"Oh, my aching feet!"

How many times have you made that exclamation -- but then shrugged, figuring that aching feet are just a part of life. They don't have to be! If you follow the tips in this article, you can ward off, or at least ease, the most common types of foot injuries and distress.

First, though, it's important to understand why foot pain is so common. For relatively small body parts, the feet are amazingly complex structures: Each one contains 26 bones, 56 ligaments, 38 muscles, and an even greater number of nerves and blood vessels. All of those elements are targets for injury, mistreatment, and disease. In fact, your feet are more vulnerable to injury than any other part of the body, according to the American Podiatric Medicine Association. It's amazing they are not injured more often, considering how much we ask of them.

The average pair of feet takes an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 steps each day and travels up to 80,000 miles in a lifetime, according to the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine. Walking puts the pressure of about one-and-a half times your body weight on your foot; running increases this pressure to about three or four times your weight. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), your feet absorb up to one million pounds of pressure during a strenuous, hour-long workout!

A doctor examines a patient's foot.
Feet were the cause of
11 million
 trips to the doctor's office in 2003.
See more pictures of foot problems.

So, it's not surprising that so many Americans suffer from foot ailments at one time or another. It's been estimated that anywhere from about 50 percent to more than 75 percent of Americans will experience foot problems at some point in their lives. Foot, toe, and ankle problems prompted more than 11 million visits to physicians' offices in 2003, according to the AAOS.

Some foot troubles are hereditary, while others are accidental. Other foot distress occurs because you've done something unusual: You've started wearing new shoes, you've overdone some activity, or you've ventured into territory where your feet were exposed to infection or other danger. Finally, some foot pain happens only at certain times in life or under certain medical conditions; children's feet and elderly feet in particular need special attention.

And, while foot trouble affects both men and women, women suffer more pain. Part of the reason is physical: Because women's bodies have a lighter bone structure than men's bodies, the bones in their feet are not as strong and are therefore more susceptible to certain bone problems, including bunions and fractures. Female hormones also affect a woman's foot bones and ligaments. But the main reason women suffer so much foot pain is that they're more likely than men to be slaves to fashion -- including wearing painful, unsupportive shoes.

Within this article you will find treatment tips for injuries and other foot dangers. However, individuals who have special concerns, especially those who have diabetes or circulation problems, should consult a physician when they experience foot pain or discomfort.

Continue to the next page for suggestions on how to handle one of the most common foot injuries of all: a blister.

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

  • Everyday Foot Problems: Discover what causes of some of the most commonly encountered foot problems, as well as how to treat or avoid them.
  • 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.