This Saturday we celebrate Veteran’s Day, a day to show appreciation for all the men and women in our armed forces who risk their lives for our freedom and safety. Unfortunately, veterans are also sacrificing their foot health for us. One study found that “flatfoot deformity and arthritis were significantly more prevalent in veterans versus nonveterans” (https://goo.gl/WX88Uo). In addition, male veterans have significantly more bunion deformities than male nonveterans and female veterans were more likely to suffer sprains. The goal of the study was to form guidelines for soldiers to help prevent these common veteran foot problems. Whether you’re a soldier or not, let’s take a look at how to prevent these common podiatric problems.
It’s possible for your feet to go flat of your own doing. This is called Acquired Adult Flatfoot Deformity (AAFD). There is no single cause for this deformity; it occurs from the daily wear and tear of walking and running, which soldiers certainly do a lot of. As we walk, the posterior tibial tendon (the one that connects the calf muscle to the bones on the inside of the foot) rolls our foot inward and keeps our arches raised. If we overuse this tendon, our feet can go flat. Proper arch support through insoles, orthotics, and choosing good footwear is the best prevention method for this deformity.
There are over 100 different forms of arthritis, but soldiers are particularly susceptible to two of these: osteoarthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs from the slow disintegration of the protective layer between our bones. It can take a lot to make this happen, but veterans have been through a lot. Post-traumatic arthritis generally occurs as a result of other foot injuries such as dislocations and fractures, which soldiers suffer plenty of. The best way to avoid giving yourself arthritis is to keep your weight down, wear supportive shoes, and exercise your feet. If you’re just standing around, get into a light lunge and stretch that Achilles tendon. Try picking up things with your toes to keep your joints mobile and healthy.
If you want to get technical, a deformity of the bone at the base of your big toe is called hallux valgus, but know them better as bunions. Bunions are tricky suckers because doctors still don’t know the exact cause. Some bunions can form from trauma, others are blamed on genetics, while still others can form from abnormal biomechanics. Shoes don’t directly cause bunions, but podiatrists still agree that a good prevention method is to wear shoes with a wide toe box that avoid squeezing the big toe out of alignment. The only other prevention method is to make sure you see your podiatrist regularly and especially if you experience any pain or visible deformity of your joint.
Female service members were found to be more likely than non-military females to suffer from chronic ankle sprains. Luckily, there are a lot of prevention methods for avoiding these injuries. Keeping your foot, ankle, and calf muscles strong can allow for better control over our gait and thus help us maintain a proper stride. If you know you are going to be active and you are susceptible to ankle sprains, you may consider wearing a supportive ankle brace or learning some new taping techniques on your next podiatrist visit. As with all health issues, it helps to maintain a healthy weight and get all your vitamins and minerals to strengthen bones and keep you going without injury.
Don’t forget to thank a veteran this Saturday. His or her feet have done a lot for you.