From The Ground Up – National Foot Health Awareness Month

By: Cortney Welch BS, CSCS

When was the last time you felt the bare floor or ground beneath your feet? It might seem like an odd question, but people are often no longer exposing their feet to the world outside of their shoes. This month, I wanted to write about the importance of maintaining good foot health and functionality! I myself have had a rollercoaster of experiences with my feet, from fractures to plantar fasciitis and years of wear and tear from sports.

Images of how a foot shape changes because of shoes

Did you know,

“The foot is a complex mechanical structure of the human body composed of 33 joints, 26 bones, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments that all work together to bear weight, allow for locomotion, and transmit force.” (1)

This being said the foot is not a simple body part. It helps us accomplish everyday movements that we wouldn’t think twice about until something hurts or is too late. According to the North Florida Foot and Ankle Center, over 20% of Americans experience one foot problem each year. (2) As unlikely as it seems, your feet can dramatically impact your overall health. I hope you gain insight and take advantage of the resources I have included in this blog to assist you in maintaining good health from the ground up.

Have you ever been properly fitted for shoes? If not, you may want to consider doing so at some point. There are several resources, which I will mention later, for properly assessing your foot size and pressure displacement throughout your foot. According to one website, several foot problems arise from poorly fitted shoes. (3) Preventative foot care can help you avoid the domino effect of health issues resulting from poor foot health. If you are having foot problems, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist to be proactive. This quote stuck out to me from the Southeast Orthopedics website; “And with poor foot health, you’re less likely to engage in physical activity. The result is a higher risk of disease, such as heart disease and diabetes, reduced endurance and loss of muscle mass.” (7) I don’t quote this to scare you, but rather to inform you of just how important it is not to neglect your feet!

There are several exercises you can perform on your own to prevent foot or ankle pain while also strengthening your feet and improving flexibility. I have included a great website with videos and descriptions of exercises to perform. (8) If you are having major issues related to your feet, please get in touch with a Podiatrist or health professional. Most people who have flat feet or are prone to supinating or pronating their feet will find relief with strengthening exercises. In my Instagram post, you can find more pictures and videos of exercises to try for foot pain relief. For more preventative care, I also found a complimentary laser treatment from the North Florida Foot and Ankle Center. (9) I did not try this treatment out myself. However, the first session is free according to the link in the resources.

Another no-brainer of taking care of your feet involves what you wear every day: shoes! There is so much conflicting information out there on what shoes are good, bad, better, or worse. I say wear what feels comfortable and natural to your foot’s structure but do not rely on shoes themselves to improve your balance or foot strength. You may also be advised to wear orthotics if you have major foot issues. I would say to be careful where you go or get referrals for these orthotics. While researching, I visited two places that specifically measure and analyze your foot for custom orthotics. I, myself, used to have very bad plantar fasciitis and a foot fracture at one point. I do not consistently wear orthotics; however, I try them every now and then. Since I stand all day at work, I figured I would try some out. The first place I went to was called Foot Solutions. (4) The lady working here was very professional and informative about feet and which orthotics I should try. I ended up paying $150 for a custom pair after she determined that these would be the best for my situation. The only thing that I did not like about this process was that she insisted I wear the orthotics forever instead of actually strengthening my feet with exercises. I believe that you should only consider orthotics if you have a chronic foot problem that cannot be solved or healed on its own terms and is in need of correction with assistance.

The second location that I visited was the Good Feet store. (6) This place was very professional looking; however, when I spoke with and went through the screening process with the manager, I found I was not informed fully of why or how the inserts were custom-made and how the process worked. Not to mention the absolute absurdity of the price of these lifetime guarantee orthotic inserts being $3000! I say don’t waste your time even entertaining the idea of this expensive orthotic with so many other options out there. First Place Sports also has a five step approach for fitting you for a running shoe and they will analyze your gait on a treadmill in store for further analysis, I would only do this option if you are able to run or are seriously considering running more often. (5) More affordable options are always available on Amazon or through various websites containing shoes that have orthotics built into them. If you have more questions or want to have a discussion with me about all things feet, I would love to discuss more of my findings.

We often take our feet for granted, shoving them into shoes without considering their complex structure and vital role in our overall health. This National Foot Health Awareness Month, and every month for that matter, let’s commit to prioritizing good foot care. Simple steps like proper shoe fitting, strengthening exercises, and consulting a podiatrist when needed can prevent future pain and ensure we stay active for years to come. Remember, strong, healthy feet are built from the ground up!

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536941/#:~:text=The%20foot%20is%20a%20complex,of%20the%20foot%20bones%20meet.
  2. https://www.nffac.com/blog/april-is-national-foot-health-awareness-month-our-tips-for-healthy-feet-.cfm#:~:text=April%20is%20National%20Foot%20Health%20Awareness%20Month%20and%20research%20shows,one%20foot%20problem%20each%20year.
  3. https://www.healthinaging.org/a-z-topic/foot-problems/basic-facts
  4. https://footsolutions.com/
  5. https://1stplacesports.com/fit-process/
  6. https://www.goodfeet.com/free-fitting-test-walk
  7. https://se-ortho.com/foot-care-important/
  8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320964#for-flexibility-and-mobility
  9. https://www.nffac.com/reports/complimentary-laser-session.cfm

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