An ingrown toenail is a nail that has curved downward and grown into the skin. This typically occurs at either the nail borders or the sides of the nail. As a result, pain, redness, swelling, and warmth may occur in the toe. If a break in the skin forms due to the ingrown nail, bacteria may enter and cause an infection in the area; this is typically characterized by a foul odor and drainage.
Ingrown toenails have multiple reasons for developing. In many instances, the condition is a result of genetics and is inherited. The most common cause, however, is improper trimming; cutting the toenails too short forces the skin beside the nail to fold over. An ingrown toenail can also develop due to trauma, such as stubbing the toe, having an object fall on the toe, or participating in activities that involve repeated kicking or running. Wearing shoes that are too tight or too short can also cause ingrown toenails.
Treatment for an ingrown toenail varies between patients and the severity of the condition. In most cases, it is best to see your podiatrist for thorough and proper treatment. After examining your toe, your podiatrist may prescribe oral antibiotics to clear the infection if one is present. Surgical removal of either a portion of the nail or the entire nail may also be considered. In some cases, complete removal or destruction of the nail root may be required. Most patients who undergo nail surgery experience minimal pain afterward and can return to normal activity the following day.
Ingrown toenails can be prevented with proper nail trimming and by avoiding improper-fitting shoes. When cutting the toenails, be sure that you are cutting in a straight line and avoid cutting them too short. Shoes should not be too short or tight in the toe box.
During your lifetime, you will probably walk about 75,000 miles, which is quite a lot of stress to put on your feet. As you get older, the 26 bones and 30 joints in each of your feet will lose flexibility and elasticity. Your foot’s natural shock absorbers will wear down as well. Having arthritis added to this mix only makes matters worse. Your joints will become distorted and inflamed, which is why arthritic foot care needs to be something to think about every day.
When dealing with arthritis, having additional foot complications, such as bunions, hammertoes, or neuroma, can be a serious detriment. To avoid these, buy well-fitting shoes with a lower heel and good support. Arthritis causes you to lose your arch, so having shoes with good arch support is also highly recommended.
Aside from getting good arch support, the shoes need to fit comfortably and properly as well. A good place to start is by leaving a finger width between the back of the shoe and your foot to gauge proper size. It is also helpful to have a square or rounded toe box in the front to provide even more comfort. Another thing to look for is a rubber sole that can provide a cushion and absorb shock as you walk. This adds flexibility to the ball of your foot when you push off your heel to walk.
Exercise is another key aspect of arthritic foot care. Exercise not only strengthens and stretches your muscles and joints, but helps to prevent further injury and pain as well. Stretching the Achilles tendon, the tendon located in the back of your heel, will give you added mobility and reduce pain due to stress. Another thing you can do is massage your feet, kneading the ball of your foot as well as your toes from top to bottom.
Stretching the Achilles tendon is a simple exercise that you can do at home anytime. Lean against the wall with your palms flat against the surface while placing one foot forward, towards the wall, and one foot behind you. Bend your forward knee towards the wall while keeping your back knee locked straight, and make sure both your heels are completely touching the ground at all times. This will stretch your Achilles tendon and calf muscles as well. You will feel the stretch almost immediately. You can also stretch your toes in a couple ways. One involves taking a rubber band and wrapping it around both your big toes while your heels remain together. Then, pull them apart to stretch your big toe. You can also place a rubber band around all the toes of one of your feet. Then, try to separate each individual toe, stretching them all.
A final step you can take to help your arthritis is taking non-steroid, non-inflammatory drugs or topical medicines with capsaicin. Unfortunately, there is no complete way to remove all of your arthritic pain. However, following some of this advice can go a long way in staying as pain-free as possible.
A neuroma is a thickening of nerve tissue and can develop throughout the body. In the foot, the most common neuroma is a Morton’s neuroma; this typically forms between the third and fourth toes. The thickening of the nerve is typically caused by compression and irritation of the nerve; this thickening can in turn cause enlargement and, in some cases, nerve damage.
Neuromas can be caused by anything that causes compression or irritation of the nerve. A common cause is wearing shoes with tapered toe boxes or high heels that force the toes into the toe boxes. Physical activities that involve repeated pressure to the foot, such as running or basketball, can also create neuromas. Those with foot deformities, such as bunions, hammertoes, or flatfeet, are more likely to develop the condition.
Symptoms of Morton’s neuroma include tingling, burning, numbness, pain, and the feeling that either something is inside the ball of the foot or that something in one’s shoe or sock is bunched up. Symptoms typically begin gradually and can even go away temporarily by removing one’s shoes or massaging the foot. An increase in the intensity of symptoms correlates with the increasing growth of the neuroma.
Treatment for Morton’s neuroma can vary between patients and the severity of the condition. For mild to moderate cases, padding, icing, orthotics, activity modifications, shoe modifications, medications, and injection therapy may be suggested or prescribed. Patients who have not responded successfully to less invasive treatments may require surgery to properly treat their condition. The severity of your condition will determine the procedure performed and the length of recovery afterwards.
Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity. Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.
Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.
Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.
For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.
If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.
Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.
Flip flops are often a popular choice of footwear for many people. Flip flops allow your feet to breathe and give your toes the freedom of movement. They are easy to slip on and can be worn with virtually any style of clothing. Flip flops, however, despite their many benefits, can be detrimental for your foot health.
Despite their comfortableness, frequently wearing flip flops can create problems in the lower body over time. Issues mainly stem from the fact that people walk differently in flip flops compared to other footwear, such as sneakers. This is due to a change in one’s natural gait, which therefore creates stress in different parts of the body while hindering the body’s natural posture. Problems can also arise in the arches and balls of the feet. Flip flops provide little to no support to these areas.
Aside from long-term problems, flip-fops can also create short-term issues as well, such as ankle sprains and blisters. Weak materials that are flexible and bendable are generally used to manufacture flip flops. These materials make its wearers prone to both tripping and injuring their ankles. Flip flops can create blisters as the material rubs against the foot. People are much more at risk for infection while wearing flip flops due to their openness. This also makes it easier to scrape and cut the foot since there is a lack of protection. If these cuts are left untreated and uncovered, the risk then becomes greater.
To prevent the aforementioned occurrences, purchase a pair of flip flops that offer significant protection. The soles of the flip flops should not be floppy, but sturdy and firm, and should not significantly bend or wiggle when lifted from the floor. Flip flops made of high-quality materials will not be affected by this problem. While higher quality flip flops may be more expensive, they will last longer and provide better protection compared to a cheaper pair. Brand name flip flops sold from a quality manufacturer are a dependable option.
There is no problem in wearing your favorite pair of flip flops so as long as you do not wear them daily or for extended periods of time. Flip flops should be replaced every 3-4 months to ensure that they provide your feet with the best protection.