They Are More Than Just Diabetic Shoes! Common Foot Conditions Requiring Orthopedic Shoes

by Cindy

Foot Conditions That Require Orthopedic Shoes

There are a host of foot problems that cause pain and complications for all patients, including patients with diabetes.  As earlier post discussed, purchasing the right orthopedic shoes is important to prevent diabetic foot complications.  Even if you don’t have diabetes, your feet are important.  You rely on them to carry you throughout your daily activities without causing you pain.  The foot puts up with a lot of abuse, and over time can develop painful structural deformities.  If you suspect that you have one of the following common foot conditions, see your doctor and consider purchasing special orthopedic shoes. 

  • Bunions:  Hallux valgus, commonly known as bunion, is a very common foot abnormality.  This condition is characterized by deformity of the big toe.  Patients complain of a large, sometimes painful bump at the base of the great toe and they notice that the toe deviates away from the midline.  Bunions can become very painful, red and swollen as the deformity worsens.  This pain may eventually limit a patient’s mobility.  The bunion deformity is caused by pressure on the first metatarsal head.  Typically tight shoes and structural abnormalities of the foot are to blame for this deformity.  The best defense against bunions is to discard old shoes that are too tight.  Look for orthopedic shoes with thick cushioning, a wide toe box and extra depth.  A foot specialist may also recommend using special padding over the bunion to reduce friction and pain.
  • Hammer Toes: The hammer toe deformity is characterized by abnormal bending of a toe at the middle joint.  This foot abnormality typically affects the second, third and fourth toes.  People with hammer toes may develop other foot problems, such as callouses, corns and pain.  Like bunions, poorly fitting shoes are often to blame for this condition.  Poor muscle coordination and structural deformities can also contribute to formation of hammer toes. If treated early surgery can often be avoided because measures can be taken to retrain the foot muscles to correct the deformity.
  • Flat Foot:  Pes Planus, or flat foot, is a common orthopedic condition that is characterized by the loss of the arch of the foot.  Deformities of the connective tissue in the foot, particularly the posterior tibial tendon, results in fallen arches.  Patients with arthritis, diabetes and obesity are also at risk for developing flat feet.  The flat foot deformity typically is not painful unless the foot rolls inward (pronates) and causes stress on the ankle and knees.  Patients who have flexible flat foot may notice that the foot arch is present when seated but disappears when standing. This condition is treated with orthotic shoe inserts that correct the arch abnormality.  If the arch is always absent, surgical correction may be indicated.
  • Ingrown Toe Nails: This foot condition occurs when part of the nail grows into the skin causing inflammation, pain and infection.  Trauma, infection, incorrect nail trimming and, of course, improperly fitted footwear, are to blame for this condition. If an ingrown toe nail does not improve with warm water soaks or begins to show signs of infection, it should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.  Patients with diabetes should not delay care!  Ask your foot specialist to review proper nail trimming techniques. Purchase orthopedic shoes that have a wide toe box to prevent recurrent ingrown toe nails.
  • Morton’s Neuroma:  A Morton’s neuroma is a small lump of fibrous tissue that is found on the bottom of the foot, typically between the third and fourth toes.  This bump forms due to repetitive trauma to the common digital nerve in the foot.  Patients will often describe a sharp, burning pain in the foot and toes that is often accompanied by numbness.  High heel shoes are largely to blame for this condition.  Physical therapy, shoes inserts and quality orthopedic footwear is often the only treatment that is required for Morton’s neuroma.
  • Plantar Fasciitis:  Plantar fasciitis is a very painful condition that is caused by irritation and inflammation of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. Patients often complain of heel pain that extends along the base of the foot when weight bearing.  Pain is worse after inactivity and first thing in the morning.  As the plantar fascia stretches, pain improves.  Plantar fasciitis usually responds well to stretching exercises, non-steroid anti-inflammatory pain medications and proper footwear.  Occasionally, steroid injections may be used to decrease inflammation more quickly.  Even with treatment, plantar fasciitis can be quite painful and can take several months to a year to resolve.
  • Charcot Foot: Charcot foot is a serious complication of diabetes.  Due to poor circulation and loss of sensation in the foot patients develop repetitive foot trauma, resulting in weak bones, fracture and deformity in the bones and joints of the foot.  Patients with Charcot foot will notice pain, swelling and decreased joint mobility that slowly worsens over time.  If left untreated, the patient may develop foot sores, bone infections, and severe foot deformities.  Treatment for Charcot foot is lengthy and complicated, requiring months of immobility and limited weight bearing.  Sometimes surgical procedures are warranted if there is a significant abnormality, unstable fracture or bone infection.

For patients with diabetes pampering your feet is extremely important to prevent serious complications from diabetes. If you buy diabetic shoes and correct these common foot deformities, you will prevent pain, swelling and inflammation and significantly reduce your risk of losing a toe or foot to complications from diabetes.

Selecting proper footwear and prompt evaluation by a trained foot specialist is recommended for any patient with foot pain and deformity.  Patients with any of these painful foot conditions should discuss the use of orthopedic shoes, or diabetic shoes, with their podiatrist as almost all of these problems can be linked to improper footwear.  Look for quality, well cushioned shoes with a wide area to accommodate the toes.  Consider extra deep shoes to allow for orthopedic inserts and special cushioning.  Avoid shoes that are narrow, tight or have a high heel. Orthopedic shoes for diabetics and others are now available in a wide range of styles and colors for both men and women.  Check out many of the online retailors for more information, or visit a local specialty shoe store.

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