About the Foot
We take our feet for granted, but they are really, truly remarkable if you stop and think about it. Every day, our feet work to carry the weight of our bodies over considerable distances. They work with us whether we’re going fast or slow, up or down, barefoot or in shoes…they are always ready to go. How do the feet do what they do? What’s going on inside our bodies when we experience foot pain?
The Inside of the Foot
Below the skin of your feet is a complex collection of bones, nerves, tendons, ligaments, etc. all working together to make sure you can move around effectively and flexibly. Each foot is made up of 26 bones and 33 joints. The main bones in the toes are called phalanges. The main bones in the forefoot are longer and known as the metatarsals. In the mid-section of the foot is a pyramid of bones consisting of the navicular bone, the cuneiform bones, and the cuboid bone. In the heel you will find the calcaneus, the most substantial bone in your foot and the one that bears the brunt of your body’s weight. Finally, we have the talus bone, which is connected to your leg and forms your ankle.
Common Foot Problems on the Inside
There are a number of conditions that could develop, causing foot pain. Many people develop arthritis and/or other forms of inflammation. For example, gout is an inflammatory disorder that causes crystals to form in the joints of your feet, which results in extreme pain and swelling. Abnormal bone growth can cause heel spurs or bunions on your toes. Heel pain is often a result of heel or bone spurs. Morton's Neuroma is a condition that results in excess nerve growth between the toes. Nerve pain and a lack of circulation often affect diabetics. In addition, fractures are more common than you might realize. Many people fracture the delicate bones in their feet without even realizing the severity of their injury.
The Outside of the Foot
The ball of the foot is the area where you place your weight while learning forward. The heel of the foot is the area where you place your weight while standing or leaning backward. The arch is just what it sounds like: the bridge-like structure that extends over most of the length of the foot. Layers of skin and calluses cover the outside of the foot to protect it from damage sustained while moving.
Common Foot Problems on the Outside
There are a number of painful foot conditions that can develop on the exterior of the foot. Toenail fungus and Athlete’s Foot both involve fungi that grow and cause discoloration, discomfort, and sometimes an unpleasant odor. Plantar warts are also growths that can cause pain and come with a social stigma. Cracked skin, calluses, and corns can come from too much use with too little self-care. Blisters, sore, and open wounds can also result from using your feet without taking care of them or paying attention to early signs of wear. Open wounds are especially problematic for individuals with diabetes because of potential difficulties with healing; diabetics should consult a healthcare professional immediately upon noticing the cuts. In general, though, external problems can be treated with self-care: lotion, comfortable footwear, rest and elevation, etc.
Make Your Feet a Priority
If you are experiencing any kind of foot pain or another problem with your feet, you should investigate and treat it effectively. Many problems can be solved with self-care, but you should consult a healthcare professional if your own efforts are unsuccessful or if you are experiencing extreme or changing symptoms.