Mobile foot health care in your own home. Drew Ewing BSc (Hons)

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Wear it well – Don’t abuse your work shoes until they wear out!

If you’re working on your feet all day it’s always worth investing in a quality pair of shoes that are comfortable and will give your feet the support they need. However, many of us will wear our trusted work shoes well beyond their sell-by-date until they are literally falling apart.

Whether this is a bid to save money or avoiding the hassle of having to find a new pair of work shoes that are up to the task, this delay in replacing well-worn work shoes could actually be doing your feet and health more harm than good.

The signs of aging

Some of the signs of replacement in shoes are more obvious than others. And while the last thing you want to do when you’ve finished a long week at work is examine your shoes for wear and tear, it’s a good habit to get into. Spotting the signs of wear and tear early will mean you get replacement shoes when you need them, rather than your shoe falling apart mid work day that’s not only inconvenient, but could potentially be a health and safety hazard.

Check the soles

Just as you would check the treads on your car tyres, you should keep an eye on the wear of the treads on the soles of your shoes. If the tread depths are starting to look thin and less defined on the heel or the ball of the foot this could be a sign the shoes aren’t doing their job properly. These areas take the most impact, especially if you’re on your feet a lot, so making sure the treads are in good nick will help absorb the impact, putting less stress on your feet and joints. Furthermore excessive wear on treads on the heel or ball of the foot can affect how you walk and your overall posture.

The inside job

Of course, it’s not just the outside of the work shoes that serve a purpose, the insides have a job too. Most work shoes are designed for long wear, comfort and durability, so they will have some form of internal structure that helps cushion and support the foot during wear. Naturally over time and heavy wear, this protective element can wear away, even if they look the same on the outside, leaving your foot less protected in the process. Without the appropriate support for the arch, ball and heel of the foot this can lead to the shoe no longer supporting and fitting properly, which can cause foot pain, leg fatigue and back ache.

Breathability

Another aspect to factor in when you’re wearing your work shoes to death is how well they let your feet breathe. After lots of wear, your feet will inevitably sweat, but older shoes are likely to make feet sweat even more as the inner materials become clogged with dirt and grime. This can not only create a smelly problem, but also lead to fungal infections. 

While there’s no rule on how often you should replace your work shoes, it’s worth giving them regular checks for damage and wear and tear to ensure they keep your feet (and you) healthy.

Foot Cancer – Know the facts

Foot cancer is not something we tend to hear a lot about, as it is a rare form of cancer. However, it is something that you need to be aware of, as it is extremely serious. In fact, one study concluded that the overall five-year survival rate for patients with melanoma of the ankle and foot was 52 per cent, which is 32 per cent lower than the survival rate for patients that have this form of cancer somewhere else on the lower part of their body. Most cancers of the ankle and foot are often diagnosed too late or missed altogether, as feet are one of the parts of the body that is least cared for. Moreover, it can be very tough to identify cancer that arises within the sole surface or under the nail.

Causes of foot cancer

The causes of foot cancer vary; however, a lot of people experience this type of cancer because they have had too much exposure to the sun. This is why it is imperative to make sure you apply sunscreen whenever your ankles and feet are exposed outdoors. Other causes and risk factors include a personal or family history of melanoma, light hair, freckles, fair skin, and moles.

Things to look out for

As mentioned earlier, a lot of foot cancer goes unnoticed, which is why it is important to be aware of the key signs to look out for. You need to see a podiatrist immediately if you notice any of the signs or symptoms mentioned below:

  • A change in the surface of a mole, including bleeding, oozing, or the occurrence of a nodule or bump.
  • Pain, tenderness, or itchiness
  • Scaly areas of the foot
  • Bumps that bleed or crack
  • Swelling or redness beyond a lesion’s border
  • A sore that will not heel
  • A new or unusual mole that has one of the following characteristics:

o   The lesion changes in colour, shape, or size

o   The diameter is more than six mm

o   The lesion is more than one colour

o   The border of the lesion is indistinct, ragged, or irregular

o   One side of the lesion is different from the other side

Diagnosis and treatment

If you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, it is important to book an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. They will conduct a skin biopsy and a clinical examination in most cases in order to determine whether you have cancer of the foot. A skin biopsy is really straightforward; a small sample of skin will be taken from the lesion in your foot. It will then be sent to a skin pathologist, who will take a look at the tissue in further depth in order to determine what is wrong. If you do have cancer, you will be advised on the best treatment. Although treatment does differ from person to person, surgery tends to be the solution in most cases, as this should ensure that the disease is controlled while also guaranteeing long-term health.

 

Focus on Tinea Pedis – Athlete’s foot

If you have ever had the misfortune to suffer with Tinea Pedis, otherwise known as Athlete’s Foot, you will have cause to remember the sheer discomfort from the intense and painful itching and if you’re of a certain age you’ll remember that the treatment long ago was based on foul smelling ammonia, which caused as much distress as the condition itself!

What is it and how do we get it?

Athlete’s Foot is caused by the same virus that gives you fungal nail infections. It usually appears between the toes for maximum discomfort although it can also appear on the soles of the feet. You will notice that the skin appears red, dry and scaly or white and soggy and may sometimes blister. Whichever appearance Athlete’s Foot bestows on your poor feet it will always be sore and itchy. When you have Athlete’s Foot you must be especially careful with hygiene and handling because it can easily spread to surrounding skin, toenails or even to other parts of the body. In extreme cases the affected areas could become further infected and cellulitis could develop. Take extra care when dressing and bathing to avoid it spreading.

As with so many fungal problems Athlete’s Foot is caught through poor hygiene and foot care. The likelihood of getting it increases if you if you always wear the type of shoes which make your feet very sweaty, don’t keep your feet clean and dry and if you fail to change your socks every day. Athlete’s Foot is contagious so walking around barefoot in communal areas can exacerbate the chances of getting it, as can sharing towels and footwear with an infected person. Certain health conditions like Diabetes can also increase the risk.

Treatments for Athlete’s Foot

The treatments for the condition are based around creams, powders or solutions that are applied directly to the affected area and most generic ones are available off-prescription. They work by stopping the development of the fungus in its tracks and should also provide a measure of itch relief. Your podiatrist can recommend a suitable treatment for you and can offer advice on the best way to use it. Along with good hygiene most over the counter treatments work well in clearing up Athlete’s Foot although it may take several weeks and you may be advised to continue using the treatment for some time after it appears to have gone.

There are several traditional home remedies advocated for Athlete’s Foot including apple cider vinegar, calendula cream, bicarbonate of soda, salt and even tea. However, although some of these may appear to relieve the symptoms and may even improve the softness of the skin, they cannot cure the infection or eradicate the fungus causing it. Once you stop using them the condition will simply reappear. For this reason we would strongly recommend that you use a pharmacy-led treatment for best results.

Reduce the risk

Lessen the risk of getting Athlete’s Foot by following good hygiene rules, make sure feet are thoroughly dry before dressing and change footwear regularly. In addition, avoid sharing towels and clothing with someone who has the fungal infection.

Foot Sprains and Strains

Given the amount of time we spend on our feet and the work they have to do to support our body weight it’s no wonder problems can occur. Here is my guide to the most common of these.

Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is the large tendon at the back of the leg that connects the calf muscle to the heel. It gives you the power to push off the ground when walking and running and injury occurs through overuse or through making sudden sharp movements like jumping. This is why those affected by Achilles Tendonitis are quite often runners and other athletes. When the tendon becomes injured it causes pain, inflammation and sometimes degeneration of the tendon. Symptoms can range from fairly mild pain and stiffness at the back of the ankle (chronic) to severe pain which prevents you from walking properly (acute). A proper diagnosis may involve an MRI or Ultrasound scan before treatment is started.

If an acute Achilles tendon injury occurs the first thing to do is apply an ice pack and rest; repeat the ice application for 10 minutes every hour for two to three days. Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain. In the case of a more severe injury your GP or physiotherapist will decide on treatment which could include a series of strengthening exercises.

Metatarsalgia

This is the name given to pain that affects the ball of the foot. If you’re overweight or have arthritis, or perform high-impact sports whilst wearing unsupportive footwear, you may be at risk of developing Metatarsalgia. This is something that builds up over a period of time and symptoms may include a burning sensation, shooting pain, tingling or numbness, or the feeling of having a pebble in the shoe. Either way it’s a very uncomfortable condition but it does get better over time.

The treatment includes rest and ice pack application initially along with paracetamol or ibuprofen. For long term relief try using shock-absorbing insoles and wear flat, supportive shoes for a while. If you’re overweight then losing weight will certainly help to relieve pressure on your feet. If your symptoms fail to improve or if the pain worsens then consult your GP. They may refer you to a podiatrist or to hospital for specialist treatment.

Extensor Tendonitis

This is also inflammation of the tendons. In this case, those that run along the top of the foot and help you to straighten and flex your toes. When this inflammation occurs you will feel pain along the top of the foot. Extensor tendonitis is usually caused by overuse but can also be attributed to badly fitting or tightly laced shoes. This is because too much pressure is exerted on the top of the foot and that can cause the tendon to become inflamed. The obvious way to prevent this then is to choose shoes which fit properly – take advice on choosing running shoes – and don’t overdo the exercise.

Initial management of the problem involves the usual – ice pack application, painkillers and rest. For severe and lasting pain, see your GP to rule out a fracture then begin gentle exercises as advised.

12 foot facts to flabbergast you

You may well take your feet for granted and underestimate their greatness when you put them through the mill every day. But we’ve got 12 fantastic foot facts that will flabbergast you and hopefully give you a new found love and respect for your feet!

  1. 25% of the body’s bones are in your feet

Each foot has a staggering 26 bones, which is one less bone than in each of our hands.

  1. Shoes of the millennia

Research suggests that as far back as 40,000 years ago early humans were wearing basic shoes.

  1. The average person walks 10,000 steps per day

You may not feel like you’ve covered a lot of ground in a day, but the average person is estimated to cover around 10,000 steps, which can be up to 5 miles.

  1. The big toe was once a big thumb

During the evolution from ape to man, what we now know as our big toe, was in fact used like a gripping thumb, helping our predecessors climb trees.

  1. Sweaty feet syndrome

There are more sweat glands per square centimetre on the soles of feet than anywhere else on the body, which may explain why they sweat around ¼ pint each day.

  1. Your feet will take you round the world four times

The average person will walk around 115,000 miles in a lifetime, which equates to more than 4 times around the world.

  1. The afternoon is ideal shoe shopping time

If you want to get the most out of your next shoe shopping trip, do it in the afternoon. Throughout the day your feet swell and grow bigger, so buying shoes in the afternoon will mean they’ll fit your feet at their biggest.

  1. Standing is a tiring business

You may be surprised to know that standing in one spot for a length of time is far more tiring than walking. This is because there is more strain put on the same muscles for a longer period of time.

  1. Your feet are a reflection of your general health

Much of the body’s functions are linked to your feet, so many initial signs of illnesses such as arthritis, diabetes and circulation problems will appear in your feet first.

  1. High Heel Pressure

For those of you who love wearing high heels, you may be staggered to know that wearing just a 2.5inch heel can increase the pressure on the ball of your foot by 75%.

  1. Women are more likely to have foot problems

Whether it’s hereditary or a love of high heels, studies show that women are four times more likely to experience foot problems such as bunions, corns, rheumatoid arthritis and more.

  1. There’s a Guinness record for the most feet

During 15 years of working in a lab testing Dr. Scholl products, Madeline Albrecht was reported to have sniffed over 5,600 feet and unknown number of armpits, earning her a Guinness World Record for the number of feet and armpits sniffed!

Now you’re a little more aware of how fascinating feet really are – so make sure you treat yours well!

 

Buying children’s shoes – what your podiatrist wants you to know

For many parents, shoe shopping with your child is something you want to get over with as quickly as possible to save the tantrums, tears and boredom. But before you dash into your local supermarket and buy the first pair of shoes you see in their size that they like, stop and take a little time to consider if the shoe actually fits.

According to research back in 2010 by Clarks, a staggering 4 million children in the UK are wearing the wrong size shoes. Part of this is down to fashion, budget restraints and convenience, but some of it is down to many parents not realising the effect ill-fitting shoes can have on their child both short and long term. The bones, muscles and ligaments in a child’s feet don’t fully develop until late teens. So throughout their childhood from their first pair to their last, you should make sure they wear correctly fitting shoes for healthy feet and to avoid foot problems further down the line.

Take advice from the experts

As specialists in feet and ankle problems, podiatrists are always looking to promote good foot care, and a huge part of this is wearing the right shoes. When it comes to buying children’s shoes especially, there are a few things your podiatrist wants you to know.

Children’s feet change with age

As you already know, children grow rapidly which means their shoe size will change rapidly too. Keep a close eye on your children’s shoes, regularly checking they still fit and aren’t too small or big. The gap between the big toe and the end of the shoe shouldn’t be less than 8mm or more than 14mm and the sides of the shoe should support the foot not squeeze it.

Get their feet measured

Whenever you’re buying new shoes for your child you should always get them properly measured, as they continuously change in size and shape. Also be sure to measure both feet as they are rarely the exact same size, and buy shoes to fit the larger foot.

Check the heels

Another sign to look out for is heel wear, as the heels can wear much quicker than they outgrow them. Also uneven heel wear can identify a potential foot problem that should be checked by a podiatrist.

Take your child with you

Although it may be easier to shop solo for shoes, your child should always try shoes to make sure they fit properly. If the shoes will be worn with socks or tights, make sure they try them on with these on too. Also involving them in the process can help form healthy shoe habits for the future.

Never hand down footwear

Each child’s foot is different and what fitted one child may not fit the next, so avoid hand-me-down shoes.

Other considerations

When shopping for kid’s shoes also look for a stiff heel that doesn’t collapse when you squeeze it, a shoes that bends with your child’s toes – not too stiff or too soft – and finally it should have a stiff middle that doesn’t twist to ensure they have the correct support.

This isn’t to say buying children’s shoes has to be complicated, it’s just about buying the right fitting shoes that will ensure healthy feet for your child’s future.

 

What does it take to become a podiatrist?

Are you interested in becoming a podiatrist? A podiatrist is a specialist health care worker that helps patients with conditions of the lower limbs and feet. Their job includes treating infections, relieving pain, and preventing and correcting deformity. As a podiatrist, it is likely that you will treat common problems such as sports injuries, bunions, athlete’s foot, corns and calluses, verrucae, and toenail problems, including ingrown toenails and fungal toenails. You will also give patients advice on how to look after their feet. If this sounds like the sort of job you would excel at, read on to discover more about what it takes to become a podiatrist.

Skills

Let’s begin by taking a look at the different skills you are going to need in order to be a podiatrist. You will need to be sympathetic and caring in nature, as people will be coming to you with problems that are potentially sensitive to them. You must have knowledge of science, especially chemistry, anatomy, and biology. You also need to have practical skills so that you can carry out the treatment, an understanding and calm demeanour when dealing with the concerns of your patients, and a desire to work with people. Finally, communication skills are important; you need to be able to listen well and explain things to people in a manner that they understand.

Training and entry requirements

You will need to undergo the necessary training to become a podiatrist. This involves talking a BSc degree in podiatry. In order to be accepted on such a course, you will typically need three A levels, with biological science being one of these. Moreover, you will require five GCSEs with grades C or higher, including science, matches and English language. Alternative qualifications are accepted such as science-based accesses courses, HND, and BTEC incorporating biological science. Of course, requirements differ from education institution to education institution, and so you will need to look at this in further detail when you make an application.

Once you have then taken your podiatry course and achieved a degree in the subject, you will need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in order to practice as a podiatrist. You must make an effort to ensure that your skills and knowledge are up to date if you are to remain on the HCPC register.

Work experience

Last but not least, work experience is important nowadays. Most job advertisements will ask for a certain amount of work experience. Thus, you should contact local private practices or NHS clinics to see if there are any opportunities for work shadowing or observation.  If you have any experience of working in any other health-related role, this will also be beneficial. To stay in-the-know with everything that is going on in the industry, it is a good idea to get a student membership with the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, as you will receive discounted prices for the annual conference, as well as access to news articles and journals.

 

 

How to choose party shoes that won’t damage your feet

When it comes to special occasions, a key part of any outfit are the shoes, but many of us will sacrifice our feet for a gorgeous pair of shoes, with little thought of our own comfort and how it might be damaging our feet.

Whether you’re a lover of killer stilettos, chunky wedges, strappy sandals or pretty pumps, we’ve got a guide to choosing party shoes that will not only look fantastic, but won’t damage your feet in the process.

Heel Height

Nothing makes legs look longer, sexier and more toned than a high heel, but you don’t have to opt for skyscraper stilettos to achieve this look. A low or mid-heel (no more than 3 inches) can give you just as good effect for elongating your pins. They will be more comfortable for longer wear and won’t put as much pressure on the balls of your feet, ankles and toes. Also choosing a style that has a tapered heel centred under the heel will give greater stability. If you want something sturdier, a stacked heel with a platform is also an option, which will ease pressure on the balls of your feet and give better balance.

Strap it up

Another great way to give your feet extra support in party shoes is to opt for shoes with adjustable straps, ties or laces, like a gladiator style sandal, with or without a high heel. These are not only bang on trend, but will also keep your feet firmly in place, meaning your toes don’t have to grip to prevent slipping, which in turn will mean they shouldn’t move around and cause rubbing.

The Life and Sole

One major factor in protecting your feet in party shoes is in the sole. All too often party shoes come with ultrathin soles that do nothing to absorb the impact on your feet. This is why choosing a party shoe with a rubber, cork or cushioned sole or opting for fashionable wedges or platforms can be a blessing. They act as shock absorbers for your feet, making them more comfortable and easier to wear for longer. You can also invest in some quality gel inserts for the balls of the feet for extra cushioning or arch insoles that will help support the middle of the feet to relieve pressure.

Go hell for leather

While many of the latest trends use patent leather and plastic, if you want to give your feet a treat you should stick to shoes made from high quality, soft leather or suede. This will give your shoes a lot more flexibility, allowing the material to stretch to fit your feet, rather than pinching them.

Well-rounded

If you like a closed toed shoe, avoid the narrow pointy styles and opt for a rounder design with a higher cut that will give your toes more room. This will prevent cramping and avoid rubbing on the widest part of the foot where bunions can develop. These styles are also better-suited for those with wide feet.

This guide should help you find those party shoes you can wear all night long; dancing the night away in comfort and style.

 

What is plantar fasciitis?

Our feet are complex parts of our body, comprising of a large number of bones, ligaments and muscles. With these they act as the shock absorbers for the entire body, soaking up the impact that our everyday activities may have, whether it’s running, walking or even standing still.

Not surprisingly the heel bears much of the force of the impact and although this is what it’s designed for it can become injured either suddenly or over a period of time. The most common type of heel pain is associated with plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis explained

Plantar fasciitis, can affect anyone at any time and occurs when the plantar fascia band becomes damaged. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that joins the base of the toes to the heel bone. As a result of damage or injury the plantar fascia band thickens and becomes inflamed, which can make it very tender and painful to walk on.

The causes of plantar fasciitis

As heel pain is a common occurrence, with an estimated one in ten people having some form of heel pain during their lifetime, it is unsurprising that anyone is susceptible to developing plantar fasciitis. However, there are some activities and groups that may be at a higher risk.

For example, with sudden damage to the plantar fascia band, it is more likely to happen from doing exercise or overuse of the heel, which is more common in younger, athletic people. Whereas people over 40 or those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to suffer from a gradual wearing of the plantar fascia tissue that may start off as a small pain, but get worse over time.

You may also be at higher risk of developing plantar fasciitis is you’re overweight, spend a lot of time standing on your feet or you frequently wear flat-soled shoes like sandals or flip flops.

How can I treat plantar fasciitis?

If you are experiencing any heel pain that you think could be plantar fasciitis, it’s always recommended to visit your GP or a podiatrist who can give you a correct diagnosis and treatment. However, there are some simple self-treatments you can also do to reduce the pressure and pain put on your heel.

         Give your heels a rest and avoid putting too much strain on your heels with standing, running or walking for long periods of time

         Wear the right footwear to give your heels better support and padding

         Additional support such as orthoses or strapping can also help protect the inflamed heel

         Regularly stretch your calves and heels to relieve tension

         For pain relief apply icepacks to the affected heel and take painkillers if the pain is very severe.

In most cases plantar fasciitis will clear up on its own, providing you give your heel the time to heal.  But if your symptoms do persist you should seek professional medical advice from a GP or podiatrist.

 

 

Top 5 cold weather foot care fixes

When the colder weather comes, you may think it’s a time to forget about your foot care routine, but you may be shocked to know that the cold weather can also wreak havoc with your toes. Even if you keep them well and truly wrapped up in thick socks and boots you can still suffer from a number of cold weather related ailments

But luckily we’ve put together a list of the top 5 cold weather foot care fixes that will make sure your feet stay in good condition throughout the winter, ready for the warmer weather on the other side.

Winter shoes

So many shoes in winter are just not designed for the seasonal change and don’t provide sufficient insulation and protection from the cold. While you may want to put fashion first, you can still look stylish while also ensuring that your feet don’t turn to blocks of ice by wearing the appropriate footwear.

In the winter months when it’s freezing outside, ditch open shoes and opt for a sturdier ankle, mid or full-length boot. Firstly you can wear socks with them for added warmth, but you can also add a sheepskin insole for added insulation and breathability, while also ensuring your entire foot is covered up.

Chilblains

A well-known cold related foot ailment, chilblains can be incredibly uncomfortable, itchy and in some cases painful. They’re common in cold weather, particularly in people with poor circulation, as when the feet and toes get cold and begin to warm up, the tissue can become damaged as it uses oxygen before the blood circulation has properly kicked in. To avoid chilblains, always make sure you keep your feet warm and well protected during winter and avoid wearing restrictive footwear that can slow circulation down.

Dry Skin

Inevitably the use of central heating and extreme changes in temperatures can cause feet to dry out. Also, layering up with too many socks, can make your feet sweat more, which won’t help either. However, to remedy this, when your feet are already warm, regularly soak them in warm soapy water to soften the dry skin. You can then use a pumice stone or foot file to gently exfoliate dry skin and apply a urea based moisturiser such as Chirocream which is available from us.

Constant cold feet

Many of us suffer from constantly cold feet in the winter. There’s a big temptation to put them in front of direct heat, but your feet may have become numb, therefore you could burn them and increase the risk of chilblains. Instead, warm them up gradually with low heat and rubbing and wear socks – even in bed.

Poor circulation

This also relates to the above with cold feet, as many people with poor circulation suffer from cold feet in the winter, but a good way to help improve circulation is to keep active. Keeping your body moving will help the blood flow down to your feet and if you are still for periods of time, regularly stretch and rotate your feet and ankles to keep the blood flowing.

While these fixes won’t stop the cold weather from coming full stop, they may help you to take better care of your feet during the winter, so they stay happy and healthy all year round.