Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itching, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark areas such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, commons areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot is difficult to treat as well because of the highly contagious and recurrent nature of the fungus.
Tinea is the same fungus that causes ringworm, and is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow and spread, this is the most commonly affected area. It is, however, known to grow in other places. The term athlete’s foot describes tinea that grows strictly on the feet.
The most commonly infected body parts are the hands, groin, and scalp, as well as the feet. Around 70% of the population suffer from tinea infections at some point in their lives, however not all of these cases are athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others, such as people with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring ones. The extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.
Sometimes people will not even know that they are infected with tinea or that they have athlete’s foot because of a lack of symptoms. However, most experience mild to moderate flaking, itching, redness, and burning. However, some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itching and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.
Because of the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the athlete’s foot it causes, the best way to treat this condition is with prevention. You can take some preventative measures such as wearing flip flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers to reduce contact with the floor. It also helps to keep clean, dry feet while allowing them to breathe. Using powders to keep your feet dry is a good idea, as well as keeping your feet exposed to light and cool air, to prevent the growth of tinea. If you do happen to get athlete’s foot, opt for using topical medicated creams, ointments or sprays. These treatments help eliminate and prevent it from coming back.
Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity. Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.
Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.
Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.
For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.
If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.
Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.
When it comes to maintaining foot health, wearing properly-fitting shoes is important. While wearing the appropriate pair of shoes may seem like a trivial concern, the reality is that improperly fitted shoes cause an astounding amount of injuries to the feet. The overall structure and the biomechanics of our bodies are directly affected by our posture, gait, and feet. Because of this, pain and discomfort felt throughout the body are often related to a problem in the feet. And, most foot problems usually stem from improper footwear.
Shoes should not be purchased with the expectation that they will easily stretch and contort to the size and shape of your feet. When shopping for footwear, look for shoes that fit correctly and comfortably as soon as you put them on. Do not purchase shoes that are too large or that slip in the heel area when you walk. Do not choose shoes that are loose with the intention of wearing thicker socks to compensate for the space. The widest portion of the shoe, the ball of the foot, must be made sure to fit comfortably in the shoe.
Keeping all of these suggestions in mind may be difficult when shopping and when trying to select from a wide array of different shoes. Nonetheless, your time and money will be wasted if you purchase a pair of shoes that are too uncomfortable for you to actually wear them. After finally selecting and purchasing a pair of shoes, try them on at home. To truly ensure whether or not your shoes fit comfortably with normal activity, walk around on a carpeted surface to determine how they feel on your feet.
The possibility of damaging your feet’s 33 joints, 26 bones, and 100+ ligaments is much higher than many people suspect. Finding an appropriate and properly-fitted pair of shoes is perhaps the single most important action you can take to maintain excellent foot health and help prevent injury. The fact that our feet continue to change with age is one that many people often forget. Even if our feet no longer change in size when we mature, our feet will still change in shape.
If you already have pre-existing foot problems, there is a greater possibility that wearing improperly-fitted shoes will worsen those problems. The good news, however, is that appropriate footwear is not difficult to find. While shopping for shoes, remember that improper footwear can detrimentally affect the feet, the entire body and its biomechanical structure as well. The shoes you wear can greatly impact your legs, back, and entire body, as your posture and gait are related to your feet. Finding and selecting the best properly-fitted shoes is necessary in achieving optimal health.