There's no need for a walker to be plagued with foot problems. Taking good care of your feet and wearing properly fitting shoes can help ward off injuries like these.
Neuromas. A neuroma is an abnormal collection of nerves that becomes irritated and inflamed. Neuromas occur between the bases of two toes, usually the third and fourth ones. Again, tight-fitting shoes can aggravate this condition.
Neuromas can cause stabbing pain or a numb sensation. Soaking in warm water may help relieve the discomfort. Your doctor may prescribe an arch support or a special pad that can be placed inside your shoe to spread the nerve-pinching toes apart. Surgery to remove the neuroma can also be preformed.
Metatarsal stress fractures. The metatarsals are the long bones in your feet that are attached to the base of your toes. From the stress of walking, the metatarsals can develop fractures so small that they may not even be visible on an X ray. Often, they don't have to be splinted or put into a cast; they simply heal by themselves. But healing takes time, sometimes a month or two, and you'll probably have to suspend your walking program until this healing process is complete.
Blisters. These pockets of clear fluid or blood are common ailments. Regardless of the type of shoe worn and the protective measures taken, foot blisters continue to pose a problem for many people. They become a major problem only when they are severe enough to affect the quantity and quality of walking or when they become infected.
Foot blisters are caused by friction. The best way to prevent blisters is to prevent the friction that causes them. Here are some recommendations:
- Buy high-quality shoes and make sure they fit properly.
- Take good care of your shoes. Don't allow them to get brittle and stiff.
- Break in new shoes before walking very far. A good idea is first to wear the shoes around the house for a few minutes each day. As they begin to soften, wear them for walking short distances. Try buying new shoes before your old ones wear out completely, so you won't be tempted to rush the break-in process.
- Wear socks to help prevent blisters. The socks should be clean and should fit snugly. If they are too big, they can bunch up and cause friction. Ideally, the socks should not have seams in the foot area.
When a blister does develop, you can prevent infection by keeping the area clean. Do not puncture blisters. Leave them alone; bit by bit, they'll drain internally. If a blister ruptures, do not remove the skin; it serves as a protective covering. After a gentle cleaning with soap and water, place a pad of gauze over the blister.
Resting the foot will aid healing. Consult your doctor or podiatrist at the first sign of infection, such as redness or pus. If you have diabetes or circulatory problems, consult your doctor at the first sign of a blister, no matter how small; do not attempt to treat it yourself.
Calluses. A callus is a thickening of the skin that results from pressure or friction. A moderate amount of callus formation is normal; it's one way the foot protects itself. But when thick, hard calluses form, they can be painful. To help relieve pain, try switching to a shoe with softer uppers and a roomier toe box.
Cushioned pads or insoles, and orthotics, can help. A simple scraping of the calluses by a podiatrist can also yield dramatic pain relief. Never try cutting calluses off yourself.
Walker's heel. This is a term some people use to describe a group of heel problems that include bone bruises and heel spurs. The syndrome usually starts with pain at the base of the heel -- called plantar fasciitis, which involves inflammation of the tissues that attach to the bottom of the heel bone.
Bone spurs are painful bony growths on the bone itself. These ailments may be worsened by walking on a hard surface, stepping on sharp objects, or walking in poorly designed or worn-out shoes. These conditions don't lend themselves to a quick cure. Rest can be helpful, but it is not always convenient for the person who wants to maintain his or her aerobic conditioning.
A heel "donut" is often used to treat problems of the heel. This remedy is nothing more than a foam pad with a hole cut in it. The foam pad is taped over the bone spur, with the sensitive spot protruding through the hole.
Other modes of treatment include strapping the foot with an athletic bandage or switching to a shoe that has a springy rubber sole and a slightly higher heel. (This style of shoe helps shift the pressure of walking from the heel to the ball of the foot.) Soaking your feet in warm water can help relieve pain. If these measures don't work for you, see your physician or a podiatrist.
It's no surprise that the legs can be injured during walking. Next, learn about common leg injuries and how they might be prevented.
To learn more about walking, see: