Do you ever think about your feet and the job that they do for you? Approximately 20 percent of the bones in your body are in your feet. Each foot has 33 joints and 120 muscles, ligaments and nerves.

The average person stands approximately four hours a day, taking 8,000-10,000 steps. Your foot absorbs 50 percent of your body weight with each step. If you are running or jumping, your feet will absorb three times your body weight.

This means your feet absorb tons of weight each day.

The causes of foot pain are trauma and/or disease. Poor fitting shoes or a blunt force can injure the foot. Diseases such as diabetes, gout, arthritis and obesity can lead to foot pain.

Location of your foot pain is important. Is your pain in the heel, arch or near your toes?

When evaluating an athlete with foot pain, we ask them to bring their sports shoes to the appointment. The type of shoe is important. Does the patient have a high arch or low arch? Different-shaped feet will require different support.

I also want to know what sports they are doing and if they have changed the amount or intensity of their training. What is the surface they are playing on: grass, artificial turf, pavement, wood floor or clay?

Do you have calluses or corns? This may mean you have a foot imbalance or your shoes do not fit you properly.

I was driving home from a day of skiing at Sunday River on a Saturday during Presidents Day weekend. I got a call from another health care provider, who was calling on behalf of his daughter, who previously was a patient. He had me evaluate and treat her prior to major races to make sure she was in perfect balance, or to treat a hip injury that periodically bothered her after a hard run.

This time she had pain in her arch. The day before, she stepped out of the shower and hurt her foot. Bad timing, because the state championships were on that Monday, Presidents Day.

Examination of her foot revealed tenderness over the navicular bone, which is at the top of the arch. The bone shifts very slightly and had lost its joint play or motion.

I recommended manipulation of this bone, and they both agreed to the procedure.

The tenderness to her arch was reduced and the joint play was restored.

Her father called me after the meet; she broke a state record held for over 20 years.

Keeping your feet strong and flexible is a must. To strengthen your feet, try picking up a towel with your toes, walking barefoot on the grass or beach or wearing a pair of Nike Free shoes.

Shoes can be too stiff and alter normal foot function. Premier athletes, including Kobe Bryant, are playing in low cut sneakers to increase flexibility in their foot and ankle.

Many shoes are tight in the forefoot and squeeze your feet. Wearing yoga toes for 15 minutes spreads your toes apart while you are resting. Placing a towel under your arch and pulling also lengthens and strengthens the muscles and tendons of your feet.

If you have acute or persistent foot pain, see a health care provider to help you diagnosis the cause.

 

Dr. Robert Lynch is a former president of the Maine Chiropractic Association and head of the Lynch Chiropractic Center in South Portland. “Staying in the Game” appears every other Thursday in the Press Herald.