I have had several people in the past few weeks ask “Can you do something about my feet?” The answer to that question is a resounding “YES” we most certainly can address feet! From simple subluxation (the joint is not moving properly) to the more complex plantar fasciitis we can help. It is clear from the questions that we have not done a great job of letting patients know what we can do to help them live up to their full potential.
When the joints of the foot are not moving properly, the gait pattern (the way we walk) is thrown off. In my practice I have seen this result in foot pain, ankle pain, knee pain, back pain and even in one case I have worked on, headaches.
After a thorough examination the recommended treatment is typically adjusting the joints to provide proper motion, addressing the soft tissue conditions with stretching and exercises as well as techniques such as Active Release® or Graston®. The ultimate goal of every patient is to get rid of the discomfort and prevent it from returning. Prevention is up to the individual patient. Once the joints are moving properly the hard part begins – maintaining the proper motion. My recommendations for my patients typically include orthotics, icing and/or proper shoes as well as maintaining the proper motion in the feet.
Proper shoes are critical – I grew up in a family of twelve children and resources were tight. Starting at the age of twelve, I purchased almost all of my own clothes and shoes. Needless to say I made a habit of looking at the sale rack and purchasing the cheapest pair of shoes I could find that fit. As I grew older that habit stuck with me until I realized that this was actually damaging my feet. All shoes are not made equal. I was in my late 30’s and going to school to prepare for my second career as a chiropractor before I had a proper evaluation of my gait. I went against the tradition of buying from the sales rack and purchased my first pair of good quality running shoes. What a difference that made – running could actually be comfortable.
Most people don’t realize that there are three different types of running shoes. There are neutral shoes that are sufficient for most people, stability shoes that provide additional support for mild to moderate over pronation (roll to the inside of the foot) and motion control shoe provide the most support for those with severe over pronation. To determine which shoe is best for you, your feet should be evaluated by a professional specifically trained on gait analysis. Retail stores that specialize in running will typically have staff that is trained to evaluate your gait and assist you in finding a proper pair of shoes that will meet your needs.
The one area that shoes have been universally lacking over the years is in arch support. Every shoe will come with an insole which is typically but not always removable. I utilize an arch support that will support the foot the way nature intended. I do have to note that there are now several brands and styles of shoes, including running shoes, that are building shoes with an arch support. These are the better quality and usually higher priced shoes but well worth the extra money. With the built in support you don’t have to purchase a separate orthotic.
Any conversation about feet would not be complete without talking about plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is pain in the bottom of the foot which is caused by inflammation/irritation of the plantar fascia, which is a strong band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot. If left untreated it can lead to increased pain and even heal spurs. The best time to treat plantar fasciitis is before it begins. The next best time is immediately after symptoms begin. The most common symptom is pain in the bottom of the foot which is worse in the morning, particularly the first few steps after waking up. I will always recommend icing and stretching. These can be done together. Freeze a 16-20 oz plastic bottle of water and roll the arch of the foot on the frozen bottle for 10-15 min max. Do this particularly at the end of the day when you sit down to relax. For more advanced cases treatment with your favorite chiropractor or podiatrist may be required.
Feet are our foundation. Proper care now can pay dividends for years to come!!!