The human foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints (20 of which are actively articulated), 42 muscles, and at least 50 tendons and ligaments that work together. Our feet allow us to stand upright and perform physical activities like walking, jumping, and running. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons run along the surfaces of the feet for complex movements required for balance and motion.
Many foot problems, such as bunions, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, toenail fungus, and hammer toes, can develop due to many factors. Wearing ill-fitting shoes, repetitive strain, improper hygiene, and health conditions can contribute to the development of any foot problem.
Bunions occur when the joints in the big toe cannot fit together and it becomes tender or swollen. This may develop due to trauma, congenital deformities, arthritis, or heredity. This condition can be painful when wearing shoes that do not have enough space for toes. Some people also believe that wearing narrow shoes result in the formation of bunions.
Bunions can be treated by changing your footwear and with over-the-counter pain relievers. If conservative methods do not work, surgery may be recommended.
2. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of ligament that runs across the bottom of the foot. It causes excruciating, especially during your first steps after waking up. This foot problem occurs when the plantar fascia becomes inflamed or irritated due to repetitive stretching and tearing. It is common among runners, hikers, and dancers. Certain jobs that keep you on your feet like teachers and factory workers have higher risks of developing plantar fasciitis.
This condition can be treated with rest, physical therapy, orthotics and night splints. In severe cases, injections or surgery may be recommended if conservative measures are not working.
Athlete’s foot is a skin infection caused by tinea pedis, a type of fungus that also causes jock itch, toenail fungus, and ringworm. This microorganism grows in warm, humid conditions like damp shoes and socks. It can be spread easily by contact with contaminated surfaces or direct contact with an infected individual. If not treated immediately, the infection can spread to hands, nails, and groin.
For mild cases, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter antifungal cream, powder, spray or lotion. Severe infections may require oral medication. Proper hygiene is also essential to speed up the healing process.
4. Hammertoe and Mallet Toe
Hammertoe and mallet toe develop due to an imbalance in the tendons, muscles or ligaments that normally keep the toes straight. Some factors that contribute to deformity are trauma, ill-fitting shoes, foot structure, and certain health conditions. Mallet toe and hammer toe usually develop in second, third or fourth toes.
The pressure and pain caused by hammertoe can be relieved by changing your shoes and wearing inserts or pads. Your doctor may also recommend exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles of your toes.
5. Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses are hardened layers of skin. These develop when the skin protects itself from pressure and friction. Some sources of this pressure include skipping socks and wearing ill-fitting shoes. The best way to make calluses and corns disappear is by eliminating the source of friction.
You can also use a pumice stone to remove hardened skin. Home remedies like white vinegar soak, lemon juice, and garlic can help in treating corns. Always apply moisturizer to keep your skin smooth and soft. Stick to cushioned, well-fitting shoes and wear socks.
6. Heel Spur
A heel spur is a calcium deposit that results in a bony protrusion at the bottom of the heel bone. This may cause heel pain, and it is usually associated with plantar fasciitis. Often caused by strains on muscles and ligaments, repeated tearing of the membrane covering the heel bone, and stretching of the plantar fascia, heel spurs are common among athletes.
This condition can be treated with stretching exercises, taping or strapping the foot, shoe inserts and orthotic devices, and physical therapy. In some cases, corticosteroid injection may be done to alleviate inflammation.
7. Ingrown Toenails
People who have unusually curved toenails have higher chances of developing ingrown. Other causes include injury, wearing tight shoes, and cutting toenails improperly. This results in pain, swelling, redness and, in some cases, an infection.
This foot problem can be treated with antibiotic cream, pain relievers, open-toed footwear and foot soak. Your doctor may also recommend lifting the nail, partially removing the nail or removing the nail completely.
Gout is characterized by pain, tenderness, and redness in joints. It often occurs at the base of the big toe. A complex form of arthritis, gout can occur suddenly as if your big toe is burning. This condition occurs due to the buildup of urate crystals in your joint and leads to intense pain and inflammation. Urate crystals form when your blood contains high levels of uric acid.
Medications used to treat acute gout attacks include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Colchicine and corticosteroids. Lifestyle changes can also help in treating gout, such as exercising daily and proper diet.
Wearing ill-fitting footwear results in the formation of blisters, which are soft pockets of raised skin filled with fluid. Blisters on feet cause discomfort, making it very painful to walk. To treat a blister, clean the area and open the part of the blister using a sterilized sewing needle. Drain the blister and apply antibiotic cream. Cover it with a bandage. Follow this treatment until the blister is healed.
10. Toenail Fungus
Toenail fungus is an infection that penetrates through cracks in your toenail or cuts in the surrounding skin. It causes the toenail to get thicker, become brittle, and change in color. Without any treatment, this infection could spread to other toenails and skin. This condition can be treated with medicated nail polish and over-the-counter antifungal cream, lotion, and spray.
In some situations, doctors may prescribe oral medication along with topical remedies. It is important to keep toenails short, so the ointment can reach deeper under the toenail.