Mother’s Day and Foot Health

by | May 8, 2018

Sunday May 13th is Mother’s Day this year, which makes it the perfect time to discuss women’s foot care!

Now, for various reasons, podiatrists are prone to see certain issues in women’s feet more often than others. Sure, some of these problems are also common to our male patients – but the reason they develop for women can be different (well, at least until men start giving birth…).

When we consider women’s foot health issues, some of the general, overlaying contributors include pregnancy, footwear choices, and even exercising.

As our society becomes more health-conscious—which is definitely a good thing—there are an increasing number of workout programs available, including ones targeted to women.

Physical activity is essential for a healthy body, but it does carry the risk of foot or ankle injuries, especially if you try to do too much too soon. Remember, always ease into new exercise and running programs with a gradual increase in duration and intensity.

From those broad categories of contributing factors, some specific problems frequently affecting women’s feet include:

Edema. This condition tends to be rather common during pregnancy. In part, this is attributed to the fact your body is busy producing extra blood and fluid to ensure that your new child receives proper nutrition for healthy development.On account of gravity and pressure on veins (from an expanding womb) excess fluids pool in feet and ankles. Gravity obviously makes it more difficult for, well, pretty much anything to flow upwards, and veins are the vessels that enable blood to go away from limbs and back to the heart – so those are some pretty big factors.

Edema causes swelling and may be uncomfortable (and even painful sometimes), but we can provide treatment to help!

Overpronation. It only stands to reason that as the extra weight your body gains during pregnancy places additional pressure on your feet. This can cause your foot arches to collapse into a flat-footed condition. Also contributing is a hormone your body releases that relaxes soft tissues as it prepares for the birth of your child.

Individuals who have flat feet tend to overpronate, which is an excessive rotation of the foot with every step. In turn, this can cause pain in the ankles, knees, hips, and even back. Arch supports or orthotic devices may be helpful, so come see us and find the relief you need!

Bunions and bunionettes. In these conditions, either the first or small toe will start angling inwards (toward the other toes). This forces the respective metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint—the joint found at the base of the toe, where it connects to the foot—to jut out to the side. In the case of a bunion, this means protrusion on the inner edge of the foot. For a bunionette, the bump is on the outer edge. Both are progressive conditions, which means they will continue to worsen over time when left untreated.

These toe deformities—and especially bunions—are usually thought to be caused by women’s footwear, but this isn’t entirely accurate. In part, the reason for this common misconception is the fact women are considerably more likely to develop bunions than are men.

Another reason many people think bunions are caused by high-heeled shoes like pumps and stilettos is because of how these kinds of footwear are structures. They feature, obviously, higher heels, which means additional pressure is put on the front of the foot. Further, these styles typically have narrow toe boxes that squash the toes together (and can cause the big toe to point inwards).

The truth of the matter is this – bunions are not caused by shoes, but can become exacerbated by them. As such, it’s best to save your high heels only for special occasions and stick to more sensible models the rest of the time.

Other toe deformities. Besides bunions, there are other toe deformities more commonly seen in women. In these cases—hammertoes, claw toes, and mallet toes—the deformities entail an abnormal curling on the vertical plane (as opposed to the horizontal drifting for bunions and bunionettes).

In the case of hammertoe, the abnormal bending happens at the middle toe joint (which bends downward so the toe kind of resembles a hammer). For a mallet toe, the abnormal bending is at the joint closest to the tip of the toe (making the toe look more like a mallet). With claw toe, there is an upwards bending at the MTP joint, along with downward bends at both the other two joints (thereby causing a claw-like appearance).

All three of these similar conditions are caused by imbalance between the muscles and tendons on the tops and bottoms of the toes.

Sports Injuries. As our society becomes more health-conscious—which is definitely a good thing—there are an increasing number of workout programs available, including ones targeted at women.

Physical activity is essential for a healthy body, but it does carry the risk of foot or ankle injuries, especially if you try to do too much too soon. Remember, always ease into new exercise and running programs with a gradual increase in duration and intensity.

Even better is to make an appointment to see us before starting any new exercise or workout program. We can identify potential issues and create measures to keep your feet safe, and functioning, and feeling their best.

Neuromas. When feet are crammed into shoes that are too tight, the internal structures—bones, nerves—can be affected. Bones that are forced inwards can pinch a nerve and create burning pain or sensations like standing on a pebble. Tingling and numbness are other frequently noted symptoms.


With regard to caring for these issues, the best practice is simply to request an appointment with Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates at our Bloomington, IL office. We can provide you with a professional diagnosis, and then create a customized treatment plan to relieve pain and restore foot function.

As is always the case, though, even better is to prevent a problem from developing in the first place!

Fortunately, there are prevention measures you can take that don’t require too much time and effort, yet can make a huge difference in keeping you healthy and safe. These include things like:

  • Examine your feet for problems. If you are diabetic, this should be done on a daily basis, but if you are nondiabetic, it is still a smart practice to perform a foot self-exam once a week. As you’re drying off your feet after your bath or shower, inspect your soles for any scaling and then between your toes for peeling areas (a sign of athlete’s foot). Also look for discoloration of the nails, which could indicate a fungal infection. Don’t worry if you do find this – we provide effective fungal nail treatment!
  • Keep your feet clean and dry. Good hygiene is essential for healthy feet. Thoroughly clean and scrub your feet with soap and water every time you bathe or shower. Afterward, dry them well before putting on socks and shoes to deprive any fungal spores of the moisture they need to survive and proliferate.
  • Trim toenails properly. Clipping your nails straight across and making sure you don’t trim too close to the skin lowers your risk for painful, ingrown toenails.
  • Don’t hide “ugly” toenails with polish. Remember, discolored, thick, ragged, or crumbling nail tissue are signs of fungal infection. Applying off-the-shelf nail polish could actually make the problem worse. Instead, have us perform treatment for the condition, and then use the Chrome Girl nail polish we offer at our office.
  • Protect your feet in public areas. Gym locker rooms and showering areas, and indoor pool decks, are potential areas for fungal contamination. You can help protect your feet by wearing clean sandals or shower shoes in these areas.
  • Avoid sharing footwear. You can potentially contract fungal infections by wearing other people’s socks or shoes, so always wear your own footwear to keep your feet healthy.
  • Head off sweaty feet. Your feet have 250,000 sweat glands in each foot! Since perspiration provides bacteria and fungus the moisture they need to survive, wear moisture-wicking socks and breathable shoes to keep feet cool, dry, and safe from microorganisms.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly. Tight footwear can lead to a host of long-term issues, so limit how often you wear pointy shoes and, instead, opt for ones that are broad and rounded (which means plenty of room for your toes). Something to consider is that feet swell throughout the day, so make sure you shop for shoes in the early evening (and don’t end up with shoes that are too tight at night!).
  • Know when to see a doctor. Don’t attempt to self-treat painful foot woes – this can make a problem worse! Any pain, redness, swelling, or discoloration that persists should be checked out at our office. We can usually resolve the problem with conservative care, and especially when you see us at the earliest possible opportunity.

When it comes to common female foot problems, you can always find the successful treatment you need from our team here at HFAA.

We provide comprehensive foot and ankle care for all of our patients from the greater Bloomington, IL community, so contact us today. Either call (309) 661-9975 to speak with one of our friendly staff members or take advantage of our online form to connect with us right now.

10 Heartland Drive Suite B
Bloomington, IL 61704

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