Walking through COVID-19
“The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone, the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone.” Sound familiar? Well, considering each foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons, truer words were never spoken. And let’s face it, since COVID, we’ve been asking a lot of our feet.
Our favourite walking trails have now become mini highways of people seeking fresh air, exercise and mental wellbeing. This is all good, but that excessive and repetitive motion have many making a beeline to their foot doctor complaining of foot aches and pains.
Peter Charbonneau, pedorthist at Cleveland Clinic in Toronto, has noticed an increase in appointments from kids and adults. “The most common affliction these days is metatarsalgia,” says Charbonneau. “It’s a painful foot condition in the metatarsal region, often referred to as the ball-of-the-foot. Over time, due to excessive pressure, the metatarsal heads become painful and inflamed.”
There are also many other issues at play, says Jim Marando, chiropodist at the Niagara Foot Care Clinic in Grimsby, Ontario. “Unfortunately, kids are not getting enough exercise, so their feet are weaker and have limited pedal power and/or joint range of motion. So not only is their foot impacted, but so are their lower leg muscles; they have weaker hip abductors/glutes and a weak core.”
Getting the correct diagnosis and seeing your foot care specialist is key in determining the cause of the pain and accessing remedies. If the problem does not resolve with modified activity, you may have a “mechanical” foot issue. Conservative treatment involves unloading pressure to the ball-of-the-foot. This can be accomplished with either off-the-shelf footbeds or prescription orthotics that usually feature a metatarsal pad. Icing the painful area and strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the foot can also be beneficial.
A few strengthening tips:
- Scrunch a towel by using your toes and curl it towards you.
- Roll your foot back and forth over a tennis ball.
- With both feet or one on the ground, try to elevate your arch by forcing your large toe into the ground.
- Heel or calf raises – going up on your toes to strengthen your arch and calf muscles.
And like the tires on your car, the treads of your shoes are a tell-tale sign of wear-and-tear. Sean McGrath of New Balance Toronto suggests you check for overuse, thin or worn-out soles, and instead of opting to buy shoes online, try to visit a specialized shoe store to get the right fit. “We work with many foot care specialists, which allows us to ensure we can fit accordingly with prescribed orthotics. Running shoes are great for walking, but you want to make sure it has the right support.”
And with summer in the air, if there’s one piece of advice foot specialists recommend, keep those flip flops for short distances – with little support, they’re not meant for long treks. Keep those for walks on the beach.