The holidays are over, and January is upon us. This may mean getting back to work after a break, or starting a new habit to stay more active. Whether it is more activity or a new activity that is now part of your daily life, your feet may be taking a beating. You do not need to live with this pain, there are some ways to relieve your pain.
Make sure you have proper shoe gear
Whether you have started a new job, a new hobby, or a new exercise regimen, it is imparative that you make sure that you have the proper shoe gear. If this means you have to wear dress shoes to your job, make sure you have the appropriate size and a shoe that fits comfortably. If you have started a new hobby or sport, make sure you have shoes that are specific for that. For example, a patient of mine just started tennis after a long time. I made sure to advise her to get tennis shoes, and not just wear her regular cross trainers or running shoes. This is because tennis shoes, or court shoes, have a shoe structure that gives support to your feet in areas that are needed for tha particular sport. In this case, it is more cushioning and support for lateral (side - to -side) movements as on a tennis court. This shoe structure makes it different than a running shoe that may have more cushioning in the ball of the foot and in the heel that are needed for running. So in order to prevent foot aching and pain, be sure to have the proper shoe gear for your activity.
If the shoe fits...
Now that you have the proper shoe gear, it is important to make sure it fits well. The best time to do shoe shopping is at the end of the day versus the morning, because by the end of the day, your foot may be a little bigger due to swelling. And you want to make sure the shoe fits and is comfortable at the end of the day just as it does at the beginning of the day. Another important determination is the correct size. I have so many patients that have not had their feet sized or measured in years! They think because they were a size 9 a few years ago, they will always be a size 9. It is important to remember that as we grow older, our feet can get bigger. It is not that the bones themselves grow; growth plates close in our late teenage years. However it is the ligaments between all the 28 bones of the foot that expand. Because of the soft tissue (ligaments, tendons) that stretch out, it appears the the foot has "grown" and in a way, it has. As time goes on, your feet can grow anywhere from a half a size to a size and a half or two sizes up. For this reason, it is important to have your foot measured at least once a year. In kids, you want to make sure it is done at least every 6 months as you know they are growing; however in adults, measuring your feet at the shoe store with a Brannock device will ensure that you are wearing the right size.
By wearing the correct shoe size, you can limit aches and pains in your feet. Make sure the shoe doesn't slip in the back of the heel, and make sure the toe box is wide enough so your toes aren't smashed together. If you get blisters or sores at the end of the day, you know that there may be a problem with the fitting of those shoes.
Too much too soon - pace yourself
If you have started a new sport or have tried to become more active and your feet start hurting, it may be an instance of "too much too soon." It is important to pace yourself,. If your goal is to walk or run a 5 K, there are online schedules that break each distance down into something manageable. Just becuase you CAN walk for an hour after not on a walking program, does not mean you have to, otherwise you may have aches and pains in your feet and ankles and legs due to over exerting your muscles. If you are at a new job that requires you to be on your feet for hours at a time, remember to take a break when you can and take a load off. This will lessen the load and decrease the aches and pains in your feet.
Elevate your feet at the end of the day
At the end of the day, elevate your feet if you need to. Elevating your feet may decrease any swelling, or edema, that has occurred where fluid my pool at your ankles or feet. Elevating your feet also allows your veins to return blood to your heart easier as it works against gravity, improving circulation. And getting pressure off or your feet just feels better.
Compression socks may help
Compression socks help decrease edema and swelling that cause pain in your feet and ankles. The best benefit of this is that it reduces the chances of getting a DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, a type of bloodclot. It also helps in other circulation problems, such as vericose veins, which can also cause pain.
Maybe that activity isn't for you? Or maybe it just needs to be modified
So you tried that new activity or that new sport, and it just was not what you expected. Not everyone is a runner; you may have to change your activity to be less wear and tear on your joints. For example, its OK to walk/jog that 5K. Or it is is OK to do that aerobic activity low impact style without jumping - and this will also cause less pain in your feet and ankles.
Hydration and nutrition have a role
Cramping in muscles can also cause pain. Some of my patients feel pain and cramping when they are trying to fall asleep. One way to ensure decrease in muscle cramping is proper hydration.
Nutrition also has a role; proper nutrition along with hydration can make sure you have the fuel you need and the electrolyte balance to prevent pain and cramping.
Nothing like a good stretch and light massage
Stretching before and after an activity can also help prevent pain. Active dynamic stretching is far superior than standing and stretching. This is because it is good to warm up your muscles and tendons before you start stretching them.
Sometimes stretching cold without a warm up can actually aggravate your muscles and tendons causing pain. Gentle massage with range of motion exercises may also help decrase pain in the areas that are affected.
With a few tips and suggestions, you can try to troubleshooot how to treat and prevent aches and pains in your feet and ankles. Of course, if none of these work, it is always prudent to make an appointment with your podiatrist for discussions of the various treatments that can help to get you out of pain. There are a lot of non invasive modalities to decrease swelling and pain, and our doctors will be able to determine the cause, give you a diagnosis, and start a treatment plan. But the treatment plan starts with you and trying some of the methods listed above first.