Posts for: January, 2015
There will be two types of people this upcoming Sunday, those who watch the Super Bowl and those who play in the Super Bowl. Both groups should be majorly concerned about their feet. No matter how much I would love to believe that the Seattle Seahawks or New England Patriots read this blog, I’m not holding my breath, so let’s look at foot pain from the point of our sports spectators.
Football stadiums are designed to hold tens of thousands of people. The University of Phoenix Stadium (where the 2015 Super Bowl will be played) holds 63,400 seats, with the option for expansion of temporary seating to 72,200 seats. Maybe, it’s the small size of the seats or perhaps it’s the hard materials that make the seats uncomfortable, but the majority of people will spend the game standing rather than sitting. Standing for long periods of time, like the average 3 hours and 35 minutes of a professional football game, can cause or aggravate many foot problems.
Foot health problems that can arise from standing too long will not simply occur from standing for the length of one football game. However, millions of Americans work on their feet all day and already have foot pain or problems that can be further irritated by more standing. First and foremost, pick the right shoes! It may seem logical to wear flat shoes, but having a heel of about ¼ inch can help support the foot properly. So can the proper arch support. For people with low or flat arches, shoe inserts can “bump up” the arch and provide stability. Arch support reduces weakness and soreness in the legs and feet. Gel, foam, or plastic insoles provide extra cushioning which can make standing for long hours much more comfortable. Anti-fatigue insoles are also available and work by combining the properties of arch-support, extra padding, and moisture management.
Shoe size is a big factor in foot comfort. When picking your shoes for the big game, make sure they have room for expansion. Hours of standing can result in swollen feet. The soles of your shoes should give sold footing and not slip. Thick soles provide extra cushion while walking or standing on hard surfaces. Athletic shoes are a great choice because different pairs are designed to alleviate specific ailments such as fallen arches, high arches, wide feet, plantar fasciitis, bunions, thinning heel pads, and more. Good shoes should also be lightweight and aerated. There is no reason to put up with foot discomfort when so many good shoes options are available.
One easy way to keep your feet from hurting at the big game is to stretch them. Flex and point your feet at regular intervals. Raise, stretch, and curl your toes for five seconds. Bend your leg back at the knee and place your foot on the seat of your chair to stretch your quadriceps. Give your calves a stretch by placing the ball of your foot on the back of the chair in front of you. Keep your heel on the ground and lean into it lightly. Keep blood flowing to the feet and ankles by periodically lifting each foot and writing out the letters of the alphabet with your toe. There are hundreds of stretches you can do mindlessly while putting all your energy into cheering on your team.
Most of us are not lucky enough to watch the big game at the stadium so we do so on our televisions (which, let’s face it, is so much better because we get to see the commercials). You may think you have it better than those standing for hours on end at the game, but sitting for three or more hours can also worsen foot problems.
Sitting in one position for too long causes swelling in the feet and ankles. Movement is important. If you sit with your legs crossed, reverse or uncross them every so often. Get up and walk around during the game. I’m not suggesting that you make a visit to the kitchen or buffet table each commercial break. That certainly isn’t the best for your health, but walking around the couch several times will keep your feet healthier. If you can, grab the recliner chair or the footstool and elevate your legs. This reduces swelling.
However you decide to watch the 2015 Super Bowl, make sure that you don’t neglect your feet. Without proper foot care, the players wouldn’t be able to run down the field to make the touchdown. Same goes for you as a spectator. Reaching down to rub those aching feet might mean missing the game changing play. Wear the right shoes, stretch periodically, and elevate and ice your feet when you get home. Doing so will ensure that your feet remain healthy and happy for many Super Bowls to come.
January is, on average, the coldest month in the United States, and cold temperatures can mean bad things for your feet. Let’s be honest: We probably think about our feet the least of all our body parts, but in the winter they become the forefront of our concerns when we step outside. Let’s look at a few ways to keep our tootsies toasty warm when the temperatures drop outside.
Socks are an important part of our foot health. Choosing the right sock for the right activity is equally important.
No matter what you are doing, keep your feet dry. Sweat-wicking socks pull moisture away from your skin, keeping you dry and warm. If your feet have been sweating or your socks are wet, make sure you change them as soon as possible. Merino wool is one of the best materials for winter socks because the fibers are thermostatic (temperature regulating) and can hold up to 30% of their weight in water.
Synthetic fibers are also a good option. In some ways, synthetic materials are superior to wool since they can be carefully crafted to meet specific needs with fibers such as Coolmax, Wickspun and Isolfil.
Make sure you always try on your socks with the shoes you intend to wear to ensure comfort.
Although most people living in Ohio have the proper clothing for warm weather, sometimes we find ourselves lacking when we are most in need. Believe it or not, paper is a wonderful insulator in a pinch. Tour de France athletes will grab newspapers from fans and tuck them down their shirts as they reach the summit of the alps to help protect them on the windy descent down the other side. You can do the same by grabbing a smooth piece of newspaper, a couple of napkins, or a paper towel and folding them over and under your toes and sliding your feet into your shoes. (Make sure that whatever you add doesn’t cause more discomfort.) This trick works wonderfully on those dry, cold days, but be careful if it’s wet outside. Water seeping into your shoes can make the paper wet and a wet piece of paper around your toes will make you colder and put your feet at risk for other ailments (such as frostbite!).
Another popular insulator are chemical foot warmers. These are individual, thin warmers that provide up to six hours of heat. Placed above or below your toes, they can add a great amount of heat and protection to cold feet. Just make sure that you don’t place the warmers against bare skin. This is particularly important for children, the elderly and diabetics who may have decreased sensitivity in their feet.
WARMING BACK UP
No matter how hard we try to keep our feet warm, inevitably they will get cold at one point or another in our lives. Make sure you re-warm your feet properly. Gradual heating is the key. Don’t immediately run to put your cold feet on the nearest radiator or close to the fire. Our extremities get cold because the capillaries close to the surface of the skin constrict and divert blood flow to the important organs in our core. This means decreased sensitivity.
Start with some movement. Swing your legs back and forth and wiggle your toes to get the blood flowing. If your feet have gone numb, you may experience some pain or discomfort as they return to normal temperature. Get somewhere warm and check your toes. Try rubbing them between your hands. If some feeling doesn’t return after this, it could be indicative of a more serious problem.
Frostbite is a serious issue and can result in permanent damage if not treated quickly and properly. There are two types of frostbite: superficial and deep. Superficial frostbite occurs when the outer skin is frozen (not just cold, but actually frozen). Deep frostbite reaches all of the way down to the underlying tissue. Both can result in permanent nerve damage or worse.
If you suspect that you may have frostbite, seek immediate medical treatment. Do not try to thaw the affected area if there is any chance that it may refreeze. If you can, avoid walking on frostbitten feet or toes. Again, gradual is the key. Don’t stick your feet in a pot of boiling water. Start with warm water and soak the area until skin appears red and warm. Never use dry heat (fire, radiator, heating pads, etc.). Slow and steady heating ensures even thawing.
You may take pain medication if you need it, as the re-warming process is often painful. Once you have thawed the area, wrap it lightly in clean bandages. Separate toes with cotton balls or other soft spacers and wrap each one individually. Don’t forget that frostbite in any form can be very serious and you should have the area checked by a doctor as soon as possible.
Winter is cold, which means we need to look out for our foot health even more than usual. Protect your feet properly with insulating socks, toe warmers, and proper footwear. Learn to recognize when your feet feel cold and how serious it is. When in doubt, maybe just stay inside by the fire and curl up with a nice cup of hot chocolate. Besides, the best way to keep your feet warm is to avoid the cold altogether.
Winter can be a treacherous time. Some hospitals report an almost 500% increase in emergency room visits during the winter. Many of these visits are the result of a slip and fall, which can culminate in major foot and ankle injuries. Oddly enough, scientists still can’t figure out exactly what makes ice slippery. One theory is that the top-most layer of water is caught between a solid and liquid form. The molecules move chaotically over the frozen layer, creating a volatile surface with a serious lack of traction between your foot and the ground. No matter what the truth is, we all know that feeling of our first unsteady step outside when it’s icy.
There are several ways to gain back your confidence while walking on snow or ice. When we walk on a stable surface, our body weight is split mid-stride, meaning each leg supports your entire weight at an angle to the ground. When we have good traction, this is not a problem, but in less than ideal conditions, this can cause a nasty fall. To avoid this, we can take a lesson from one of the cutest animals on the planet: penguins. Just maybe not THIS penguin. When a penguin walks, he supports his weight perpendicularly over each foot. By keeping our center of gravity always over the front leg, we can reduce the chances of slipping. Don’t carry heavy loads and keep your hands out of your pockets. Like the penguin, keep your arms out slightly and use them for balance.
When walking in snow, follow the leader! Compacted snow has better traction than fresh snow. Walking in someone else’s footsteps can help you keep your balance. If you want to be the brave leader who breaks the fresh fallen snow, walk heel to toe. Pressing your heel down first creates a hole that prevents your foot slipping forward and out from under you.
Proper footwear is also a chief factor in helping keep us safe in the winter. Pick boots with a deep rubber tread. Traditional athletic shoes are great for dry pavement and court floors, but don’t provide the support needed for walking on snow, ice or slush. To make your existing shoes snow-ready, consider buying some type of crampon. Several companies make simple strap on traction cleats without those crazy spiky looking things that you thought were only for mountain climbers.
If you do take a fall, do so safely. I know what you’re thinking; “how can falling be safe?” If you can, avoid falling onto your knees, hands, or spine. In the event of a backward fall, try tucking your knees and “rolling” onto the ground while pushing your chin toward your chest. For a forward or sideways fall, fight your natural instinct to push out your hands to break your fall. Instead, keep your arm parallel to your body. Falling on the fleshy parts of the body and relaxing as you fall can help reduce injury. If you are particularly accident prone, don’t be shy about wearing kneepads, wrist guards, or even a helmet. Thick clothing and coats can also help cushion you in the event of a fall.
If something unexpected happens, the FAAWC is here to help. Did you know that FAAWC offers Immediate Access hours? If you find yourself the victim of a sudden slip and fall resulting in a foot or ankle injury, don’t sweat it. Urgent and/or emergency care is offered from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. Patients will have “immediate access” to our doctors during this time for diagnosis and treatment of your injuries. On Friday, FAAWC is also open for walk-in appointments from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Injuries can happen at any time, but we certainly have an increased risk whenever there happens to be snow or ice on the ground. Don’t wait to get treatment for your winter injuries. Come see us and we can help get you back on your feet.
Welcome to the FAAWC blog. Throughout the coming year, we will aspire to provide you with educational, social, and humorous posts that will help you better understand your own feet and the information surrounding your health. Many of you have chosen a healthier lifestyle as your focus for 2015. We fully encourage and support that, but with new fitness goals come the risk of foot and ankle injuries. As we venture into this new year, we can arm ourselves with knowledge and help prevent both minor and major injuries.
WHAT IS A STRESS FRACTURE?
Stress fractures are some of the most common injuries associated with new or changes in activities. A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the surface of the bone. They can happen with sudden increases in exercise (such as running or walking for longer distances or times), improper training techniques, or a change in surfaces. When our muscles are unable to absorb the shock of these activities, the energy is transferred onto the bone, which can result in a stress fracture.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE A STRESS FRACTURE?
The most common sign of a stress fracture is pain. This pain will be present during activities that were previously easy and pain-free. Additional symptoms are swelling and sometimes bruising. Although most stress fractures are not a serious injury, it is important to seek medical attention for any suspected fracture. Without the proper care, a stress fracture may develop into a full bone fracture, which can require casting and immobilization. Podiatric physicians can quickly and easily determine if a fracture is present and prescribe proper treatment. Many times, a simple x-ray can determine the presence of a stress fracture.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR A STRESS FRACTURE?
Treatment for a stress fracture is simple: discontinue the activity that caused the fracture. This doesn’t mean that you have to become a couch potato, but changing to a different, less stressful, and low impact activity is important. Try switching from running to swimming, from tennis to tai chi, or from basketball to yoga. There are dozens of activities that can help you reach those fitness goals while your stress fracture heals. Here are a few examples:
- Strength Training
- Rowing machines
- Rock Climbing
- Water Aerobics
- Ballroom Dancing
HOW DO I PREVENT STRESS FRACTURES FROM HAPPENING?
And of course the best way to treat a stress fracture is to avoid getting one in the first place! If you are starting a new activity, don’t try to go all out all at once. Set small goals and slowly step up your workout as your health improves. Cross training is also important to any workout plan. Repetitive motion is the enemy, so alternate between cardiovascular exercise and weight training. A good variety of activities not only reduces the chances of a stress fracture, but also helps you create a well-rounded exercise plan that works your entire body.
Make sure you pay attention to the little details too. Those five year old running shoes that you just pulled out of the back of your closet may need to be replaced. Worn out or improper equipment can be very detrimental to your feet. Healthy diet is also a factor in preventing stress fractures. Diets that incorporate calcium and vitamin-D help maintain bone density and strength, which reduces the risk of fracture. This is especially important in women, who are more likely to have significant bone loss as they age.
Only about 8% of people who make a New Year’s resolution keep with it long enough to achieve it. Don’t let the pain of a foot or ankle injury derail you from your goal. If you aren’t sure what your feet are capable of, start out slow. Our podiatrists can help you determine the best activities for your foot health and offer preventative measures to protect you in your new or continuing endeavors. If you suspect that you have a stress fracture, call and make an appointment. Remember, healthy feet and ankles are the foundation of an active lifestyle.