In today’s health conscious world, most of us appreciate the value of exercise. For some of us, however, high-impact activities like running are simply not possible…at least, not yet. That’s why so many of us turn to walking. A low impact sport, it still helps burn calories. And it can help boost your fitness level if you’re trying to build up to get in running shape.

Sometimes, however, even walking can hurt us. Here are 3 factors that can impact your ability to walk comfortably. If any of these sound familiar, be sure to schedule an appointment with our Elmhurst podiatrists so you can get back out there!

 

TOE PAIN

If the side of your big toe hurts when you walk, that could mean a bunion is forming (or has already emerged. Bunions present as large, bony bumps on the outside of your foot, usually beneath your big toe, but sometimes underneath your baby toe (bunionettes.) These growths develop when your bones come out alignment. In addition to the visible bump, you may also develop pain, swelling and redness.

If you’ve got low arches, flat feet, poor shoe choices or a family history, you’re more likely to develop a bunion, but bunions can happen to anyone.

Your treatment will depend on the size of your bunion. If it’s just emerging, padding and better shoe choices may be sufficient. Daily icing periods may help resolve some of the discomfort, and orthotic inserts can work to resolve some of the alignment issues that caused the bunion to form in the first place.

Of course, if your bunion is large or making life extremely difficult, we may recommend surgical correction. But that’s a discussion to have after exploring less invasive options.

 

HEEL PAIN

If you feel pain in your heel when you walk (and when you first step out of bed in the morning) it could be a sign of plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis sets in when you’re the connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be caused by tight calf muscles, or an Achilles tendon injury, since both of those issues can pull on and irritate your plantar fascia.

Plantar fasciitis is typically an overuse injury, so the first line of defense may be t rest a bit. We can also recommend a regimen of OTC anti-inflammatories and daily icing. In combination with daily toe, foot and calf stretches, this will usually resolve your heel pain in a matter of weeks.

Here’s a word of caution: if you ignore minor heel pain, it won’t just go away. In fact, it’s likely to get worse! But don’t worry. If you’re already there, we can still help. In our office, we also offer MLS laser treatments that have proven to be very effective at resolving persistent heel pain.

 

PAIN IN YOUR SHINS Orthotics may help make walking more comfortable

If your shins hurt when you walk, one of two problems could be at play: shin splints or a stress fracture.

Shin splints are a condition in which repetitive impacts have caused tiny tears to develop in the muscles or bones in your shin. If you have a stress fracture, the trauma of overuse has taken a greater toll on your shin bones, actually causing small fractures to develop.

For both conditions, resting is an absolute must. If too much walking has caused this problem, walking for exercise won’t be an option for a while.

With shin splints, rest and ice will typically resolve your pain in a fairly short amount of time. With a stress fracture, you’re likely staring at a six to eight week recovery period. But don’t let that scare you out of seeking treatment. If you try to push through the pain, you’ll only make your injury worse. And that, of course, will just mean a longer time abstaining from physical activity.

 

For anyone trying to stay active, pain is a problem. But for those of you who are smart enough to seek help at the first sign of discomfort, it’s likely to just be a small bump in the road—one you can quickly get past to resume regular activity. Ignore minor pain, however, and don’t be surprised to find yourself out of the walking game for much longer than you could have imagined.

 

Jordana White
Jordana Rothstein White