Below are some of the most frequently asked questions that patients have about foot conditions, injuries, and footwear. If you have any other questions, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our office today.
Q: How can I treat athlete's foot?
A: The treatment of athlete's foot will depend on the severity of your case. If you have a minor case of athlete's foot, you can typically treat it at home with over-the-counter antifungal medication. If you have a more serious outbreak of athlete's foot, your doctor may prescribe a prescription in the form of an antifungal cream or an oral medication.
The best way to beat athlete's foot is to not get it in the first place. Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus that is easily transmitted from damp, contaminated surfaces, so it is important to:
- Avoid direct contact with possible contaminated areas (like community showers in a gym).
- Change sweaty socks.
- Thoroughly dry your feet.
Q: Are calluses bad? Should I cut them off?
A: Calluses and corns are areas of thick, hard skin that form on your foot due to pressure on your foot. Calluses are normal and typically do not have to be treated unless they cause you pain.
You should never cut off calluses on your own. This can cause an infection and can be extremely dangerous if you have diabetes. One home treatment is to soak your feet in warm water and then wear away the dead skin with a pumice stone. You can also use orthotic inserts, and wear better-fitting shoes to reduce the pressure on your feet, lessening the development of calluses.
Q: How can I avoid ingrown toenails?
A: The easiest way to avoid ingrown toenails is to cut your nails in a straight line. You can slightly round the edges with a nail file; however, you should not cut down the side of your nail. You can also soften rough skin around your nail with moisturizer and a pumice stone.
Q: What can I do about dry/cracked feet?
A: Many times overly dry feet, especially cracked heels, are an issue of heredity. However, you can reduce these issues by moisturizing your feet in the morning and before bed. If possible, you should also wear socks to bed to allow the cream to work. You should also remove hardened skin with a pumice stone. Prior to using the pumice stone, be sure the skin has been softened somewhat by the moisturizer or by soaking your feet.
Q: How can I combat foot odor?
A: There are some simple steps in reducing foot odor. The first step, obviously, is to thoroughly wash your feet every day, including in between your toes (where bacteria can develop). You should also dry your feet and apply a powder to reduce perspiration. Another important tip is to wear cotton, wool, or moisture-wicking socks and change your socks at least once a day. If possible, do not wear the same shoes every day – this allows the insole to completely dry before you wear them again to reduce the growth of bacteria. If you continue to have foot odor, visit your podiatrist for an evaluation.
Q: What are bunions and how do you fix them?
A: Bunions are bony bumps on the joint of your big or little toe. These protrusions are actually the progression of the misalignment of your toe. They can be caused by heredity, faulty foot mechanics, and even the shoes you wear.
You can treat bunions by:
- Cushioning the bunion.
- Taking over-the-counter medication for the pain.
- Wearing shoes that do not put pressure on the bunion.
If the pain of your bunion cannot be relieved by any other method, surgery is an option.
Q: How can I tell whether my ankle is sprained or broken?
A: It is difficult to differentiate between the symptoms of a severe sprain and a broken ankle. Because of this, the only way you can truly determine if your ankle is sprained or broken is to have an X-ray taken.
Q: What's a stress fracture? How is it different from a regular fracture?
A: A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone caused by overuse. Stress fractures often affect athletes who perform repetitive motions, like a runner's foot constantly hitting the pavement.
Typical (non-stress) fractures occur from trauma and can be more severe than a small crack in the bone, although a hairline fracture is not a complete break in the bone.
Q: What are shin splints and how do you treat them?
A: A shin splint is an inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and tissue of the shinbone. This painful condition is often caused by overuse or an increase in activity level.
The best treatment for shin splints is rest. The inflamed area can also be iced and elevated to reduce inflammation.
Q: What is plantar fasciitis?
A: The most common cause of heel pain, plantar fasciitis is the irritation and inflammation of the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that supports your foot's arch. There are various causes of plantar fasciitis, including:
- Being overweight.
- Flat feet.
- High arches.
- Inward rolling your feet (pronation).
- Long periods of standing or walking on a hard surface.
Q: Why are my feet always cold?
A: Cold feet can be a symptom of poor circulation or Raynaud's disease. If you have consistently cold feet, you should check with your doctor to make sure it is not a sign of a bigger problem.
Q: Why are high heels "bad"?
A: The design of high heels, from the elevated heel to the narrow toe box, can contribute to various foot conditions, including:
- Achilles tendinitis.
- Benign tumors of nerves (neuromas).
- Pain in ball of foot (metatarsalgia).
- Pump bump (Haglund's deformity).
Q: What is an orthotic?
A: An orthotic is a replacement for the insole of your shoe. These inserts can be firm or soft and are used to support your foot and ankle, allowing for improved function and reduction of additional foot conditions. You can use over-the-counter orthotic inserts, or consult your podiatrist about custom-made orthotics that are tailored to correct your specific condition.
Q: Does my orthotic need to be replaced?
A: Orthotic inserts do not last forever. As the orthotic loses its shape and contours, it loses effectiveness. The lifespan of an orthotic depends on your level of activity and the type of orthotic you have. Typically, over-the-counter orthotic inserts will last about one year. Custom orthotic inserts may last three to five years.
Q: How do I know when it's time for new shoes?
A: In most cases, running and walking shoes can last for 350 to 500 miles. However, you should also pay attention to:
- Pain developing from wearing your shoes.
- Reduced cushioning.
- Stretched heel area.
- The condition of your insole.
- Visible signs of wear on your soles.