Feet are like snowflakes: No two are the same -- even those on the same body. Your two feet may actually be different shoe sizes! And even if they're evenly matched, they'll be different sizes and different shapes at different times in your life, including as your body changes through growth, pregnancy (for women), disease or disability, and aging. Because of these natural irregularities and the changes that every person encounters during life, there are several everyday foot problems that often occur.

Uncomfortable footwear can cause or contribute to many everyday foot problems.
Uncomfortable footwear may be a factor behind many everyday foot problems.
See more pictures of foot problems.

Many foot problems are hereditary, including bunions, hammertoes, flat feet, gout, even ingrown toenails. And, although greatly influenced by calcium intake, exercise, and hormonal changes, bone strength is partly hereditary. It's also influenced by racial factors. Asians, for example, have less bone mass than whites, and whites have less bone mass than blacks; the greater your bone mass, the less likely you are to develop arthritis or the brittle bones of osteoporosis.

One recent study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that during puberty -- when hormonal changes spur bone developments -- the bone density of black girls increases three times more than that of white girls. And when the U.S. Public Health Service conducted a national survey in 1990, it found that blacks experienced 20 percent fewer foot problems overall than whites, although blacks are more likely to suffer from corns, calluses, and flat feet.

Nationality can also influence foot structure: Many Mediterranean people, for instance, have particularly low arches, while many Northern Europeans tend to have high ones. Finally, in some ethnic communities, cultural standards play a role, because they determine what is considered attractive. Members suffer pain from wearing uncomfortable shoes that are simply de rigueur in their cultural world.

One of your best precautions against foot pain is to be aware of both the hereditary factors (which you can't change) and the lifestyle and life-stage factors (which you can change or, at least, influence) that determine whether your feet are healthy or hurting.

This article offers easy and helpful suggestions for treating many of the more common foot conditions people experience. However, there are certain foot problems that are so serious, you should seek a doctor's care immediately. Likewise, certain people should never attempt to self-treat a foot problem. For example, If you have diabetes or circulatory problems, if you are pregnant, if you have recently had surgery, or if you are under the continuing care of a physician for another reason, you should discuss your foot problem, and the best way to go about treating it, with your doctor before attempting self-treatment.

Continue to the next page to get tips on treating calluses -- a foot condition almost everyone experiences at one time or another.

To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit:

  • Foot Injuries: Find out how to avoid unpleasant injuries to your feet, or at least reduce pain and prevent infection after they occur, with these simple suggestions.
  • How to Care for Your Feet: Learn how to keep your feet -- and yourself -- healthy and happy with these tips on caring for your feet, including selecting the right shoes.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.