We may not think of our toes as being important -- but in fact they are very important to healthy foot functioning. Our toes, like other parts of the feet, are complex structures that absorb ground pressure and help us balance as we walk and run. Many of the problems that affect toes are caused by abnormal foot anatomy. Over time, these abnormalities may lead to permanent changes in a toe's appearance, such as a hammer toe or a bunion. For a look at four of the most common toe problems, along with photos of each see: What's Wrong with My Toes?
Warm weather and outdoor fun can be tough on your feet. Spring sports, whether you're wearing running shoes or cleats, can bring an increased risk of tendonitis and heel pain (plantar fasciitis). To read more about the symptoms of plantar fasciitis, also known as heel pain syndrome, including how it's treated, see: Heel Pain.
Cleats can be especially tough on children's feet and can sometimes cause pain at the back of the heel. To learn more: Heel Pain in Children and Adolescents.
Ankle sprains and Achilles tendon injuries are also common sports injuries this time of year. For more about the symptoms and types of foot and ankle tendonitis, including information about Achilles tendonitis, see: Tendonitis.
On a hot day, the temperture inside your shoes can be well over 100 degrees. Hot temperatures coupled with sweat provide an ideal environment for fungal and bacterial pathogens. Keeping your feet as cool and dry as possible can help prevent fungal infections like athlete's foot (tinea pedis).
- Read more about foot problems related to excess moisture in shoes, plus strategies for keeping your feet dry: Sweaty Feet and Odor.
- Keeping your feet dry can also reduce the chance of developing blisters. See more tips on keeping blisters away and what to do if one develops: Blister Treatment and Prevention.
A bunion, known medically as hallux valgus, is a very common foot problem that's often a source of recurring pain. Even when a bunion is not acutely painful, it can make wearing shoes uncomfortable when the bump on the side of the foot presses against the shoe. The bump is the result of changes to the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint, one of the five joints that flex and extend the toes. A bunion usually occurs at the first MTP, also known as the big toe joint. A bunionette, or tailor's bunion, occurs at the 5th MTP joint on the little-toe side of the foot.
The discomfort caused by a bunion can be managed with non-surgical treatments, but these methods won't correct the actual bunion. Bone and soft tissue changes, including a change in position of the metatarsal bone and resulting joint damage, can all occur with a bunion. When conservative treatment methods fail, many bunion sufferers consider surgical correction...Read more
Image (c) Getty Images
Many of us have experienced the ache of a sprained ankle or the searing pain of a stubbed or broken toe. Aside from acute injuries such as these, some of the most common painful conditions that affect the foot and ankle include...Read More
Spring time outdoor activities and sports bring an increase in lower leg, foot, and ankle injuries. If you are recovering from a sprain, tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis, your doctor may have recommended stretching of the affected area after a few days of rest. Gentle, non-weight bearing stretching or range of motion exercises help to maintain or increase healthy range of motion of a joint and can also help to ease pain.
Photo (c) Getty Images
To see an image gallery of stretches that target the lower leg, foot, and ankle: Foot and Ankle Stretches
More on Common Foot Sports Injuries:
A stress fracture is a type of bone fracture caused by a gradual weakening of the bone, resulting in a hairline crack. It is most often associated with athletic activity, especially when there has been an increase in intensity. Stress fractures can be an issue with nearly any activity--even intense walking can cause a stress fracture of a foot or leg bone under the right conditions. Another group subject to a higher-than-normal incidence of stress fractures are military recruits going through basic training.
Two studies involving miltary recruits investigated the incidence of stress fractures after basic training to see if there was a correlation between calcium and vitamin D levels and the risk of fracture. One study published in 2008 involved female recruits who were asked to take a calcium and vitamin D supplement while going through basic training. At the end of basic training, their incidence of stress fracture was compared with the female recruits who did not take a calcium and vitamin D supplement. The study concluded that the women who took the calcium and vitamin D supplement had a 20% reduction in the incidence of stress fractures compared with the recruits who did not take the supplements.
The second study was published in 2006 and involved a group of male recruits. In this study, the recruits' blood levels of vitamin D [25(OH)D] were measured prior to entering basic training. At the end of basic training, the study analyzed the recruits who suffered a stress fracture compared with those who did not to see if there was a relationship between vitamin D levels and the incidence of fracture. It was found that the average vitamin D level in the stress fracture group was significantly lower that the non-fracture group, suggesting a notable link between healthy serum vitamin D levels and reduced stress fracture risk.
Q: I recently started getting pain on the top of my foot that hurts most when I'm wearing shoes and walking or running. What could be causing this?
A: Pain on the top of the foot could be related to a few different problems. The tendons that cross over the top of the foot and can develop tendonitis. The protective fluid-filled sac that surrounds these tendons can become inflammed, causing pain and swelling. This can occur from overuse, which creates strain on a tendon, or it can occur from chronic rubbing against the tendon from a tight shoe. Tendonitis on the top of the foot is often related to a high-arched foot type or other problems with foot biomechanics (function). Learn more: Foot and Ankle Tendonitis.
Another possible cause of pain on the top of the foot is a pinched or irritated nerve. This is often experienced at or around the medial cuneiform bone, at the top of the foot's arch. This can be caused by tight shoes, especially when laces are pulled too tight. It is also seen more often in a high-arched foot. To learn more: Nerve Problems that Cause Foot Pain.
A bunion deformity is a common foot concern, especially because it can be a source of significant pain. The characteristic bump on the side of the big toe can enlarge over time as the big toe drifts toward the second toe. In most cases, a bunion develops due to faulty foot biomechanics or functioning as we stand and walk, which are hereditary.
The following are links to helpful information about bunions, including a photo gallery showing what a bunion looks like:
Even though the joints of the toes are small, they are important for healthy foot functioning, and they also endure significant weight-bearing stress. The first metatarsophalangeal joint (1st MTPJ) is the joint that connects the big toe to the first metatarsal bone of the forefoot. There are six foot-related problems that frequently occur at this joint, which can be possible causes of pain. Read more...
This year, sneaker shoppers will have an amazing array of bold-colored, high contrast shoes to choose from. The trend in artfully designed athletic shoes continues, as well as the shift toward light-weight minimalism that doesn't sacrifice durability or function. Athletic shoe companies are striving to make their shoes lighter but even better than before at withstanding the pressures of high-impact activities. Another enduring trend is the functionality of the upper part of the shoe, which has evolved towards being breathable, yet waterproof and allowing for more efficient temperature and moisture regulation. In other words, we can count on these shoes to stink less, last longer, perform better and look good doing it. Before you shop, be sure to check out Choosing the Right Athletic Shoes, for helpful hints on finding the right fit. Photo Courtesy of Pricegrabber.com