12 ways to treat your feet

If your feet are miserable, it’s likely you will be too. Here are twelve common foot ailments and what to do about them.

Bunion (Hallux Valgus)
The big toe should point straight ahead. Over time, the structure of foot we inherited, the way we walk and our choice of shoes may affect the joint at the base of the big toe, forcing that toe to slant toward the others. Aggravated by the amount of weight it bears, the joint becomes swollen and painful. Bunion pads may ease the pressure; ice packs help reduce swelling. To limit damage, see your physician or foot doctor. Treatment may involve anti-inflammatory drugs or cortisone injections to reduce pain. You’ll need carefully fitted shoes to protect the big toe from further crowding. Taping or orthotics (corrective inserts for shoes) may help. If those fail, surgery may be required.

Hallux Rigidus
Arthritis in the joint at the base of the big toe causes it to stiffen, making walking uncomfortable as the toe pushes off the ground. The condition may result from sports- or work-related injuries, although tight shoes or slip-ons may bring it on. If orthotics, custom-fitted shoes, or steid injections don’t help, surgery may be necessary.

One or more of the smaller toes permanently flex at the first joint, usually as a result of a muscle imbalance or wearing too tight or high-heeled shoes. Often a corn (layers of dead skin cells laid down in response to friction or pressure) develops as shoes rub the top of the toe. Shoes need to be deep enough to accommodate the bent toes. Over-the-counter pads may help, but check with your doctor if you have pain. You may need orthotics or even surgery.

Morton’s Neuroma
A burning pain in the ball of the foot, possibly radiating into the toes could be Morton’s neuroma. It occurs when tissue around the nerve that leads to the toes is compressed by an injury or is squeezed by tight shoes. Corticosteroid injection can reduce inflammation, but, ultimately, the foot needs roomy shoes.

Ingrown Toenail
Tight shoes and badly cut toenails can cause the nail to grow into the skin, causing pressure, pain and possibly infection. Cut nails straight across and not too short.

Plantar Fasciitis
Like a bow’s string, the Plantar Fascia is a fibrous tissue stretching from the base of the toes to the heel bone under the foot’s arch. Stress from running or walking, especially for people who are obese, can injure and inflame the fascia, causing pain under the heel. Rest, treatment for inflammation and support for the arch help.

Heel Spurs
Bony growth on the heel bone is caused when the Plantar Fascia is too taut and stresses the heel bone. Corticosteroids help reduce pain, while padding and stabilizing with orthotics lowers the tension on the fascia.

Haglund’s Deformity
Stiff shoes rubbing the back of the heel can inflame the fluid-filled sac where the Achilles tendon joins the heel bone. The sac can harden and, if pain persists, may need surgery.

Corns and Calluses
The body protects the foot from external pressure by thickening the skin where it’s stressed. When poorly fitting shoes or tight socks rub toes, the result is a bump of skin called a corn. Calluses form on the sole, sometimes because a person’s gait constantly brings weight down on the wrong part of the foot.

Warts on the plantar surface (sole) of the foot can make walking painful. Caused by a virus, they resemble calluses with a crater in the center. They are best removed by a professional, who may use lasers, surgery or freezing.

Athlete’s Foot
This chronic fungal infection can contaminate bare feet in gyms, swimming pool change rooms or showers. It appears between the toes as dry, scaly skin that may itch or become infected. If an over-the-counter medication doesn’t work, see your doctor. Keep your feet clean and dry (and don’t walk around barefoot, infecting others).

Nail Fungus
This condition often invades as Athlete’s foot and progresses to a hard-to-shake fungal infection that causes thickened nails that may slough off. Nails should be kept very short. Oral medication is usually more effective than one applied directly to the nails.