How Can I Avoid Developing Foot Problems?
Summit Orthopedics foot and ankle surgeon Samuel Russ, M.D., shares some key ways to avoid developing painful foot problems.
Our feet work hard for us every day. With every step, our feet are absorbing three times our body weight — five times our body weight if we’re running. Over time, painful foot problems can develop, making it more difficult for people to get around. Reduced mobility from foot pain can, in turn, contribute to other poor health outcomes. A better idea? Stopping foot pain before it starts. Summit Orthopedics foot and ankle surgeon Samuel Russ, M.D., discusses a few things each of us can do right away to avoid developing foot problems later.
Avoid foot problems with calf stretches
Dr. Russ’s first piece of advice may surprise you — because at first glance, it doesn’t seem to involve the foot. “One of the most common issues we see that contributes to foot problems down the road is a tight calf muscle,” Dr. Russ said.
The body’s two muscles in the back of the calf are called the gastrocnemius. Modern life doesn’t give these muscles the regular stretching they need. “Many people sit much of the day, and even when we sleep, our knees are bent and our ankles are resting in a downward position,” Dr. Russ said.
When the gastrocnemius gets tight, it affects the way we walk or run. “When we’re walking, we’re supposed to raise the foot up and strike with the heel, absorbing the body weight,” Dr. Russ explained. When the gastrocnemius is tight, the heel strike is incorrect and doesn’t get absorbed. This means that the force that should be absorbed instead transfers to the rest of your foot at up to twice your body weight.”
The increased forces commonly lead to a painful heel condition called plantar fasciitis, and it can also lead to arthritis in the foot. If the foot is not properly aligned under the leg, it can result in pain in the ball of the foot as well — all because our calf muscles are tight without our even knowing it.
“If everyone stretched their gastrocnemius and Achilles tendons regularly, foot and ankle surgeons would be a lot less busy,” Dr. Russ said.
To get started stretching your calf muscles and Achilles tendons, Dr. Russ recommends the runner’s stretch.
Other ways to avoid foot problems
Dr. Russ also encourages people to adopt other common-sense foot care practices. For example, wearing supportive shoes with a wide toe box can help you avoid bunions, hammertoes, and other foot deformities.
Keeping feet warm and dry is key, as is checking your feet regularly for signs of injury. This is especially important for people with diabetes, vascular disease, or other chronic conditions that can affect the extremities. Dr. Russ recommends smoothing calluses and keeping toenails trimmed in a box shape, to avoid ingrown toenails.
If you take care of your feet, they’ll take care of you — for a lifetime. For more recommendations, talk with your Summit specialist.
Summit Orthopedics offers personalized foot and ankle expertise
Our fellowship-trained foot and ankle physicians understand that your mobility depends on the health of your feet and ankles. If you have suffered an injury or are experiencing symptoms that make walking painful, our team of foot and ankle specialists can help with conservative treatment, seasoned surgical teams, and expert rehabilitation support. Summit Orthopedics specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely get you back on your feet and on your way.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
More resources for you:
- Check out part 1 and part 2 of our “Why Do My Feet Hurt?” series.
- Learn how our footprints can indicate foot health.
- Watch this video on the difference between foot sprains and fractures.
- Take a look at this common foot and ankle sports injuries video.
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