Solutions to Four Common Foot Problems

One surprise of aging: Your tootsies can feel the worse for wear. Here's how to deal with bunions, heel inflammation, hardening skin and nail fungus

More—September 21, 2012

For a variety of reasons, women are more prone to foot issues than men are. There’s the pregnancy factor, as well as the greater innate laxity of women’s tendons and ligaments. But men are also much more likely to opt for, well, sensible shoes.

You can forestall trouble by choosing shoes that are easy on your feet for everyday use and saving the stilettos for special events. Another tack is to switch your workouts from activities that involve heavy pounding (such as running or jumping rope) to those that have little impact on your feet (such as swimming). Here, four of the conditions that women suffer from most and the new fixes that can help.

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Condition 2: Plantar Fasciitis
What it is: An inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of the foot (plantar fascia) that connects the heel to the toes.

Symptoms: Pain in the heel, especially when you first get up in the morning.

Causes: Plantar fasciitis (PF) is among the most common foot problems, one in which genetics doesn’t seem to play a role. You can exacerbate plantar fasciitis if you wear shoes that don’t offer ade-quate support or overdo a new work-outroutine without a proper buildup.

What you can do at home: “Most cases of plantar fasciitis will improve if you wear proper shoes and do certain stretches, but recovery is a slow process and can take from three months to a year,” says orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Deland, MD, chief of foot and ankle service at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Deland recommends doing the following two stretches for five minutes in the morning and at night: “Put your affected foot on your opposite knee and gently pull the toes toward the shin and also let the ankle bend. Hold for 15 seconds, relax and then repeat.” Then do a classic runner’s stretch: Press your hands against a wall, standing two to three feet away so you’re leaning into the wall. Let your elbows bend so that your body goes forward. Adjust your distance from the wall to maximize the stretch in the back of your calves. You can also buy boots that stretch your plantar fascia while you sleep. 

Condition 3: Neuroma
What it is: An inflammation and thickening of nerve tissue in the ball of the foot, usually between the third and fourth toes.

Symptoms: The feeling that there is a pebble in your shoe; pain that is lessened when a shoe is removed.

Causes: If your feet tend to roll inward when you walk, that motion over time can irritate the nerve tissue between the third and fourth toes, producing a neuroma. Another possible contributor: wearing tight shoes that put pressure on nerves in the ball of your foot.

What a surgeon can do: The last resort for neuromas is surgery that removes the irritated nerve tissue, which entails up to three weeks of recovery. There is a risk of scarring, which can be painful, and full recovery can take up to three months. “I recommend trying more conservative treatments for six months first,” Deland says.

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