The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is one of the most complex parts of the human body and is often one of the most neglected.
Our feet are an essential part of everything we do. Whether it is walking, exercising, playing sports or just standing, when your feet hurt it can affect your life in many ways.
One problem many older adults have with their feet is poor circulation, but that’s a problem that can affect anyone at any age. When you don’t have good blood flow in your feet, you might experience tingling, numbness, cramping and discoloration of your skin and toenails. Several factors can restrict blood flow in your feet, including being outdoors in the cold or having your feet in cold water, shoes or stockings that are too tight, sitting too long with your legs crossed, smoking, and drinking too many caffeinated beverages.
People who suffer from diabetes need to be particularly sensitive to the circulation in their feet. Reduced circulation can lead to a loss of feeling in the feet, a condition known as neuropathy. This can prevent diabetics from feeling small aches and pains that let us know we have been cut or bruised. Left untreated, these small problems can develop into serious conditions.
As the days get longer and warmer, many of us will be out walking, jogging, running or playing sports. For parents, this also means baseball, softball and soccer season. As we get more active outdoors, the chances of injuring a foot or ankle rise considerably.
Here are a few tips to help prevent those common sports injuries:
• Warm up before any sports activity. Light stretching or a slow jog for two to three minutes will warm up those muscles.
• Condition your muscles for the sport. Increase your amount of activity gradually to build muscle strength and mobility.
• Choose athletic shoes for your foot type. Choose shoes for the type of foot you have and use sport-specific shoes.
• Replace shoes when tread wears out or the heels wear down. People should replace shoes every six months.
• Avoid running or stepping on uneven surfaces. Be careful on rocky terrain, hills and loose gravel. Dirt roads are softer than asphalt, which is softer than concrete.
• Be careful running too many hills. It is an effective workout, but build up gradually to avoid injuries.
• Prevent recurring injuries. If you have previous injuries, using a brace or tape to prevent it from reoccurring.
• Listen to your body. If you experience any foot or ankle pain, stop what you’re doing or modify the activity until the pain subsides.
Remember most strains and sprains can be treated with rest, ice, compression and elevation. More serious cases might require a brace or cast. Seek medical attention as soon as you can for any foot or ankle injury, especially if it hurts to walk on it or you’re experiencing swelling. Prompt and appropriate treatment ensures the best possible recovery.About the writer: Philip Yearian, DPM is a board-certified podiatric surgeon at Franciscan Orthopedic Associates in Gig Harbor. Need a doctor? Call the Franciscan Physician Referral at 888-825-3227.