Finishing on my prior posts, I am discussing prevention of foot problems that we commonly see an increase of during the summer months.
The final topic I want to discuss is foot pain, specifically heel and arch pain as well as tendon damage.
Heel and arch pain, often caused by inflammation to a ligament called the plantar fascia, can develop throughout the summer. The use of less supportive shoes, like sandals, slides, and flip flops, as well as barefoot walking around the pool can directly lead to gradual strain on the plantar fascia. As this strain builds over the summer, the plantar fascia can become inflamed and thickened. Eventually, pain in the heel and arch will develop. This pain can come and go, but will eventually remain constant each day.
Prevention of this painful condition is not difficult if one keeps in mind the structure of their feet and their choice of shoes for the summer. Simply put, flip flops and flat sandals are bad for the feet, and should be used only for short periods of time. A better choice is a more supportive sandal, such as Orthaheel, Birkenstocks, Naot, or Fit Flop. For longer periods of activity, such as during a walking tour or shopping trip, more appropriate shoes, such as walking or athletic shoes, should be worn. With these shoes, the arch has a better chance of staying supported, and there is less likelihood the plantar fascia will become strained.
The foot also has a number of important tendons that function in a specific way and in balance with each other to keep the foot stable during standing and walking. There are times in which these tendons can become damaged due to poor support or an unstable walking surface.
The human foot has the capability to adapt to instability over time, but in our concrete surface world full of dangerous things to step on, we rely on shoes for most of our lives. The adaptability of these tendons is reduced, and anytime we convert to less supportive shoes we run the risk of harming the tendons. This is especially true in the summer, when we increase our activity and at the same time wear less supportive sandals or walk barefoot. When this is combined with one’s naturally occurring flat feet, high arches, or activity on unstable and uneven surfaces, the potential for tendon strain is much higher.
The primary tendons that can be injured include the Achilles tendon on the back of the heel, the posterior tibial tendon on the inner side of the foot, and the peroneal tendons on the outer side of the foot. Simple tendon stretching and straining can turn into inflammation, tendonitis, and tendon weakening. These problems can become chronic, and last well beyond the summer.
Prevention of tendon damage is fairly easy, similar to reducing heel pain potential. The use of proper footwear during increased activity or activity on unstable or uneven surfaces is very important. Wearing a flip-flop sandal during a long walk or trip to an amusement park, for example, is not a good idea. The same can be said about wearing an improper shoe during a short hike on a hilly or rocky surface. The right shoe for the activity can make a difference, and can protect important tendons that attach in the foot from harm. If pain in the foot does develop, a timely assessment by one’s podiatrist can start the treatment and recovery process early, and stop the involved tendon from becoming chronically damaged.
This concludes my discussion of common foot problems seen in the summer, almost as the summer here in central Indiana concludes for most schoolchildren. I plan on discussing back-to-school foot and shoe considerations in a future post, so stay tuned!