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Foot pain: How to deal with it

Dr Piccora is an Associate Professor on the faculty of the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. Currently, Dr Piccora serves as chairman of Podiatry for Gramercy Surgery Center. He is board certified by the American Board of Podiatric...

Learning about foot pain

Unless they're killing us, most Americas don't give much thought to our feet. Even though they support us and carry us everywhere - an average of more than 50,000 miles by the time we're 50 years old - we don't spend as much time or money on our feet as we do on our faces or our hair.

Perhaps we should. Whether we notice or not, our feet take a beating, and all those miles can definitely take a toll, leaving feet looking - and feeling - battered.

Why we hate our feet

According to a recent survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association, more than a quarter of US women say they hate their feet, most often because of the way they look. What's more, more than half of all adults say they regularly experience foot pain.

Foot Fact:

People ages 36 to 45 report more acute pain than any other age group.

Living without foot pain

The truth is, having painful or unattractive feet is not an inevitable part of life. No one should consider foot problems "normal," says Robert Piccora, DPM, an Associate Professor at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine and chairman of Podiatry at Gramercy Surgery Center in New York City. "Sure, your feet might feel a little sore after you've been on them more than usual - maybe you went for a long hike or spent the day shopping," he says. "And you might get a blister if you wear shoes that don't fit perfectly. But if you're in pain - or if you notice any bumps, bulges or bends in your feet - you should pay attention."

Common types of foot pain and causes

Some of the most common types of pain come from problems with the toe joints, says Dr Piccora, and the most common types of these problems are bunions - caused by misalignment in the junction of the big toe and the foot - and hammertoes, which are deformities in the second or third toe joints. Unlike more superficial problems, such as blisters and calluses, these conditions are the result of changes in the bony framework in the foot. They look bad, they often feel worse, and they won't go away on their own.

"Both bunions and hammertoes tend to run in families," Dr Piccora says. They're often caused by an inherited defect in the mechanical structure of the foot, which creates abnormal stresses and, eventually, deformities in the bone and joint. "You don't inherit the problem," he explains, "just the predisposition." Other causes are foot injuries, neuromuscular disorders, arthritis and congenital deformities such as flat feet or low arches. People whose jobs place a lot of stress on their feet, such as ballet dancers, are also prone to developing bunions and hammertoes.

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