Most people are born with healthy feet. But three out of four people develop serious foot problems as they age — putting their well-being and independence at risk. Healthy feet contribute to your health and safety in a number of ways:
- Feet that are healthy and pain-free help you keep your balance. Good balance can prevent falls, a major cause of injury and hospitalization.
- Healthy feet allow you to stay active. When your feet are too sore to walk, you lose strength and become at greater risk for falls. Walking is the perfect exercise to maintain a healthy weight, prevent blood clots and keep your bones and muscles strong.
- Keeping an eye on your feet can event give you an early warning sign about serious health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, nerve damage and poor blood circulation.
Plantar fasciitis and metatarsalgia are two common causes of foot pain. Read on to learn about symptoms and treatment options to keep your feet healthy and pain-free.
Plantar Fasciitis — Heel Pain
The number one cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis. It is often characterized by pain on the bottom of the foot when you take your first steps in the morning, but it can also last all day — with pain often progressing the longer the condition remains untreated.
Plantar fasciitis can be caused by a number of factors, including weight gain, worn-out shoes, walking barefoot, increasing exercise, and walking on hard surfaces without proper support. Ultimately, plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury that can affect anyone.
In many cases, plantar fasciitis can be treated with home care. Changing your physical activities, resting the foot and applying ice to the area are common remedies. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and/or inflammation in the plantar fascia.
If your pain does not respond to home care, you may need to visit a podiatrist. Once your podiatrist examines your feet and determines the cause of your pain, you may be treated immediately with options such as custom orthotics, steroid injections, prescription medications, physical therapy and immobilization. In unusual cases, surgery may be required to relieve your heel pain.
Metatarsalgia — Pain in the Forefoot
Foot pain in the ball of your foot is generally called metatarsalgia. This is a very common problem among seniors and affects millions of Americans, making each step extremely painful.
Metatarsalgia can occur for a variety of reasons, but is usually due to increased pressure on the ball of the foot or fat pad atrophy. It can also be caused by arthritis, foot injury (sports, car accidents, repeated stress), walking on hard surfaces, and inappropriate footwear.
There are several measures you can take to help avoid or alleviate metatarsalgia. Wear shoes with heel heights of no more than three quarters to one-inch high. Wear shoes with thick, cushioned soles and avoid walking barefoot. A podiatrist can make custom orthotics to correct the problem or over-the-counter metatarsal pads may help rebalance the foot and help to eliminate pain.
Good foot health is important for everyone, but especially for seniors. Taking good care of your feet at home and visiting a podiatrist annually can help prevent problems, alleviate pain and keep you on your feet for life.