Best foot forward

The health of our feet can often be overlooked, but, fortunately, some simple care or professional attention is usually all it takes to keep us on our toes.  

Words: Chris Sheedy

Foot care is a great passion for Hayley Uden, Lecturer in Podiatry at the University of South Australia’s School of Health Services, and she says people with foot problems should make a timely appointment with a podiatrist, as most issues are easily solved.

“Some foot issues can be related to a specific health complaint, such as diabetes, which slowly takes away feeling and reduces blood flow to the feet and can have terrible consequences if untreated,” says Uden. “But most foot problems, whether sports related, age related or stemming from badly fitting footwear, can be managed by a podiatrist.”

The usual suspects

Understanding and identifying common foot problems is important in order to treat them, says Uden. A bunion, for instance, is a bone protrusion usually affecting the area next to the big toe, which can cause pain, redness, swelling and inflammation at the joint. Calluses and corns are excess layers of skin that have grown to prevent a wound in areas where there’s been increased localised pressure and friction. In-grown toenails cause fairly intense pain around the side of the big toenail and can be red and swollen or infected.

Flat feet, where the arch of the foot appears to have collapsed, were once seen as a major issue. These days, however, they’re understood to be simply something that can cause complications if the person wishes to pursue a certain path, such as professional sport. Likewise, high arches can also lead to stress fractures and ankle strains in certain situations, but people with these complaints commonly live a perfectly healthy and happy life.

The point, says Uden, is that all these issues – and many others – can be managed successfully. Medicine and technology have advanced to the point where some foot problems, such as in-grown toenails and calluses, can be resolved in a single visit to the podiatrist.

Care for your feet

Prevention, of course, is the best cure. Uden says that in the community, it is the elderly who visit podiatrists the most.

“But it’s not only the elderly who benefit from our help,” says Uden. “Common and easily managed sports injuries include sprains, strains, ankle pain, pain under the ball of the foot and pain from badly fitting shoes. So many issues can be easily managed simply through advice on what type of shoes to wear.”

When it comes to shoes and socks, Uden says natural fibres that give and breathe are preferable.

“Finally,” she says, “if you must be barefoot then stay away from areas in which others are also not wearing shoes. The number of kids we see at the beginning of each year with warts, because swimming lessons have begun, is quite amazing. Shoes don’t just protect from injury, they can help protect from infection, too.”

 

 

Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.