If you’re struggling with plantar fasciitis, flat feet, ankle issues or any other trouble, you’ll want to bookmark this advice.
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Stretching, icing and strengthening your feet are key to alleviating foot pain.
No body part may get more daily use than our feet. As soon as they hit the floor in the morning, they are working hard to support us, and they don’t stop until our final tasks before bed. So it makes sense that they might get worn out, broken down or injured.
Whether you are dealing with a chronic foot issue or just need some relief for your aching feet, doctors have specific tips and products that they swear by for foot pain. Check out their recommendations below:
Ditch your unsupportive shoes.
If you love ballet flats or flip-flops, you’re probably not doing your feet any favors. Dr. Vikas Godhania, a podiatrist at Austin Regional Clinic, said these types of shoes don’t have enough of a heel and not nearly enough arch support.
“These can be hard on your feet and can add stress to the ligaments that support the arch,” he told HuffPost, noting that this can make conditions such as plantar fasciitis ― the most common cause of foot pain ― much worse.
Swap out your unsupportive shoes for those with better arch support and a slightly higher heel to combat this, and opt for stiffer shoes over ones that bend easily.
Take it easy with heels, too.
While your favorite pair of stilettos might be ready to party, your feet might regret it. Dr. Patrick McEneaney, a foot and ankle surgeon at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, pointed out that moderation is key.
“Obviously it doesn’t help with any of these conditions, but I tell my patients you’ve got to live a little, but be smart about it,” he told HuffPost.
Specifically, he said you should avoid wearing high heels all day. Instead, pick and choose to wear them to an important meeting or special event and then change into other shoes to give your feet a break.
Godhania added that bunions especially can worsen with poor shoe choices, saying, “Wearing tight, narrow shoes can often make bunions painful and contribute to them getting worse.”
Consider whether your slightly-too-tight shoes might come in size “wide” to give your feet more breathing room.
Consult a doctor instead of waiting it out.
Multiple experts advised that you shouldn’t wait to get help if you have foot pain, as there are many available treatments. Early intervention can help you prevent worse problems later on.
For example, McEneaney said there’s a very simple solution to ingrown toenails, a common cause of foot pain. In just a few minutes, without surgery, a doctor can numb and trim the affected nail and apply medicine to prevent it from growing that way anymore. He doesn’t think people should wait to see a foot specialist for more than a few weeks after the pain begins.
“Don’t let foot pain hold you back from being active,” Godhania added. “Speak to a doctor about how you can get relief. Most foot pain can be resolved without an invasive procedure.”
Don’t walk barefoot when you have foot pain (at all, period).
People with foot injuries such as plantar fasciitis shouldn’t spend any time barefoot, which can further aggravate the condition, McEneaney said.
Instead, make sure an ultra-supportive pair of shoes is always nearby, even for middle-of-the-night bathroom trips. This might be an adjustment at first, since many of us don’t realize how frequently we go barefoot — in the mornings before we first leave the house, at night before bed ― but it’s crucial for helping you heal.
Consider custom orthotics, or at least supportive inserts.
The inserts that come in your sneakers might not be doing nearly enough to counteract your foot pain. McEneaney suggested opting for better support over the initially more comfortable options.
“Cushions are going to feel better, but there should be … some amount of firmness,” he said.
Some people, especially those who have pain due to flat feet, might need custom-molded orthotics. He is a fan of Aetrex inserts but said he hopes people will seek out an “actual store” that can fit them properly for orthotics if needed.
“I retired from the NFL when I did because I was experiencing debilitating pain from chronic plantar fasciitis,” said Robinson, who didn’t find relief until he invested in custom arch supports. He added that he hopes others don’t wait to get a customized experience.
Repurpose tennis balls and water bottles for at-home relief.
Relief doesn’t have to come in the form of expensive or hard-to-find items. Instead, you might already have the most helpful tools on hand.
McEneaney recommended freezing a tennis ball or water bottle and then rolling it under your foot for quick pain relief that doubles as an ice and stretching treatment. He said this trick has worked well for his patients dealing with heel pain. Various companies offer underfoot rollers that he said are “fancier,” but they essentially accomplish the same thing as a ball or bottle.
Make sure to stretch and strengthen all the areas associated with foot pain, including your calves.
Experts said stretching your calves can improve foot pain in many circumstances. You can do this by standing on a step with your heels off of it or by using a stretching band.
You can also use a slant board to assist you with the positioning and ensure you get the proper stretch.
“Those work well for people who sit a lot. They tend to have problems when they get up,” McEneaney said. “Put a slant board under your desk, and when you’re sitting in your chair, you lean forward while you’re in your chair to stretch.”
Additionally, your workouts can cause foot issues if you try to level up too quickly. This is also where stretching, strengthening and recovery come into play.
“Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of the tendon that connects your calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone,” Godhania said. “It is a common issue among runners who increase their workout too quickly or who add hills to their running routine.”
“Every day we stress our feet, which means every day we must recover our feet,” she said. “In addition, if we do not strengthen our feet, they will just get weaker.”
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