Common Foot Problems

Taking care of your feet, and lower limbs is important at all ages, but it becomes increasingly more important as we age, and it can seriously impair our mobility if not done thoroughly.

Some common foot problems start when we are very young, even in the womb. Various other problems may be inherited, and some can obviously develop from illnesses that we suffer from in middle age, or from the pressure of ill-fitting shoes.

The causes of common foot problems are widespread and that is often why they are neglected. Major problems can occur through repeated or impactful stress to the area, things we often overlook. 

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Bunions/Toe Deformities

What most people call a bunion is correctly known as Hallux valgus, which refers to the condition in which the big toe is angled excessively towards the second toe. A bunion is a symptom of the deformity.

In a normal foot, the big toe and the long bone that leads up to it are in a straight line. However, Hallux valgus occurs when the long foot bone veers towards your other foot and your big toes drifts towards your second toe.

A bunion actually refers to the bony prominence on the side of the big toe. This can also form a large sac of fluid, known as a bursa, which can then become inflamed and sore.

Ingrowing Toenails

An ingrowing toenail is one that pierces the flesh of the toe and is one of the most common foot problems. It can feel as if you have a splinter and can be extremely painful, especially when experiencing pressure or extra weight. In more severe cases, it can cause pus and bleeding. This most commonly affects the big toenail, but can affect the other toes too. A nail that is curling into the flesh but isn’t actually piercing the skin isn't an ingrowing toenail, but can feel very painful and also appear red and inflamed.

Blisters

Blisters are painful, fluid-filled lesions that are produced by friction and pressure; it is likely that everyone will experience these common foot problems at some time in their life. They are usually caused by one of the following:

  • Ill-fitting shoes
  • Stiff shoes
  • Wrinkled socks against the skin
  • Excessive moisture
  • Foot deformities
  • Calluses

When we walk or stand, our body weight is carried first on the heel and then on the ball of the foot, where the skin is thicker, to withstand the pressure. When this pressure becomes excessive, some areas of the skin thicken, in the form of corns and callus, as a protective response.

A callus is an extended area of thickened skin on the soles of the feet and occurs on areas of pressure. It is the body's reaction to pressure or friction and can appear anywhere the skin rubs against a bone, a shoe, or the ground and is one of the most common foot problems.

Heel Pain

When walking, your heels repeatedly hit the ground with considerable force. They must be able to absorb the impact and provide a firm support for the weight of the body. When pain develops in the heel, it can be very disabling, making every step a problem, affecting your posture.

There are various types of heel pain but some of the most common are:

Heel Spurs

The pain is usually worst on standing, particularly first thing in the morning when you get up. It is a relatively common foot problem, though usually occurring in the over-forties age group. There are no visible features on the heel, but a deep localised painful spot can be found in or around the middle of the sole of the heel.

Heel Bursitis

Pain can be felt at the back of the heel when the ankle joint is moved and there may be swelling on both sides of the Achilles tendon.  You may feel pain deep inside the heel when it contacts the ground.

Heel Bumps

These are easily recognised and appear as firm bumps on the back of the heel. Shoes often rub them, and this causes pain.

Corns

Similar to callouses, corns always occur over a bony prominence, such as a joint and there are five different types of corns. The two most common are hard and soft corns, but there are also Seed, Vascular, and Fibrous corns.

Hard Corns

These are the most common and appear as small, concentrated areas of hard skin up to the size of a small pea, usually within a wider area of thickened skin or callous and can be symptoms of feet or toes that are not functioning properly.

Soft Corns

These develop in a similar way to hard corns but are whitish and rubbery in texture, and appear between toes, where the skin is moist from sweat, or from inadequate drying. Chiropody is usually required, and this can reduce the bulk of the corn; you can also apply astringents to cut down on the sweat retention between the toes.

Verrucae

A verruca is simply a plantar wart that is usually found on the soles of your feet, though they can also appear around the toes. In the early stages, a verruca looks like a small, dark, puncture mark but later turns grey or brown. It may become rough and bumpy with a cauliflower-like appearance and may develop a black spot in the middle, which is caused by bleeding. A verruca can grow to half an inch in diameter and may spread into a cluster of small warts.

This virus is very contagious but can only be caught by direct contact. It thrives in warm, moist environments such as swimming pools, changing room floors and bathrooms. You could also catch the virus from an infected towel. As such, they are one of the most common foot problems in children.

They are harmless but they can cause a sharp, burning pain if you get one on a weight-bearing area such as the ball or the heel of the foot. They can become more painful because you can’t help but constantly press on the area when walking.

These common foot problems can typically be treated with at-home remedies. Only in severe cases will they require formal medical attention. Common foot problems can usually be prevented with suitable footcare. However, if you do repeatedly suffer from any of the mentioned issues, you should consider your foot hygiene and routines. Taking simple care with natural remedies is usually the best route for long term foot health. Do consult your GP if you are experiencing a serious case of any common foot problems. Alternatively, get in touch with a member of our knowledgeable team for more advice.