COLUMBIA, Mo. - As warmer weather invites people outside for spring and summer activities such as walking and running, orthopaedic surgeons expect to treat more foot and ankle injuries. Because April is Foot Health Awareness Month, University of Missouri Health Care foot and ankle specialists are providing tips on foot care.
"Walking is such a basic part of our lives that people often don't think about their feet until they have a problem," said Kyle Fiala, DPM, a foot and ankle specialist at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute. "But with 26 bones and 33 joints, the human foot is an incredibly complex part of the body and one we rely on every day. By caring for your feet, you can stay active and enhance the health of your entire body."
Many of the foot and ankle injuries physicians see in the spring and summer result from overactivity, Fiala said. People generally are less physically active during the winter months, and they want to rush into outdoor activities such as running and sports when the weather warms. But it's important to ease yourself into exercise, he said.
"Like the rest of the body, your feet adjust to the amount and type of activity you do," Fiala said. "If you're new to running, or you have taken it easy for a few months, set a goal to gradually build your speed and distance over time. Don't jump into your first week by sprinting or running several miles. That's something you can build up to over the course of several weeks."
Fiala offers these additional tips to people wanting to reduce their risk of foot and ankle injuries, such as muscle and tendon sprains and tears:
· Wear comfortable, supportive shoes. The soles should have some flexibility, but you shouldn't be able to fold them to the point the toe can touch the heel.
· For physical activity, choose shoes that allow your feet to breathe and sweat to evaporate.
· Check that your shoes fit properly. There should be approximately a thumb-width of space between your toe and the end of the shoe.
· Exercise your toes by picking up a ball or a sock with them. Toe strength is important to your balance and propulsion as you walk and run.
· Stretch your feet and ankles. Try to outline the alphabet with your feet, or stand on an incline to stretch your Achilles' tendon.
In addition to injuries cause by overactivity, the foot and ankle specialists at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute treat other conditions, including foot conditions caused by diabetes and heart disease; arch problems, such as flat feet or high arches; and conditions such as tendinitis, bunions and arthritis.
"We see patients of all ages, from children to older adults," said Ben Summerhays, DPM, a foot and ankle specialist at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute. "We also provide a complete range of treatment options for patients, from orthotics to provide the foot with proper support to injections to relieve tendon and muscle pain and reconstructive surgery to correct abnormal arches."
For more information about foot and ankle health, visit www.muhealth.org/ortho.