A foot without pain is an important part of feeling good and staying active. Foot pain can keep a person from doing things they enjoy. It can also be a sign of injury or illness. Do not ignore foot pain. It is not normal. Learn what to do to prevent foot pain and how to best support people to have happy, healthy feet.
If someone is having pain, it may be as a result of one of these common foot problems. A doctor should evaluate and recommend the best treatment for each of these.
- A bunion is a bony bump that sticks out from the side of your foot at the base of the big toe. One in three older adults has a bunion. Bunions can cause pain, affect balance and increase the risk of falling, especially in older adults.
- Hammertoes occur when the middle toes begin to curl downward.
- Calluses and corns are patches of thick, hard skin caused by constant pressure and rubbing. Moisturizing feet to keep them soft and supple can help.
- If an individual has flat feet, then the entire sole of the foot makes contact with the ground.
- If an individual gets a blister, DON’T pop it. Use antibiotic cream and a bandage. Using Vaseline can help protect against blisters.
Be aware of these and other signs and symptoms of foot injury or illness. Toes that are always too cold or too hot, thickening or discoloration of toenails, swollen feet, pain in the big toe, itchy feet, sudden or severe foot pain – these are all things that should be evaluated by a doctor.
When using a public swimming pool or shower, wear water shoes or flip flops to protect feet from water that may carry these bacteria or fungi.
- Athlete’s foot is a virus. Symptoms include burning, itching, redness, and peeling of feet.
- Warts are rough, grainy growths on the skin.
- Nail fungus, which can enter the toe nail through a crack or break, can cause nails to become brittle, thick, and discolored.
People with diabetes need to take special care to protect feet from injury. Diabetes may cause loss of feeling in the feet, making it hard to know if the person is injured. Diabetes slows the healing process, increasing the possibility for infection. People with diabetes should take these additional steps to keep their feet happy and healthy.
- Check feet every day for blisters, cuts, scratches or any break in the skin. Immediately treat any injury.
- Never take the risk of walking barefoot.
- Talk to the doctor about things to do to reduce risk. Make sure the doctor checks their feet at every visit.
- Keep feet clean. Everyday, make sure that part of person care is to wash feet in warm soapy water. Wash the underside of the feet and between the toes. Use a mild bar soap with a moisturizer like aloe vera, vitamin E or sweet almond so as not to dry skin.
- Gently dry – don’t rub – feet. Support individuals to dry between the toes. Moisture, especially between the toes, may cause an infection or help fungus, like Athlete’s foot, to grow.
- Keep the skin on feet soft to prevent calluses and cracks. After washing and drying feet, use a moisturizing skin cream. Rub gently into skin. Do not put cream between toes. Do not use perfumed lotions on feet as they can irritate skin.
- Change socks every day. The best socks are soft and cushioned. Cotton or wool socks breathe and help to keep feet dry. Polyester or nylon socks are not as good. Dirty socks can cause foot odor and other problems.
- Check toenails. Make sure they are properly trimmed – straight across and not too short. Use a nail clipper, not scissors. Do not use a sharp pointed file or anything that might break the skin to clean around the nail. If toenails need extra cleaning, a soft brush works well. You may also need to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist if you are unsure about caring for toenails for the people you support.
- Wearing shoes that fit is a must for healthy feet. When supporting individuals in buying shoes, make sure there is plenty of room for toes to move. Pointy shoes will likely cause calluses and pain. Do not get high heels as they are not safe and can create serious foot problems. Choose comfort over the latest style!
- If you are supporting individuals in purchasing shoes, make sure to have feet measured. Ask the person to wear the socks he or she will wear with the shoes. Be aware that feet swell as the day goes on. Shop at the end of the day for a better fit.
- Buy shoes that are made of comfortable, supportive materials. Soft leather is good. Breathable tennis (athletic) shoes are good. Thick soled shoes can help cushion feet when walking on a hard surface. Do not buy plastic shoes. They may cause blisters and other problems. Always go for comfort!
- Protect feet. You and the people you support should not wear flip flops on a regular basis. Flip flops or sandals can make you curl your toes to keep them on and that may cause serious foot pain. Shoes without support or protection can mean misery!
Having healthy feet also means eating right and exercising. Encourage individuals to:
- Vitamin D to build strong bones.
- Do weight bearing exercises regularly. Walk 5 times a week for at least 30 minutes. Take tai chi or do yoga.
- Work on balance to prevent falls. Falls can cause injury to feet, hips, and elsewhere. Take tai chi and other exercises to strengthen muscles.
Use this article and materials in the Healthy, Happy Feet content package [http://ddssafety.net/health/foot-care] to learn how to keep feet pain free - yours and the people you support.
- Supporter Article – Supporting People to Have Healthy, Happy Feet
- Knowledge Check – Healthy, Happy Feet
Tools for individuals:
- Tip Sheet #1 – Choose Comfortable Shoes
- Tip Sheet #2 – Healthy, Happy Feet
- Happy Feet Video – Five Things to Do Every Day to Have Happy Feet
For additional information on recognizing and treating common foot problems, go to: