ MORE: Joint Replacements and LLD
Functional LLD occurs when the bones are of equal length, but a muscular or functional imbalance in the feet, legs, hips, or back causes an apparent difference in length. Often this presents alongside structural LLD cases. Differences in functional length can also occur from an unnatural curvature of the spine pulling one hip higher than the other.
Humans aren’t made symmetrically, but differences of 5mm or less (about 1/4 of an inch) rarely bother people enough to seek treatment and many of them will not notice at all. Differences over 5mm can cause uneven gait, making it difficult to exercise. Foot complications such as tendonitis and plantar fasciitis may develop from the strain of improper function. All of this will result in leg, hip, and back pain.
Luckily, most cases of LLD can be solved with shoe lifts, either placed in the shoe under the heel or mounted directly to the shoe sole. Your degree of discrepancy will determine which solution is right for you. There’s no reason to live life with the pain of LLD. Talk to your podiatrist today to keep you healthy and active.
One minute you’re running down the field after the ball and in a split second your ankle twists and gives way. You fall, allowing the other team to score the winning point. Does that sound like a familiar scenario? For people dealing with ankle hypermobility, also known as weak ankles, this is a very real possibility.
What is a Sprain and Why is it Bad?
An ankle sprain occurs when the ligaments holding our ankle joint steady are stretched or torn, usually from a sudden twist such as a quick direction change or bad misstep. This can happen to anyone, but those with chronic instability will suffer repeated sprains, leaving ligaments looser each time. Cartilage and tendons are also affected by this trauma and arthritis can develop in the ankle joint. You can’t live an active lifestyle if your ankles can’t keep up.
READ MORE: Sprain or Strain?
Who Should Consider Surgery?
Minor sprains can be treated with RICE. Your podiatrist may also recommend physical therapy to strengthen muscles and tendons. Ankle braces should be worn for sports or any vigorous activity. If the ligament has torn completely apart, bracing and ankle exercises have not prevented further injury, or if you suffer two or more ankle sprains a year, you need to consider a surgical solution.
READ MORE: What is RICE?
Lateral ankle stabilization is the best approach to correct chronic ankle instability. Procedures are performed as an outpatient service (meaning you get to go home that same day) under general anesthesia. The surgeon will make an incision on the outside of the ankle over the joint. Separated or torn ligaments will be sewn together while loose but intact ligaments are shortened and tightened. The ligament is then anchored to the fibula bone using special stitches or pins. The surgeon may connect other tissues to the repaired ligament for support. The incision is then closed, and your foot is wrapped in a cast or splint.
Patients will need to remain non weight-bearing with the cast or splint in place for 2 to 6 weeks, after which they will progress to a brace or walking boot. At this time, physical therapy to strengthen the ankle will begin. Patients should wear an ankle brace during sports and activities for a minimum of 6 to 12 months, though many choose to continue using it long after for added safety.
READ MORE: Chronic Ankle Instability
You should never have to sit out of the game due to chronic ankle instability or hypermobility. Ankle sprains do major damage to your joints and preventing this is the number one step in living a healthy and active lifestyle. All of the FAAWC podiatrists are board certified for Lateral Ankle Stabilization and other corrective surgeries. Talk to your podiatrist today if you are tired of persistent ankle sprains.
Gout is a painful arthritic condition that affects nearly 4% of the world’s population, yet most people don’t recognize a gout attack when it happens. Pretty surprising for a disease that was first identified in 2640BC.
Gout, also called hyperuricemia, is brought on by high levels of uric acid which form crystals in the body. Uric acid is needed to break down purines, a chemical compound found naturally in many foods. Some bodies produce too much uric acid, and instead of being used, it builds up in the metatarsal joint of your big toe.
Symptoms include sudden and intense pain with redness and swelling. Attacks often happen at night and create tenderness so acute it’s painful to even lay the bedsheets over your toe. Lavish and decadent foods such as bacon, veal, scallops, and alcohol (particularly beer) have high levels of purines and can trigger the condition.
READ MORE ABOUT GOUT: My Big Toe Hurts
Many first-time gout sufferers delay treatment and eventually end up in an urgent care for pain relief. No need! Corticosteroid injections are available in-office and reduce swelling and pain almost immediately. Next, your podiatrist will work with you to form a plan to manage your gout.
The good news is that gout attacks are easily avoidable with dietary changes or oral medications. The bad news is that without treatment, the potential for an attack is always present because the internal process that leads to gout cannot be corrected.
If you are suffering from an attack, don’t delay your treatment. Gout can be indicative of cardiovascular issues or kidney damage. Know the signs and symptoms, so there’s no doubt in your mind about gout.
Your toes are permanent roommates and if you’ve ever had a roommate, you know that people who live in close proximity need their space. Your toes are no different! When you crowd your toes by wearing pointed-toe shoes, high heels that put pressure on the front of the toes, or any shoe with a narrow toe box, it can lead to a hammertoe. What is a hammertoe? I’m glad you asked…
A hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the middle joint of a toe. It most often occurs in the second, third, and fourth toes. When your toes are curled under for extended periods of time, they begin to hold that shape. It may become painful to stretch or manipulate the toe and secondary issues such as blisters, corns, and calluses can arise. Improperly fitting shoes are a huge factor in the development of hammertoes. They are also more likely to develop in toes that have experienced a trauma, such as a bad break, jam, or stub. There are some genetic risk factors too, so let your podiatrist know if you have a family history of hammertoes (even if you haven’t developed one yourself). Arthritis and muscle imbalances are also causes of hammertoes.
READ MORE: Hammertoes
Women are more susceptible than men and the chances of developing this condition increase as you age. If your second toe is longer than your big toe, you will need to pay particular attention to the way your shoes fit and give extra space. Your shoes may also become uncomfortable due to corns or calluses that form on the bump of the toe. Use a pumice stone to reduce calluses and put a silicone or moleskin pad on the toe to avoid further rubbing.
Time is of the essence with a hammertoe. If treatment begins as soon as the toe begins to bend (when it’s still moveable), the condition can often be halted with simple methods such as toe exercises, roomier shoes, toe splints, or orthotics. If you allow your hammertoe to go untreated until it is fixed into position, which is what about 50% of our patients do, a surgical solution may be your only option. Your podiatrist might release or reposition the tendons and ligaments holding the toe curled or use pins and bone fusions to correct the bend.
The best thing you can do for your feet is to wear the proper shoes and make an appointment with the FAAWC immediately when you notice a hammertoe developing. We’re here to help.
READ MORE: Quick Tips for the Shoe Store
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